Calling Robots

March 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

All I want to do is book an event space in New York City.

I look suspiciously at the map.  Manhattan is the middle-place, right?  I’m not exactly a fluent New Yorker.  The first medium-tier hotel that pops up, I pop the number of into my phone.  I’ve mastered, I’ve decided, hotel phone interactions.  My first few were creaky – some would say terrified – but while I never had the telephone-training of the 80′s, I was born in them, so I reasoned it must flow in my veins.  I typed out all of the event info in case I panic.  But I’m not going to panic.  Hotels have a front desk, and they’ll send me to their event sales team, and those people will hem and haw about dates and then give me a quote I’m not supposed to like.  I’ve got this.

I was immediately routed into a computer reservations line. I hit the panic button – 0.  Will you please type your reservation number?  a recorded woman’s voice coos.  Crap – I # the back-up panic button.

A heavily-accented young man tells me I’ve arrived at reservations.  “Can you connect me to event sales?” I ask.  He’s confused.  “Room sales, reservations?”  “No,” I haggle, “Event space sales, do you have event spaces here that you rent?”  “Uhhhh–” He hits HIS panic button.  Immediately a woman picks up.

“Reservations.”

Barely does the word event pass my lips before she chimes “Group Sales” and hits another button.  Now, now we’re getting somewhere, button by button, climbing the telephone ladder.

A robotic man’s voice asks me which hotel I’m trying to make a reservation at.  Nope!  I want to ask Group Sales if they have multiple Manhattan locations, I decide, so I can pick between them.  Ahhh, I chuckle to myself silently, I am so clever.  If don’t answer, the robot will have to hand me back right away.

I’m going to need to know which hotel you’d like to make reservations at the voice patiently repeats, with a hint of human annoyance.  Damn!  It’s patient.  I can’t outwait it. I can’t hit a panic button, lest I be routed all the way back to the confused man at the front desk.

But if the robot can’t easily interpret my answer, it’ll hand me off.  “I’d like to speak to a service representative!” I say forcefully.  Maybe it’s even automated to recognize the words and put me through.  I chortle emphatically.

I’m going to put you through to a service representative, but first I need you would tell me what hotel you’d like to make reservations at.

Robotic pushback.   The tones are complex, irritated.  I’m too stunned to say anything for a minute.  Finally, defeated, I mumble the name of the specific hotel location I got the number from.

Just a second.  The voice turns audibly to the side, followed by some quick, emphatic typing.  Nice, I’ll finally get through.  Typing.  Typing?

Oh crap!  I’d though this voice was too nuanced, to aggrevatingly human to be a robot!  I’d just told a service representative that I’d like to speak to a service representative!  And worse yet, their job was SO DEHUMANIZING that they had sadly agreed to do so – if only I’d let them do their job first.

Oh please let them transfer me. Oh please, please.  Don’t make me fess up to my mistakes, just hit that button and send me to the golden city of Group Sales.  I could almost see it, just ahead.

The typing finished.  Thank you.  And how many meeting rooms will you be needing?  The voice was back, and distinctly recorded.

“Is this a person or a robot?” I blurted out.

There was a slight pause.  I am an automated service recording, but I understand what you’re saying, and I can help you take care of your…

Oh God.  It’s self-aware.

…reservation and then pass you along to a service representative.  How many meeting rooms will you be needing?

Don’t hit the panic button, don’t do it.

“Uhh – none – unless you count the event space?”

Just a moment.  It typed in my answer.  No – no – it pretended to type my answer?  Don’t hit the panic button, it’s not worth it.

Thank you for waiting.  Please hold while I connect you.

I breathed, finally, long, and sort of choked it out in the silence of waiting.

From far-off, a woman’s altered voice said, mechanically, Please hold.  It was a mechanical blip in a field of silence.  No music, no — I left the music behind long ago, in the lobby.

I had thought I could see Group Sales up ahead, but now I saw only whiteness – silence.  Was this Group Sales?  Did they even know of my purgatorial existence, waiting?

Please hold.

A minute passed.

Please hold.

I wasn’t paniced anymore.

Please hold.

It was slapdash, the occational message.  They knew I would stay, holding here, forever.  Every minute or so, they wanted to remind me I was alive, held by the silence.

Please hold.

I could almost measure time by it, if I hadn’t long ago left time behind.

