Monday, November 26, 2012


I am a huge music fan. Anyone who knows me knows that, or they will soon enough. I like everything from A to Z, except C, which stands for Country. Sorry, C&W (do they still call it that? I ask you, my cowboy hat and boot-toting friends) fans, your genre just got ignored by Goddard! Try again and we will see how it goes.

So, when I'm creating my stuff,whether that is a new photograph, a new piece of a novel, or an architectural model of some kind, I am almost always listening to music. I scroll through a lot of it, from one end of my mainstays, which is electronic, to the other, which is "classic rock." Disparate, anyone?

What can I do?

Well, today I was listening to this and that on Spotify, and there was Elton John. Great stuff for the most part. Think about it: Tiny Dancer, Benny and the Jets, Yellow Brick Road, Bitch is Back....need I go on. So in this festive mood, I suddenly encounter the dreaded Daniel. This song is a downer. It's like everyone suddenly got the same electric piano (like Styxx from the same period, or any number of bands who were heavier and suddenly succumbed to that mid-late 70s soft sound. Think Eagles) and decided to sing soft mushy stuff. Must be the clouds in my eyes.

So I got past that, and moved on to one of Elton's lesser known gems, IMO, called Writing, which is one of those soft sounding 70s tracks but is so cool in so many ways. If I weren't straight I bet it would be even more interesting.

Anyway, this weekend I was busy. I uploaded a couple of videos. One of them is the setup for an interview a Boston studio wanted to do. It took a time or two to get it right, and you might find the intervening step funny.

Another one I made is of the construction of a 1/12 room box called The Green Dragon. I made the video to last just a couple of minutes. It even has music! See it here.

Don't worry, it's not Daniel.
Danie...    Erik

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Prima Serata, a workshop in 1/2" scale, Jan 18, 2013, Sarasota, FL.

Introducing: Prima Serata, a workshop in 1/2" scale, to be taught Jan 18, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida.

Darkness is slowly descending in this bucolic village not far from the Mediterranean, and the soft glow of quiet lights guides your way as the subtle hues of rosemary, tomatoes, olive oil and dark red wines waft through the evening air. 

Prima Serata is a bit on the small side of ½” scale, allowing portability and independence from the electrical circuit. This setting is lit with long-lasting LEDs and is powered by battery, meaning there are no external cords and nothing to plug in. You can place this box on a shelf, desktop or any location you choose and not worry about a nearby socket. 
Prima measures 6 x 6 inches and 4 deep.

What you will do and learn:
In the course of about six hours, we will take a 6" x 6" box, which has a mahagony exterior applied just for you, from me...

Build an inner wall and two windows....

Apply paint washes to a stucco surface...

Install electrical, which has been prewired just for you, by me... 

Do some landscaping, and apply a faux "garden" treatment to a wall.... 

Paperclay for the stonework and tiles...  

 Take care of the ground, tile, and landscaping details.
A standard oak narrow frame is included which can be built in class out of the wood shown here (but will be plain so you can paint it). 

Or you can choose your own design.
This one might be a bit over the top...

Hm, this one's a bit better...

You get a mock painting to put on the inner room, or you can choose your own. You will also build that little wall lantern you see.

------------------~~~| Details |~~~------------------

The price of the workshop is $175, which includes the box, all materials to build the scene as shown, paints, supplies, spackle, Paperclay, wood and all electrical. A simple oak frame is included, which we can apply in class, but you are free to choose your own instead. To sign up, please email me at

Hurry, this is already starting to fill up and I'm limiting the size of the class to 12. I will forward a small list of helpful tools as the date nears.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Midnight Series and la planification. And a word on figures.

I went on record recently committing to build Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle), to the best of my ability. I'm certainly aware of the daunting task it will be, but it's going to be a fun challenge. One reason I wanted to put it down as a committment was that doing so helps me stay focussed. There is a latent sense of expectation at best, and at worse, always the threat of being asked "whatever happedn with ___ "? As you know, I can get distracted fairly easily and doing this helps me stay on task.

Along those lines, there are also some other works that are in the planning stages. For some of these, I need to plan well in advance because it involves ordering parts or having something made. In a few cases, I am having custom made figures created to place into the scene. As you know, I am not a "doll" kind of guy and refer to them as figures. Typically when I see them placed into a scene, no matter how well done the scene was before the thing entered the scene, illusion is no longer suspended and what I see looks like..... a doll.

But there are situations when figures can enhance a scene greatly. There is a way to place them into the scene. If they are added as an accompaniment to the scene, placed in a way that allows them to mellow out a scene, add to the mystery, or even enhance the realism of a situation, they are more than welcome. The problem comes when they are placed front and center and the main focus goes directly to a face that is clearly not real.

