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, July 12, 2010

About the Rollo project...

I probably spent more time on this project than on any other original figure I've built. Because he is so unique, many of his features are products of experiments. Trial and error. Observe from the first post about this project that even his torso is different than it was then. Not to mention his name.

The electronics took most of the time. And the biggest part, his light panel display, isn't even finished yet and won't be for his debut at the ConVENTion.

One electronic feature took a couple of days to design and install, and it is for only one joke in the act. I won't describe it because that would give it away. But if it doesn't get a laugh, I'll regret having put in all that time for one bomb.

His windup key, which makes a loud ratcheting noise, is a key from an old wall clock that I bought in Germany in 1969. It's not the clock's key. It doesn't fit anything. It was just in the clock when I bought it along with the one that fits the clock. So, it's been in the clock for 41 years. I finally found a use for it.

Because of my haste to finish Rollo in time for the conVENTion, The key is permanently attached to his belly, which kind of gets in the way of closing his case. The next version will have a removeable key.

The plan was that I would bring him onstage and assemble him as I did the opening monologue. You know, bad jokes about batteries not included and some assembly required. But I'll have to postpone that bit. He's too difficult to get together. I could use my entire alloted time for General Open Mic just trying to get his legs connected to his body.

I still like the idea, though, and I'll design the next version with that in mind.

Design? This guy wasn't designed. He evolved. That's what prototyping is all about.

Now if only I could get that metallic buzz sound for his voice.

So join me at General Open Mic this week and try to laugh at whatever lame electronic joke you hear. It will make me feel better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Rollo is ready

He doesn't have all the features I wanted, but he is ready for his debut. Come to the ConVENTion and meet Rollo the Robot.

I spent so much time building Rollo that I neglected to rehearse his act. I have some serious practicing to do. He employs vocal tricks that need work. T'will drive my road partner crazy. Thirteen hours of robotic verbalisms? Bring your earplugs, Donald.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Rollo the Prototype

My hope is to have Rollo ready for the conVENTion. His head is completed, his script is completed, and his body is ready.

But there is the control panel.

Many of the jokes depend on features on a control panel I designed for on his body.

There will be more simulated controls. Switches, lights, etc. But I don't have time to finish it before hitting the road for Kentucky.

One of the problems is that a gas can wasn't designed to have electronic components installed on it. Another is that the inside of a vent figure body doesn't need wires and connections getting in the way of a headstick.

The original plan was to make the control panel itself a self-contained component that I could simply bolt to the body. That's still a better idea, but I didn't have time to build it.

The gauge won't stay in place. Nothing wants to stick to the aluminum paint that coats the body.

The light panel assembly is fragile. It doesn't want to work when bolted in place.

And my bench technition skills are rusty and impaired by the vision and motor skills I surrendered to a stroke earlier this year. It can take me a half hour to get a nut started on a bolt. Or hit the right spot with a soldering iron. Frustrating.

Oh, well, whatever is ready goes with me. After all, that's what prototypes are for.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Here's Rollo's headstick. It includes a battery pack, wiring, and a momentary blade switch to flash Rollo's eyes on and off. Not your typical cheeky boy.

And here he is with ears. Shazam!

Here's a closeup of an ear. If you drink GatorAde, you'll recognize it.

Observe the barcode. I couldn't bring myself to remove it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A new name

The robot puppet is almost completed. And he gets a new name. He will be known as Rollo the Robot in memory of my friend Dean "Rollo" Keenhold who died last year. Here's Rollo:

He still has to get a control panel with switches, knobs, meters, and flashing lights on his belly. His eye circuit is still on the drawing board, too. He needs ears, too.

The script I wrote for him depends on all those features. If I make it to the conVENTion in time to sign up for General Open Mic, you will see Rollo and hear the script.

I have, so far, remained loyal to my plan to use household items to build him. His head is a paint can, his hat a funnel. His eyes are flashlight lenses and bulbs, his ears will be bottle tops. His body is a mineral spirits can, his arms are dowels. His hands and feet are small fish tins. His legs are spray paint cans.

So far, I've used no glue in assembling Rollo. Everything is bolted on. The only paint I've used is a chrome spray paint to make all the metal look the same.

He is one noisy, clanking puppet. I like him that way.