….

….

….

I’m still holding.  Are you still here?

Your call cannot be connected though to its destination.  Please hang up and dial the toll-free number again.

Holiday Chickens

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today my house marched outside and chicken wrangled a house christmas card.

Our home is called the HoL – the House of Lorax – I think because it was named by a pile a of hippies trying to satisfy their own sensibilities while appeasing their less mature friends, who were sated by calling it the Glory HoL (Glorious House of Lorax).  I refused to do this and called it the Barn – it looks like a Barn – until it finally made it around to me that the HoL stood for something pleasant, to some people part of the time.

I’m a stickler for house names.  Years of being force-fed glorified titles akwardly slapped on crumbling college-kid dumps had sickened me.  This was further needled by the endless pretention that I should know exactly what house every name applied to, as if it synched with my brain the precise moment some drunk hipster first vomited it out.  I became anti-name.  I was the scrooge of college houses.  I named every house myself, based on the color or street.  Names should be natural, I snapped, flowing from the surroundings the way you would describe an unnamed dwelling to a stranger.  But the HoL has a giant flag in the window that reads, in messy spraypaint, “HOL”, which I have to admit is pretty clear.  And The Lorax is one of my favorite books, so I don’t have a lot of conscientious space to be a jerk about it.

The Chickens weren’t really into the idea of a photo.  Pidge flapped about, escaping from time to time just to perch on the shoulder of the person next to her, beady eyes shouting “You know I’m a shoulder chicken.  Why should I have to put up with this awful holding.”  I clutched Ruby, the only one who’s properly containable, and she just sort of peered at me upsetly and shivered a little.  Quentin mainly tried to head straight for the camera to eliminiate the trouble at its source.  N. and Attila the Hen have always had a special relationship, so, we just let them do their thing, which oscillated between N. pretending Attila was a fighter jet and Attila digging her claws into his hands and climbing all over his cashmere sweater.  Attila’s technically easiest to hold, if you’re not N., and don’t abuse your privileges.

N. and Attila the Hen (Buff Orpington), Me and Ruby (Bantam Silkie), S. and Pidge (Ameraucana hen), A. and Quentin (Ameraucana still deciding her sex).

Happy Holidays!  From me and the chickens and the many people who make this place home.

Green Candy

November 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Miss, miss, I just wanted to–”

I reflexively pulled the box of leftovers and sweater onto my lap, where they didn’t fit, so he could sit down.  I couldn’t help glancing irritably at the empty bus seats around me.

“—tell you I really like your green hair.”

He was standing in the aisle, bending intently and revealing layers of thin gold chains. I opened my mouth for my polite, unfocused thank you, the kind you give a person you’re resigned to spending a bus ride getting propositioned by.  He bowled on past it.

“I really like your green hair, a lot, you see my name” (—something blurred—) “it means green, my last name is green.  So I like your green hair very much, you see. I like green.  I am a green – you have green hair.”

He gestured with a foil-wrapped piece of candy.  Green candy.

“I wanted to tell you how much I like your green hair,” he grinned, chains flapping.  I thanked him and took the candy, moving my body a bit in anticipation of him sitting down.  To my surprise, he had politely vanished.

I tucked the piece of green candy in my bag.  They always told me not to take candy from strangers, but I think this was the first time I’d ever received candy from a stranger – if you except one of my better friends, whose acquaintance was made over a proffered candycane.

The next morning, I plopped back onto the bus and customarily opened my bag.  Out across my lap marched all the ants that had snuck in there overnight.  As I tried to pretend I wasn’t being suddenly overwhelmed by insects (sit still, don’t flail, sit still, don’t flick them at people), I finally grokked the age-old advice: really, don’t take candy from strangers.

The Ginkgo and I

November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

For about a week I was puffed up from my wild chestnuts.  Chestnuts not exactly being a chupacabra, no one was very impressed, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like King of the Edible Plants Several Blocks from my Home.  Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on a lot of secrets.  It didn’t help that I was more interested in what some savy Asian families were collecting on the street than what nearby herbs neo-hippies recommended I make tea with.

As I boasted to some of my co-workers, I nudged them to ask if they, perhaps, knew any edibles I’d missed.  One of them paused. “I’d always see people coming on campus to pick whatever was falling off the Ginkgo tree,” she laughed, “I remember because it smelled terrible.”  Ginkgo, eh?