As you know, I have several different tracks of design: I build classical architectural pieces, modern architecture, and disparate things like tree houses and Japanese scenes. Another I like to do is "scenes" that aren't really any particular design but are based more on fantasy, science fiction, or literature. I have a series of more "edgey" pieces that I call the Midnight Series. These involve darker themes, perhaps some more risque, Gothic, horror, or haunting scenarios.

Staging shot for the Cask of Amontillado, 1/12 scale, and the use of two figures

One of the upcoming scenes in the early planning stages and that will require the use of figures is Nosferatu. The dracula story is well known and some of the archetypes in that story have survived Victorian London and linger with us today. My treatment of this story is influenced heavily by Nosferatu, Werner Herzog's reworking of Marnau's 1920s classic. Relying largely on imagery--my forte--the story creates suspense in scenes of ....waiting. Dread and doom form in the absence of explanation and that is what I am hoping to capture. Dracula, played by Klaus Kinski, certainly is going to get a figure and I am vetting out candidates now to take on the job to my requirements.The maker has been located!

Dracula, portrayed by Klaus Kinski, in Herzog's 1970s film Nosferatu

Dracula and Mina

The other influence is of course Bram Stoker's novel. I'll admit, the brilliance of the novel upfront as Harker travels to meet the Count for the first time descends a bit into a mushy melodrama toward the middle but there is no denying the shocking power of this book as it became a sensation in 1897. Having just listed my two influences, I have also always enjoyed the Coppola film from the early 90s. The imagery--there we go again--trumps an otherwise minor mess of a film, but one with a great score to back it up and gorgeous characters. The other figure will likely be Mina. I probably will not do Lucy. I have not decided yet whether to use the same maker for both, but I probably will, depending how the various scenes are constructed. There will be several scenes, viewed from different angles.

Mina, played by Winona Ryder

The Count, in one his guises

I have another "large-scale" piece along these lines, which I am calling for now "Murder Rooms", loosely based on a portrayal of the origins of Sherlock Holmes, revealing how he got his start questioning everything and his connections in Victorian London. But Holmes is for another time and a separate project. The piece I am creating simply borrows the title, which I found too appealing to resist. The piece is another multi-scened scenario now under construction. Featuring a New York brownstone as a standalone structure, the view through each room reveals a different aspect of a murder. I will show you more of this as it develops.

I am also in the planning stages for two slightly more modest pieces that will involve figures. One is a steampunk zombie brothel. Two figures are being created for this. They are slightly deteriorated and with the steampunk influences, I hope to make this one to shock with taste. Update 11/20 Two makers located for two of the characters !!

Another is a treatment based on the Exorcist. I am receiving proposals from doll makers doll maker located to create Regan in the scene of levity that we all know. This is the point when things quieted down during the exorcism for a moment as Merren wails out "May the power of Christ compel you!"

Finally, a treatment of the Japanese folkfear story regarding the Grudge. I hope to have my top candidate for this create a figure that shows her talent so well: with the details only she can do justice to: skin, bones, muscle, flesh color, and body structure. The challenge will be to portray someone elegantly who is both dead and yet living, without going over the top. Subtlety, subtlety, and I know she can do it. Cross your fingers that she accepts my request becuase this job has to be in her hands. Update November 20: SHE HAS ACCEPTED MY PROPOSAL!!!!! This will be soooooo cool!

As these scenes progress, I will separate them into separate chronicles so I can document the steps takena and the things done. For now, I bid you fond adieu.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tree House "Blue Moon"

Tree House "Blue Moon"...

Built in the upper branches of a massive elm, Blue Moon looks proudly over a quiet stretch of a river winding its way through rugged hill country. Because of its remote location, Blue is best reached by watercraft. In fact, all supplies during construction were carried to the site in this way. 

Visitors who first arrive at the site and moor their craft are immediately captivated by the multi-leveled platforms towering above them. Scaling the three ladders to reach the main level, they notice the namesake immediately: on the front door is a large window in the shape of a blue crescent moon. 

The tree house consists of three main rooms, with an uppermost lookout post for surveying the landscape and keeping an eye out for intruders, and a lower deck for enjoying warm summer evenings. 

The main room, while small, is filled with light from the intricate bay window, and contains the necessities for cooking and maintenance. A ladder from within leads to a trap door in the ceiling which provides access to the lookout post and to the sauna room. Like all rooms, this room is fully stormproof when the windows are closed and the trap door is secured. 

The sauna room has a changing area with sink, towels, and toiletries, a small porch for cooling down and enjoying a break from the heat, and the main sauna room with a wall heater and stones. There is a wooden bucket to throw water onto the heated rocks to create more steam. 

