Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Tubby the Tuba" and Farnsworth the Frog

The two-part video presented at the bottom of this article is my first performance ever with a soft figure. First some background.

I was invited to perform the narration of "Tubby the Tuba" with the Community Band of Brevard yesterday. The composition includes a part for a frog. They asked me to bring one.

I don't own a frog, so I asked John Parisi to build me one. I got the frog about two weeks prior to the concert. I named him Farnsworth. And I practiced with him at home as time allowed and at one rehearsal with the band.

The video demonstrates all the things one should not do when working with a soft figure. These videos could be used in a seminar or workshop as examples of lame manipulation.

Now for the excuses. I've already made one. I am inexperienced working with soft figures. The parts of the show when I am just talking with the frog are okay. Not really what you'd call good, but okay. The segment where I am reading the narrative and the frog is inactive are terrible. And that's the longest part of the presentation.

Here's why:

  1. I am reading a musical score that synchronizes the narrative with the music. I am reading words and notes. The words are really tiny on that score in order to fit everything onto only eight pages. And my vision is impaired. Which means I am concertrating on the score and not paying any attention to manipulation.

  2. Nobody grilled me with the information that a soft figures jaw is normally open as opposed to a hard figure's which is normally closed. Consequently, the frog spends much of his quiet time sitting there with his mouth open. Judy, my cameraperson, trying to make me feel better, said it looks like Farnsworth is sitting in euphoric awe of the beautiful music. Yeah, right.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tin can body

I thought I'd use a paint can for the robot figure's body. I thought that because that was what I could find. But I disliked the round shape. Then, while I was looking on one of my shelves for something else I found a can of mineral spirits.

Exactly the right size and shape. The same as the one-gallon gasoline cans we used to be able to buy. Before everything went plastic. Exactly what I had dreamed when I was but a mere lad.

But what to do with the half gallon of mineral spirits still in the can? I hate to waste anything, particularly if it's going to kill my weeds, er, grass. And I don't want to pour it down the drain. But where to store it? Well, where else? How about that new, shiny round paint can I won't be using for the body? Done. Necessity is a mother.

After pouring the mineral spirits into the paint can and storing it on a shelf, I cleaned out the residual mineral spirits from its old can. (Flammable, don't you know? And inflammable, too.)

Next I set out to remove the pour hole and handle. Upon close inspection I saw that they are soldered on. I took out my handy soldering torch and hit the solder joints. Even with the residual mineral spirits washed out with water, some fumes lingered inside that can. I saw some fireworks. Don't try this at home. Especially at my home.

Both pieces came off cleanly leaving me this to work with.

Then a few swipes with the electric hand sander removed the paint.

This will be the perfect body. For a robot, that is. The dull metallic finish isn't going to do it, though. I'll deal with that issue soon.