In high school, they were one of my favorite trees, largely because I knew their name.  We’d had a falling out when I noticed their leaves looked a bit like Tulips, and became unable to distinguish them from Tulip trees, or remember which one it was good luck to catch a leaf from.  I knew there was one on my way home, and I knew I’d spotted something golden under it this morning running to the bus.  Jackpot.

Sure enough, there was fruit.  Small, round gold fruit the color of apricots and the shape of a cherry.  There were only a few fresh ones on the ground.  The Ginkgo itself had no trace of fruit.  Did they fall from a different tree?  I looked around, walked in some circles, jumped up and down.  Finally I spotted them.  High up, far above where I could reach, the Ginko was heavy with gold.  Of course.  Someone had already come by and taken everything within a ladder’s reach.  So there *were* edible!  I scooped up a few and dashed the final blocks home like a madman.

STEP 1: SMASH!

Googling was in order.  I heartily enjoyed this article.  To my disappointment, the outer fruit (actually sarcotesta) itself isn’t edible – it’s the white nuts inside that are prized.  I gingerly smashed the fruit gently under my shoe to push out the nuts.  The vague smell of dog shit wasn’t quite the vomitrious horror I was expecting.  Well, then, survived that.  What next?

STEP 2: CRACK!

Ok, I had the seeds.  They weren’t white as I’d been promised.  With the application of a nutcracker I found that sure enough, the little white nuts were hiding inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3: PEEL!

Wait, those still aren’t white!  They’re just little green beans!  Onward, I suppose?  The instructions said to gently peel off the layer of film surrounding the nut.  It said to wear gloves in case I had a weird reaction to it – I went in bare-handed.  No nuts scare me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 4: UH…BOIL?

Ok, I had four tiny bean-nut things that were a little worse for wear from the peeling.  I had no idea how to eat them, and the internet was conflicted.  I boiled them for a while, which was fun to watch, but ultimately didn’t make them look any more appetizing than a waterlogged pea.

STEP 5: FRY!

Taking a page out of the article I liked, I pulled them out of the pot and into the pan.  I fried them in salt, pepper, and a pinch of flour….ok, so I’ve never been adept at following instructions, and surely throwing some flour in the pan is the same as deep frying.  It did the trick, though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point N. came home.  “I cooked us Ginkgo nuts!” I proudly held out my open palm with the four tiny beans in it.

“Wow, that’s…really not enough for dinner.  You know that, right?”

Well, ok, so I had to cook an entire other meal.  I won’t bore you with the details of that.  But the four little nuts were so good we both gobbled down two and wished we had more.

Everyday now I crunch over the golden nuts and leaves of that living fossil on my way home.  It’s tempting to scoop them into my pockets and roll them out on my back patio, just to taste them again.  But not quite tempting enough to make me arrive home and greet my boyfriend with kisses and squishy, shit-stinking pockets of Ginkgo.  Someday, I tell the nuts and I -crunch- -crunch- past them, I will return with my plastic bag.  And they squish and say, no you won’t, you’re lazy, and we’ll be all rotted by then.  Shut up Ginkgo nuts!  You’re too much work anyway.

Another year, another HUMP! (2012)

November 24, 2012 § 5 Comments

Lets say you didn’t go to HUMP!  You don’t live in Portland, Washington, or Seattle.  Or you’ve refused to read The Mercury ever since that drunken early morning-altercation with an ex-editor and some figs.  I don’t care.  Let me tell you a little about HUMP! 2012 so you can put a reminder on everyone’s calendar for next year.

I try to keep my posts more childish than adult, but this one’s a review of a humrous amateur porn festival, so if you’re not into that just skip this one and tune back in next time for more posts about nuts. Uhm, Gingko nuts?

What is HUMP! and why shouldn’t I fear it?  Read my summation + explanation of HUMP! 2011.  It’s an amateur porn filmfest where all the films are destroyed at the end.  By culture, it’s largely a blend of sexy and tongue-and-cheek.