The bedroom, located across from the main room, has windows on three sides, allowing a great view of the river. Not only that, a skylight provides plenty of morning light to wake a guest up feeling refreshed. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Caribbean - PART FOUR

Part 4: How I met Rihanna in Barbados

Dry martini. Shaken. 3 olives. I am wearing white, which seems fitting in this place of turquoise blue waters. In contrast to most other ports, Barbados looks very industrial and practical from the harbor in Bridgetown . It is a low-lying land mass in the south, but rises a bit to some choppy terrain in the north. A US research vessel, heavy lifting equipment, freighters from Singapore and docks of shipping containers and warehouses occupy the harbor. And there are two guys riding the anchor to our ship.

But beyond the heavy equipment, Barbados is a financial hothouse and the industrial look fades to refinement in one direction, and basic living in the other. With an economy formerly based on sugar cane production, it has, like other Caribbean economies, been unable to compete with the mega-ag enterprises that produce banana, sugar, coconut and palm. Just as most island economies have adapted, Barbados added offshore accounting to the mix of tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture. I have many accounts here, and keep a good amount of cash in one of my houses facing the Caribbean on the west coast of the island. I have one on the Atlantic side as well. I didn’t visit either this time. Too busy.

I woke up today with no agenda or plan. But you, who know me so well, understand that I couldn't just walk around on shore looking for tourist shops. Before long, I found a place that rented scooters, and selected one from the relatively ramshackle assortment. The one I picked was a 2-cycle, 4-speed 125 CC clutchless unit that had a few bumps and rust on it and you had to use your left toes to up-shift and left heel to downshift. But it was good; when I opened it up after getting past the more crowded parts of the island and aiming for the back country, I got it up to 110 km/hr before it started making noises that even in fourth gear I didn't think it would recover from. It had an ephemeral winging aspect that came on if you started lagging the engine on climbs, but if you geared it down it hummed like a noisy baby. Like on most islands, the streets are typically very narrow, driving is on the left side, and—this is unique—there are flashing amber arrows indicating you can turn left or right, in between green and red and solid yellow, in addition to the standard-issue red and green arrows. Traffic is hustled. Cars and trucks move fast, turn sharply and suddenly appear out of narrow alleys where parked cars along the side often necessitate the “watching your ass” half-a-lane-if-you’re-lucky mode of driving. 

In Bridgetown, a bustling set of these narrow streets formed the dense downtown, and once the white heavier faces and trinkets faded away, I drove through mazes and twists and one-way streets now/two-way on the next block type alleys, and through several poorer, run-down neighborhoods that would have made great pictures, had I been able to stop and shoot, or had I wanted to risk my ass in some of them. But the traffic was usually so fast-moving and the streets so narrow stopping wasn't an option. 

The language in Barbados is English. Being a former British colony, now independent, the accent I heard talking with locals ranges from clearly “British-influenced Island” in quarters where communication with tourists is more common, to a sprawling dialect I could scarcely understand when I got out to the eastern and northern part of the island and not a single white face could be seen. 

But first, I remained on the west coast and moved north. I found my way out of town, and headed up the west coast—the Caribbean side. This road, adjacent to what is called by the locals the Platinum Coast, is certainly the well-to-do, high society side of the island. Since it faces the Caribbean, the waters are calm. Numerous beaches, mostly private, lay beyond upscale palm-laden white, lime green, and terra cotta houses and condos, mostly gated and walled. The road has two lanes in each direction. The speed limit is 80 km/hr on this stretch, and while I would have liked to slow down to take a look and get some shots, the traffic behind me wanted to keep moving, so I kept it off and on at 80, shifting up and down to deal with stoplights, merging traffic, roundabouts (some of them two-lane), pedestrians, and stalls selling fish, where people gathered in large masses, holding up the 80kph traffic. 

About a half hour up the coast, I turned inland. Around here is where Rhianna has a house, I’m told. Sorry Oprah, I know you have a place further up the Platinum Coast, but, even if you do, I’d rather meet Rhianna. So I turned right and headed inland. The road I turned onto was a narrower road of the type I would find from here on out: just enough to accommodate one vehicle, with just enough shoulder for another to pull over if necessary. The further I went back into the middle of the island, I passed by plantations, estates, and luxury real estate. Lots of BMWs and Audis around here. But they soon gave way to Nissans and Toyotas and tiny houses. 

Continuing on, the terrain opened up and the road became even narrower. A fork on the road. Which way to go. Not really caring, I chose left. Before long, after several serious dips in elevation followed by climbs back up, I found myself in the midst of hillside houses from small to a bit larger, some fading into the background, some better kept up. The winding streets were narrow, and the terrain so up and down, that it was necessary at times to beep, announcing my approach, so the other side would know to pull over enough to let me by. The other side did the same, especially the blue city busses that I passed numerous times on my journey. It was common to hear the beep behind me and to see a truck suddenly appear, passing on the right. 

