Sep 11 2016

The Worm from Labyrinth: Step by Step

In April I made a cake topper for my brother-in-law’s birthday party while my wife made the cake. Here is the step by step on how I did it:


It starts with making a wire armature; I made this one out of a clothes hanger. Luckily this is all the armature that the worm required; making armatures for human figures is much more complex.


Then you cover it with aluminum foil until it is about 80% of the bulk you need it to be.


I’m sculpting the worm with a polymer clay called Sculpey, which runs about $10/lb. You layer it over your wire and foil armature no thicker than 1/4 inch and then bake it in the oven at something like 275 degrees for 20 minutes. I learned about this from my friend Dave 20 years ago. After you bake it, then you can cut, grind, sand,  score, and even layer on more Sculpey and bake it again.


Here is a closeup of the freshly sculpted and unbaked Sculpey.


Here I have globbed on the initial blobs that will make up the worm’s face.


And here are all of the blobs smooshed into a rough face. Note the score marks on the eyes so that I can smooth on more Sculpey for the eyes once it has been baked the first time.


The worm was baked, then eyes and eyelids sculpted on.


img_5667Here I have smoothed down the rough edges of the grooves in the worm’s body with a tiny file, and cut in more smaller grooves with a dental tool.


Now I have added all of the fat rolls on the worm’s neck. This was a little difficult, making layer after layer one at a time and not smooshing the underlying layers.


After the last bake it was time to paint. I thinned down some gray acrylic and brushed/dribbled it into all of the little nooks and crannies to make them stand out more.

img_5673 img_5674

I painted the rest of the worm with acrylic, then superglued some snips of fancy yarn on for his hair.


Finally I finished the pupils with a Sharpie marker, then sprayed the entire thing with clear acrylic sealer, and cut a strip of felt off for the scarf.


Here is the final on top of the awesome cake that Heather made. In total it took me probably about 8-12 hours.

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Apr 1 2014

Quotable: Denny Burk on Noah

“As far as midrash is concerned, Noah is the midrashiest midrash that ever was midrashed.”

–Denny Burk from his review of Russell Crowe’s Noah, via

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Feb 6 2014

Quotable: J. B. Morton

“Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” from Rex v. Sussex, though I first heard it in the 1985 movie The Black Arrow, based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel of the same name.

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Dec 31 2013

Quotable: Pat Carroll

Pat Carroll, describing her attitude toward her characterization of Ursula in The Little Mermaid:

“I (saw Ursula as this) ex-Shakespearean actress who now sold cars.”

via Jim Hill Media

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May 7 2013

Iron Snow


The sound woke me immediately from the weird dream I was having. It was a distinct ‘thunk’–the sound of something hitting the back porch.

Check the clock–245am. Someone must be trying to get into the house. I got up, pulled on some clothes, and stepped out of the bedroom and checked the back door–still secure.

What could have made that ‘thunk?’ Maybe I just dreamed it. I went to the bathroom and then decided to take a look outside before I went back to bed. Then I realized what made the thunk.

We had gotten about four inches of snow on top of all my freshly leafy maple trees, felling thigh-thick branches all over the yard. The same trees The Baby and I had worked so hard to save from the snow back in February. As I peered through the wreckage I saw something scary–both vehicles were in imminent danger of having branches fall on them.

I threw on some more clothes and ran outside into the driving snow, dodging the unfallen branches most likely to kill a guy. I started with the car, since it is more important, scraping the snow off and entering through the passenger side and then driving it down the street away from the trees.

I was about to move the Jeep, but it was almost entirely enveloped in low hanging branches. I ran in to get Elsa. When I got to the porch, the branch above the Jeep collapsed, hitting the roof of the Jeep. If I had not gone to get Elsa, it might have clobbered me.

Finally I got in and got the Jeep moved. I was the tech on-call for the week, and I knew calling in wasn’t an option for me. I got my stuff together and left the house at 3am.

It was so bad I drove 15mph on 13 Highway. The interstate was clearer so I was able to double my speed, though the visibility was still terrible. By the time I got to Oak Grove I was up to 45mph, and by Independence I was at 55. It wasn’t even snowy. As I got into Kansas City it looked like they had simply gotten a nice rain. Still, I was thankful for only a two hour drive.

The real irony was that I was supposed to be off that day to go see Iron Man 3 with Heather and Stickler. The three of us had gone out for breakfast and then to the movie on the opening days of the previous two Iron Mans.

Still, it could have been worse. During the last blizzard the tech had to sleep on a makeshift cot in the IT office.


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Apr 23 2013


n., A romantic and sentimental film or book.

“Who’s Nicholas Sparks?”

“Oh, you know, that guy that writes all those weepies.”

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Mar 9 2013

Overheard while watching Ghostbusters: 15 yr old female

Girl: Even the Amish people are jumping!

Guy: Those are Orthodox Jews.

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Mar 7 2013

VBS 2013 Development Diary: #10: Gospel vs. Blues

Both gospel and blues are musical traditions rooted in the American South, both are based in tragedy, pain, and misery. But the difference between gospel and blues is that the gospel offers hope. The very nature of the blues is that there is no hope. Your heart is broke, you’re probably going to die from it–and then things will get worse. Don’t matter whether it’s deserved or not, the point is that it stinks–and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It is completely true–I totally borrowed a plot element from a major motion picture for my VBS. The key difference is that the motion picture is a blues song. The character in the movie never changes–she begins selfish, everything she does is selfish, and the very last thing she does–committing suicide–is still selfish. There is no hope. To quote an oft-forwarded email, “The Blues are not about choice. You stuck in a ditch, you stuck in a ditch; ain’t no way out.”

In my story there is hope–and change. Our protagonist does change–certainly beginning selfish, but becoming different. The funny thing is that for years I wanted to write an Iron Man kind of story–a selfish jerk goes through some really bad things and comes out on the other side different–better different–than he was before. But I never could seem to get it right; the scripts ended up morphing into something else. But this year I have inadvertently written that story.

From a storytelling perspective you want to see that change. If the character is the same in the first act as he is in the third act, then what was the point of this story? If Tony Stark is the same after becoming Iron Man as he was before he became Iron Man, the movie would be a failure (I’m looking at you, Jumper).

From a teaching standpoint you want to communicate that there is hope. If I fail to communicate that, then why did I write this VBS? If my only success is as a storyteller, then I have failed, because I missed the point of telling the story.

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Mar 2 2013

An Isadora Duncan

“This is what they call giving somebody an Isadora Duncan.” –Filmmaker commentary on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, from the scene where Eddie Valiant gets information from R.K. Maroon by feeding Maroon’s tie into a Moviola film editing machine.

I actually had to look that one up. Isadora Duncan was a dancer in the early 20th century, and she was killed when her long, flowing scarf got caught in the open spoked wheel of the car and broke her neck.

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Feb 10 2013

Quotable: Humphrey Bogart

“I wish I was dead with my back broken.”
–Humphrey Bogart as Linus Larabie in Sabrina

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