With 90 submissions to choose from this year, the 27 they chose were bound to be top-notch.  This year’s extra credit inclusions were sweater vests, lesbian sex, and packing peanuts.  If ‘lesbian sex’ being bonus instead of par surprises you, recall how last year there were inexplicably near-to-no lesbian sex submissions.  Sweater vests were a shoe-in, but packing peanuts were a funky twist.  Filmmakers, pinned by the limited usefulness or artistic merits of packing peanuts, resorting to pretending they were water, cum, or the human manifestation of unpacking a Prince-laden box on too many drugs.  I’m not going to cover all the films (I’m skipping a lot of great ones), but here’s a limited play-by-play chance to re-live the HUMP! experience in your own bedroom:

Rumpy Pumpy was silly digital animation of a genitalia jumping all over everything.  Here’s the site of the lady who made it, and although Rumpy Pumpy (hilariously misspelled Rumpy Puppy in The Mercury) isn’t up there, some other cute, less randy ones are: http://www.primopix.com/

When you Wank upon a Star:  A man is watching one of his favorite 80′s porn films when something magical passes, and the characters materialize in front of him.  I’d written a description for this, but (thanks!) the link was posted in the comments so you can see it for yourself!  NSFW + one of our favorites: http://vimeo.com/54172339

Beyondeep was incredibly hot, and heartfelt, and unpretentious, the way lesbian sex should be.  I think this is their tumblr.  I understand tumblr only slightly more than the average person two generations above me, so I’ll leave it to you to decipher: http://beyondeep.tumblr.com/

D&D Orgy:  I hold all D&D material to about a The Players: Dorkness Rising level, so I felt a little guilty about wanting more themed tomfoolery.  This was fun and enjoyable – a group playing D&D, and then girls start making out and there’s an orgy suddenly and oh god every other geek in that audience has seen this in their head.  I would have enjoyed more D&D jokes – wait – I’m demanding more non-porn in a porn film – wow I’m officially a jerk.  The cast looked like they had a ton of fun (bonus points) and arrived in a limo (style).

Magic Love:  The highlight of the show for many; a couple’s whimsical stop-motion sex.  They took full advantage of the fun physical humor you can do with live-action stop-motion, like bouncing partners all sorts of silly directions, etc.

MAN SMASH was one of my favorites and I have no desire to see it ever again.  It’s graphic, it’s man-smashing, and it’s all available right here for you to be upset by in the comfort of your own home.  It hits the nail on the head of a genre (and, more literally, a dick), so although it’s not a genre/fetish I enjoy, I have to give them major props for perfecting it.  Wondering why, oh god why, this would ever happen?  Read more about MAN SMASH here.

One of my favorites was a tantalizingly hot flick of two absurdly attractive men fixing a car.  It boasted an excellent humorous use of props, two gloriously attractive men, and they both turned out to be transmen, making it all the awesomer.  No idea if it was slipped in later, or if its one-liner in The Mercury was just heinously undescriptive, but the title’s a mystery.

The Mercury references Dueling Dames as a “sepia-toned tumble in a Wild West whorehouse” so perhaps they have insight that I lack, but to my eyes it was a delightful 1920′s style flick on two standoffish ladies who, bored, challenge each other to a contest.  It captures the aesthetic – and the slapstick – perfectly.

Krutch largely consisted of woman with perhaps cerebral palsy limping down city streets, her crutch tap-tap-taping awkwardly loudly, inter-spliced with footage of her coming home, taking off her shoes, and finally relaxing.  Yeah, as the guidebook says it’s “proving to the world that people with disabilities have genitalia that work just fine” but it does a hell of a lot more than that: it captured the best O. moment of the whole fest by inter-splicing it with footage of her running to catch a bus, finally catching the bus, and at the climactic moment getting to sit down.  The whole audience breathed audibly in relief and joy.  It was masterful because everyone actually reacted to O. as a moment, something no other film achieved.  Well done.

Go Ahead, Pee!  Seriously this film was just a woman jumping on a trampoline in a unitard with the World’s Biggest Smile, peeing.  I was so jealous the whole time.  Don’t even try to say you weren’t too.  Many viewers upon leaving the theater directly purchased both a trampoline and a unitard, trying to attain that ethereal level of joy.

Toeing the Line: Everything that’s right with the gay rights movement in one video.  Two incredibly happy gay dudes run around celebrating how happy they are at all sorts of anti-gay establishments.  It’s just…so…happy.  No anger, no lashing out, just having the Best Time Ever.  Plus they wrote all their own awesome music for it!

