Friday, 13 February 2015

Cosplaying Renly Baratheon. Part 1: The Crown

After last year discovering the delights of “cosplay” playing "Arrow" , I am now raising the ambition a bit. I am working on creating a costume for Renly Baratheon, the unfortunate (well, aren’t they all?) young king from Game of Thrones. A character already very appealing in the novels, the TV series (and Gethin Anthony’s apt portrayal) showed an even more engaging character, with quite an interesting wardrobe to match. I will of necessity portray an older Renly (let’s pretend he was not murdered) and set my eyes on this costume.


Now this looks deceptively simple, but if you start to study this, this may well be the most complex costume created for the entire series. I need some simplifications…The whole project can be split into three: the crown, the breastplate, and the clothes and accessories.
Let’s start with the crown. I have seen many ways to make this: from thermoplastics, pipe cleaners, and clay  all the way up to 3D-printing, but I decided –after ample study- on paper mache. First and foremost because the result will be light on the head yet sturdy enough, and secondly because the materials are dirt cheap and easily available: just newspaper and ordinary flour. I found Jonni Good’s Ultimate Paper Mache website absolutely indispensable in setting up this project.
How does it work?
The crown can be split up into the head piece and what I call the ‘antlers’. There are three different types of antler used in the crown, and these I made from copper wire which was subsequently covered and ‘sculpted’ with aluminum foil to get the sketelon shapes. These were then covered with paper mache, using strips of paper and Jonni’s recommended uncooked flour paste. I found this technique quite satisfactory, and the antlers dried in front of a fan within an hour or so (it is important that they are thoroughly dry, otherwise mold may set in). What you get is a set of little antlers that are quite sturdy, but can still be shaped to give the best look and fit.
The head band was made from a slender plastic belt which was strengthened with copper wire and treated the same way: first shaping it with aluminum foil and then covering with paper mache.

Then came the fun part: putting it all together using superglue. That’s the stage where I am at now. I will give it another layer of paper mache to secure all the glue points and then it is a matter of grounding, painting and varnishing it. After that, it is on to the armour which is a bit more complicated and involves the use of the thermoplastic Worbla sheets (as well as a duct tape dummy!). That’s going to be fun!!!


Sunday, 8 February 2015

The small pets' industry...Part 2

Less than two weeks after my previous blog, another one of our beloved birds we found dead at the bottom of the cage. He was behaving rather oddly at times, sitting on the bottom just staring at nothing, but as he was a "bottom feeder" anyway (some birds are) we thought nothing serious of it. Until today, that is.

It is, I think therefore time to dig a little deeper in what I talked about before. Here are the facts: over the last 2-3 years we bought five parakeets from the same pet store. I am not going to mention any names, only that it is a big store here in The Hague. As of now, three of those five birds have passed away within less than a year after joining our flock. Two of those were having health problems, which  we took to the vet and for which we received treatment, that worked. But something else was apparently wrong with them, something not obvious upon professional inspection and something that caused them to die prematurely.

The third bird passed away within almost three months and also brought -we think- a case of 'scaly face' -a mite infection- into the cage that was caught by two other birds. One of these was another bird from the same pet store, the other one was our 'senior' who has been with us for over ten years now, but is from a completely different pet store. We treated them, they both got healed and after a few months and some antibiotics also got healed from a persistent cough. Incidentally, I hope it is also clear that we try to take good care of our birds. They get fresh food, vegetables and fruit every day, they get vitamins, minerals and probiotics in their drinking water, and when something is wrong we take them to the vet and treat them, no matter the cost.

The last bird we got from this particular pet store has been on and off suffering from a persistent eye infection since we got him, which only became manifest a few months after purchase. We also managed to cure this eventually.

The point is: this cannot be coincidence. We have been keeping birds for quite some time and although we have noticed that most small pet birds do not live longer than five or so years, this latest experience is really outside of this expectation. Needless to say, we will not go to this pet store anymore for any supplies. We have decided to have no more birds after the current flock, because my prime concern right now is that I do not want to support this kind of business any longer.

Birds- and small animals in general- are not consumables and they do not deserve to be treated as such. They are wonderful, conscious and marvelous creatures that right now are being 'mutilated' by the  commercial pet industry. I am sad because we just loved a wonderful and sweet companion. I am actually more sad and quite angry about how humanity is treating other living creatures in general for its own selfish needs. That needs to stop, plain and simple.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Small Pets' Industry...

Recently we lost one of our beloved parakeets. That by itself is not unusual, it simply happens to pets. It however becomes a different story when you realize that this bird was only about half a year old, and during that time we already had to deal with some issues with an “assuredly healthy” pet. It becomes even more interesting when you realize that of the last five birds that we “adopted”, none of them proved to be completely healthy in the first year or so. One had an eye infection, another died within a few months from respiratory distress, another one we just saved in time from a respiratory infection and another brought a case of  ‘scaly face’ into the cage. Most of these we were able to treat successfully (we have a great avian vet!). But running an almost continuous birdy sickbay is a far cry from enjoying your pets' presence like you are supposed to.
I do not blame the place we buy them from; they do everything in their power to keep these animals healthy. It is however not enough. The sad truth is that many of these animals are genetically and immunologically unhealthy, due to too much inbreeding by breeders who really don’t care, or don’t know. A faulty stock of subquality product, if I may use that term.

I personally think –and I have voiced this opinion before- that there is something fundamentally wrong with our attitudes towards pets, especially small pets like birds, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits etc. They are indeed viewed as ‘products’, as ‘commodoties’, often purchased on a whim by people who have no idea how to take care of them and discarded with the same ease as they are purchased. It says something when people commend us as if it something extraordinary for making sure that our birds are taken care of –by a professional animal nanny!- when we are on vacation and that we take our sick birds to the vet, no matter the cost.

I have decided not to support this ‘small pet industry’ anymore if that means I am supporting an institution that treats these wonderful, beautiful and expressive animals like disposables and does not care about their quality of life. No living creature deserves this kind of negligent treatment to serve our amusement. We will continue to take the best care possible of our remaining birds, as they deserve nothing less from us. But they will be our last…