The houses have great “curb appeal” being right up to the narrow street in front, with the back either on stilts over the downward terrain, or dug into the upward hillside. Most of them are typical Caribbean colors: whites/off-whites, lime green, faded purples, yellows, ochres. I was surprised to see the number of clapboard structures, which I have not seen much of elsewhere in this part of the world. Nearly all of them have the typical neo-classical spindle-type ballustrades on the railings that make up porches that all the Caribbean island structures seem to share. 

The landscape turned in parts from the leafy west to a slightly drier east. As I headed north/northeast, I saw the ground change from lush green—nothing close to rainforest, but lush green—to a mix of drier green. I turned left, right, more or less estimating my position. I had a map, but no compass or GPS, so I often never knew exactly where I was. Why? Because there are no road or highway names in backcountry Barbados. All the road signs you see point to this church, or that hall, or such-and-such destination, minor as it may be. So I just found my relative position and aimed toward the general direction I wanted to go: east/northeast, keeping the sun in mind, and the general location of the clouds above the Caribbean side and Atlantic side (both different). Clearly the point of this road naming system is just to go with the flow. I did. I went down country roads, took turns off into quiet neighborhoods, and came upon amazing scenery, until reaching the east coast after an hour, or was it two—who knows? I passed fish markets, local swimming spots, farms, tiny country stores, and millions—okay, overstated—of smallish houses of the kind I have described. 

I made my way south, down the Atlantic side. Raging waves and colder waters are de facto on this side. According to my darling in Bridgetown who lent me the cycle, there is an annual surfing championship on this side of the island. The east coast took me through totally “local” country. From smaller houses in the rugged hilly north to even more density and urbanization in the flatter south, the houses were mostly small, some more dilapidated, some more refined. They got all bunched up when I passed through the fishing area of St Phillip Parish. Here is where the locals were gathered around little road side stands, guys were sitting on porches watching traffic, school children came and went, fish mongers, and requisite stalled cars being worked on by two or three on the sides of streets. 
My postcard shot!

Passing through this density and hooking toward the west—by now it was mid-afternoon and I had to get the bike back by four—the ground leveled off and became flat with farmland on all sides. I was able to open up the speed in this part and really let the Honda rip. The turns got a little tighter after 20 km of this and I was edging a little close to oncoming traffic going around corners so I slowed it down, which became necessary passing through little clusters of houses and restaurants, lots of people crossing the streets or waiting for busses thumbing through on their iPhones. The zombie apocalypse did not spare this land, I see. 

Gradually, the density picked up as I aimed back toward Bridgetown. Once more or less in the city, it took me nearly an hour to find the place I hired the bike from because the general sense of east and west didn’t work as well inside the city where the narrow alley-like streets, parked vehicles, pedestrians and vans and trucks appearing suddenly out of alleys made it a tad difficult to keep the Caribbean in mind. But this gave me a great back tour of Bridgetown. The only problem was, the petrol I’d used in all this traveling—nearly a whole tank by now—meant the little fuel indicator was flashing. While I enjoyed driving through some of these gritty streets, I can safely say stalling out far from a fuel source didn’t strike my fancy at the time. So I bought a couple liters at a Shell station and asked how to get back to the harbor. 

Yes, I’m a guy and I asked for directions. There, I said it. 

I know—what about Rihanna, right? I think I passed by her place on the way up the Platinum coast or soon after turning off. You know I didn’t meet her, it was just a come on. But she was born here, and she has a place here. Maybe next time. But next time, I’ll be sure to stop off at one of my places here and get more money.

St Lucia:
The next stop was in St Lucia. The main thing I did here was zip lining. 

I got to meet a tarantula. All threat and no bite!

Zip lining along 10 lines from platform to platform

If you look closely, you can see Martinique off in the distance.

Did you know vanilla beans grow on vines, not trees? And that the been that used to pollinate them is not extinct (at least here), so they are pollinated by man, which makes them so expensive.

On the zip line at 100 feet or so off the ground. 

On the ship, of course there was time for people watching...

The crabby Canadian cowboy who complained about the state of the world, and the liberals in Ottowa. They are the reason for the world's decline. To help solve the problem, he spent his days at the bar and bitched to anyone who would listen.

Um, where's the 80s night tour again? I though Queensryche was going to play on this cruise!

Busted! That guy standing there in red "just works" here...

This is one of the longest unbroken hallways I've ever seen. Remember this is a small ship. There were so many peeps coming in and out of these doors I had to pack up and return at 2am to get this shot!

On the way back this plan appeared off the wing! Look how close it is. I just knew it was from 1975...think how close were to the Bermuda Triangle. Do the math!