Dirty Mind: An encounter with a mail-order (yet home-made) cardboard cut-out of Prince.  Enough said.

EdenXXX:  Burning man, glitter, freak fur…you can check out their website .

Best Slumber Party Ever: Three aloof 90′s sparkle hipsters harass the most adorable nerd girl ever.  Here’s the teaser trailor!

Some related tumblr posts (another foray into that terrifying land) seem to mention that they were asked to edit the film down from 5 min. to 2 min., or edit some scenes out, or something.  I’d be curious to know if HUMP! asks many of its films to make certain edits, and how specific the requests are (certain scenes? length?).

D for You: I can’t imagine why this *wouldn’t* be online.  It’s a great animated short about a Dolphin and a Unicorn and online dating, of course.  I think they shot it as top-down stop motion with construction paper cut-outs, which looks like so much fun!  Oh jealous.

Peter and the Wolf:  This was, for real, set to the fabulous Sergei Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf piece.  As someone who listened to (a kid’s version of it) a lot as a child, I felt in tune with each musical stage of flirtatious curiosity, excitement, and fear.  On the screen, a man picks another man up in a park, takes him home on his motorcycle, starts making out with him, and then chains him up moments before the other man transforms into a wolf.  More pornographic bits follow, and it ends with Peter shooting the wolf, putting on his ‘werewolf slayer’ jacket, and getting back on his motorcycle.  A brilliant concept, perfectly executed.  One of my absolute favorites.

Boyfriend: The actual Justin Bieber song ‘Boyfriend’, which you should watch first.  It’s already creepy.

BenDeLeCreme’s horror-themed and colorful cover of Boyfriend, which you won’t regret.

Chatting with folks after the show, the stand-out was an aversion to anything that lacked humor.  We were spoiled by all the clever flicks into resenting hot sex without a plot twist or (non-literal) gag. One particularly perfect straight sex scene, of a quality that would have made it a goldmine in any private context, was derided as boring.   Save it for the bedroom!  folks seemed to say, I’m here to laugh with my friends and not be ashamed of sexuality, not get off.  Odd and interesting.

From my post last year, as I still feel the same: This was the classiest version of the evening I could have imagined. The audience was tipsy, but a classy, lighthearted, inoffensive crowd. I always wondered about the experience of seeing Deep Throat in theaters in the 70′s, when “porno chic” was in its brief phase, and it was moderately acceptable in nicer circles to attend and discuss humorous porn films. I think I just found out.

Eating Wild Chestnuts

November 2, 2012 § 6 Comments

N. loves dead ends.  Every sign that warns there’s no reason to go down a road, means I’m about to get forced on a detour. I was suspicious at first of the sheer effort of walking down a road you know isn’t going to work, but at the end of every unwelcoming turnaround there’s something valuable.  An old, tottering house; a bush shaped like an elephant; a lost park.  I’m starting to see the light — or rather, see charm in the dark, wet places where streets go to die.

We try to go to a nearby garage sale every weekend, just for the chance to walk the neighborhood and stare at people’s porches and lawns.  Headed back from allowing me to buy about 20 pairs of 80′s earrings, N. spotted one.  This particular dead end I grumbled over.  It was settled unpleasantly at the far-off bottom of a hill.  As we started down, N. began lecturing on the dream of living in houses no one has an excuse to walk past.  For an extrovert he’s surprisingly into hedgerows.

We found the “dead end” was a false advertisement — “Jesus, it turns into a bike path” N. exhaled in disgust.  I’m not clear how a dirt path through the light, idyllic woods that spread out past the houses was a crime against neighborhood privacy, but any excuse to ditch a dead end is a good one.

As we retraced our damp steps, a car pulled past us and parked in front of something that looked to be more 3-boat garage than domicile.  Out spread a grandmother, mother, and daughter, the latter scuffing her feet sulkily on the pavement.  I wondered why they were dragging their feet on getting into their house — if that was a house?  Or if they lived in land-boats?   Ugh, this hill was a bother.  N. craned his head back.  “Hey – there must be some sort of delicacy there,” he observed. “They’re collecting something.”

They didn’t live there at all. I made a quick U-Turn.  Under the tree were large, green, prickly fruits, which they were rolling under their shoes.  I’d spent a good portion of the morning examining these same prickly things, unable to find one the squirrels hadn’t trophied.  “What are you collecting?” I half-shouted a few times, trying not to look like a jerk hollering at a nice Asian family.  Finally the mother stepped forward and smiled and opened her hands.  There were fat, smooth nuts there in brown and green. “Chestnuts,” she pointed to the green ones, “these aren’t ready yet.”  I bent down to pick up one of the empty shells that had the little, deflated brown seeds I’d seen this morning.  She tut-tutted.  “That’s no good — and you’ll prick yourself.”  The little brown smudges I pulled out didn’t even look related to the lovely nuts she had found.

We thanked them and skipped off – mystery solved, wa-hoo!  It was only a few more blocks home, and we spent the way kicking at every prickly pouch we found – empty, empty, empty.  Near our house was another prickly-pod tree.  We were so excited we ran up to it and tried to pick up the little pouches – “Arghh!” – and dropped them in pain.  She was right.  We tried to imitate how they’d rolled them under their shoes, feeling for nuts inside, and then cracking the pouch with our feet.  Still empty.

Opening Chestnut Burrsgingerly opening Chestnut burrs with our shoes

“Hey!  I found one!”  N. held up a fat nut, ecstatic.  “The green prickly things are fresher.” Sure enough, some of the green burrs still had something in them – often one had been pulled out, but there would be a second nestled inside.  “Oh, and there’s some over here!” ones that had fallen out of the shell, unmolested, blending into the dirt.  In ten minutes we each had a full handful, and had never felt so rich.  Ah, how scarcity makes the heart pound!

our haul of fresh chestnutsN. is very excited about the Chestnut haul

We about tripped over ourselves the last block bubbling home to show everyone the nuts, which, it turned out, aren’t as cool if you didn’t just learn what they were and find them all where you thought none were left.  We looked like the nuts, and the nuts looked, well, inedible.

Now, how do you eat a chestnut?  We sang Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… over and over again…but decided not to risk an open fire.  It turns out the theory is about the same.  You cut an X in the skin of the nut across the flat part.  Lay them out on a tray and cook them at 425 for about half an hour.  You can see the skin start to peel back as they bake.

Chestnuts, X'ed, ready to bake in the ovennuts X’ed and ready to bake

When they’re done, you peel off the rest of the skin yourself, before they cool and it hardens.  N. was a natural.  I crumbled them and had to keep sneaking the mess I was making into my mouth.

“Havf you thried thes?” I turned to N., worried.  He was just swallowing one himself.

“Yeah.  They’re kind of…bland.”

There was very little nutty about chestnuts.  Their texture was related to chalky but altogether less dry.  Their flavor was unexpectedly light; a little bitter.  We frowned.

The more I tried to peel, the more I destroyed and had to scoop up into my mouth to avoid making a mess.  And you know what?  I think you just need to adjust to them.  Four or five in, and they were delicious.  Suddenly sweet.  I was dipping my hand back into the bowl all night for more soft, white something.  It definitely has a taste all its own.

Cooked and peeled chestnutsbaked, peeled, and ready to eat

I used to think I saw the homeless, the dejected, walking under that tree.  Always dragging their feet, always Asian, always clutching a bag.  Now I know those bags aren’t for lugging around half-soaked possessions – they’re for chestnuts!  They’re not shuffling because they’re derranged – they’re cracking nut cases!  Suddenly I see them every day, every time I go past, lingering to pick up secret things.  How many people are roaming the streets of Portland, harvesting chestnuts?  Is there territory?  Are they for sale, or do they go straight to the family dinner table?

a fresh chestnut, still in the burr

Most importantly of all – what I can’t stop thinking:  what other secrets foods do they know, that I don’t?

{ On this note, see my follow-up story on eating ginkgo nuts a few days later. }

{Before you eat chestnuts, learn the edible varieties here.}

How to Make Cheap Clay Fangs

November 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

Halloween this year worried me in one way: I was going as my D&D character, a tiefling (human with part demon ancestry), and I had no idea how to make her characteristic pointy teeth and ugly tusks on the cheap.  A friend, T., said she’d had luck making vampire teeth out of Sculpey III – just moulding it to her tooth, baking it, and then sliding it on so it stayed all by itself.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.  I gave it a go, and here’s the result:

ImageIt’s a pretty self-explanatory process, but I’ve typed it up anyway.  I ran into a lot of folks at the party who were as surprised and excited as I was to learn that you could make cheap vampire teeth / fangs / monster teeth / ugly tusks / whatever nasty teeth you desire, my friends.  Hurrah!

Disclaimer:  Not for kids.  I take no responsibility for anyone choosing to put non-edible substances in their mouth. This method isn’t recommended so much as it is awesome.

1. Buy Supplies.  Any Michael’s will carry Sculpey III, although I recommend calling a locally-owned craft store if you have one and asking if they have it instead.

 I would have preferred the ‘translucent’, but they were out, so I bought pearl, which was kind of sparkly.  The shade of white mattered less than I thought – but that’s probably because I burnt it.  One little pack will be enough for an army of teeth.

2. Make ‘em.  Form the Sculpey III into the shape you want (ie…a point), then push it over the tooth you want to cover.  You want to get clay on both sides of your actual tooth so it can get a good grip.  Slide it off once you have the tooth imprint, and gently plop it on tinfoil for baking.

3. Bake ‘em.  I think Sculpey III is supposed to be baked in the oven (no microwaves, folks) at 375 degrees for a certain amount of time per 1/8 in., but I’m not so good at following directions.  What I learned was:  bake them for as little time as possible.  Check on them after a few minutes.  If you let them cool off and find they don’t harden, well, stick ‘em back in.  Mine burned very quickly, leaving me with unsavory blackened fangs.  Sculpey III is best baked on a tray made of tinfoil.  Let them cool completely before trying them out to see if they fit.

4. Rinse mouth and Repeat.  It took me a number of tries to get each tooth right.  Out of my first batch, only one slid onto my tooth to my liking.  Others had moved before or during and didn’t fit, or broke when I tried them out.

What I found myself doing was sliding on the fang that I liked from the first batch, and then making several versions of the fang next to it.  You have to wear the one that already works, to make sure they’ll butt up against each other just right and fit together.  So I’d wear my left fang, and mould 4 different right fangs, bake them, let them cool, and usually one of those 4 would work perfectly.

I made 4 fangs for my top teeth, and two short tusks for my bottom teeth.  I’d burned most of them so badly that none of them matched the look I was going for, so I painted the front of them with acrylic paint and glazed them.  I can’t recommend this as you really shouldn’t put acrylic paint in your mouth…although, you should’t put Sculpey III in your mouth either.  If anyone has a mouth-approved solution for painting burnt fangs, let me know.  Whatever you do, *never* use oil paints in situations like this.

 5. Stick ‘em.  Some fangs held onto my teeth pretty well on their own, but others would slip off the moment I took moved my mouth.

I stood in the pharmacy line at Walgreens, and brashly asked the lady at the window to recommend a strong denture glue.  Without batting an eye, she said Poligrip was the most popular.  I’d tried Fixodent once, and found it mealy – plus it had failed to hold on my plastic vampire fangs.  Whether it was medium or brand at work, the Poligrip worked excellently.  Just squirt a little bit into the part of the fang that touches your tooth, stick the fang on, and hold for a few seconds.  I’d bring the tube with you in case you need to reapply – or lend your fanged friends some.

Removing the fangs is easy, just wiggle them a touch and pull them off, totally painless.  The denture glue, it turns out, is more of a suggestive paste than something that forms a bond.  If I hadn’t been so lazy I could have easily taken out the fangs, rinsed the globs of denture glue out of my mouth, eaten tasty party treats, re-rinsed, and stuck them back in with another glob o’ glue.

Upsides to this method:
- It was cheap!   I’ve passed over expensive fangs time and time again – and finally I’ve found a method that fits my pocket along with my teeth.  One little pack of Sculpey III will last me for many experimental teeth to come.
- I was able to make unique short bottom-tooth tusks for my character.

Downsides to this method:
- You’re putting Sculpey III in your mouth.  It’s not edible, folks, don’t sue me.
- It can be hard to make fangs with a particular shape unless you’re good at shaping clay, and it can be hard to get the coloration you want.  I just wanted clunky monster fangs so I was perfectly happy.  If you want the look of professional fangs, there’s no shame in buying them.

A side note on making the horns: I couldn’t find ultralight sculpey to make the horns out of so I bought the silly-named “Pluffy” instead.  It worked great, as did the cheap paint-on glaze I finished it with.