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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Puppet Design and Puppet Stage Design

I happened to have read these two articles on the same day: one on designing puppet staging and the other on designing puppets. I guess that’s fate. It made me think about my own work over here on this site.

In Naomi‘s article Basic Set Design for Puppet Shows, she talks about the materials, sizes, and structures of puppet stages. I think the most important thing is to get the scale right, especially matching the size of the set pieces to the puppets so they look like they belong in the same world. I’ve actually been thinking about switching to small puppets because it would be easier for me to build set pieces. Of course, the current size is good for filming on location and interacting with humans (which I haven’t done that much).

Of course, the material is important too. Last time we did a show, we used a piece of cardboard standing up. I am not sure why it didn’t fly away.

And then there’s this article It Just Felt Right (get it? felt?) on the National Post (via PuppetVision Blog). Rick Lyon, who is the puppeteer and puppet builder for Avenue Q, was interviewed about the design of the puppets. What I found the most interesting was all the conscious efforts made to really make Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut exact opposites. The colors and the shapes are both there to reflect the character’s personalities, which are opposites. I didn’t really pay attention to these details, but thinking back, yep, those details did serve the show well.

Come to think of it, I’ve always known (before I even bought the fabrics) that Mac and Cheese and Bobby would be light colors and Bottle Monsters and Moostifer would be darker colors in contrast.

What surprised me was that each of the Avenue Q puppet takes at least 100 hours of labor to build. But after I read about the details, yeah, it makes sense. Their materials are custom-dyed. After the foam structure was made, the outside was decorated and the inside was lined with another piece of fabric. Also the mouth boards are wood instead of ordinary cardboard. With those things and other details not mentioned here, no wonder those puppets take so long to make. And of course, the quality is really good as a result.

Ah, details, details. That’s what seperates the great from the mediocre.

Cool Links to Check Out (08/10/2008 edition)

(The Customer Is) Not Always Right

This site posts conversations between stupid customers and service personnels every day. I have fun reading about stupid people that don’t have common sense (I just don’t want to deal with them). I think that’s why I like Bill Engvall‘s “Here’s Your Sign” routines so much. (via Singing the Sky)

16 Secrets The Restaurant Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

This is an article about how many calories the meals from different restaurants contain. To sum it all up, many of them have a lot of calories and that’s why many restaurants don’t really want to answer the question when asked. Well… I’m not surprised that many of them have a lot of calories. I might not have the exact numbers, but I’d be in denial if I didn’t think a breakfast including several eggs, several sausages, pancakes with syrup and another side of potatoes, or a lunch including a huge hamburger, fries and a coke would be low in calories. Do I know these things are loaded with calories? Yes. Do I still eat cheesecakes? Yes, every once a while. I think nobody should tell us what we can or cannot eat; we just need to be aware of the consequences of our eating habits, whether it’s healthy or not.

Using Your Browser URL History to Estimate Your Gender

This little web page has a tool that can go through your browser’s URL history, and try to guess your gender depending on the sites you view… And apparently I’m more likely to be female… #$%@… I didn’t think the algorithm was very fair. For example, there’s MySpace, but I’ve visited MySpace like only once this month. I don’t even remember going on to eBay. And I wouldn’t have checked out Mahalo and if someone hasn’t bookmarked this site on those sites. But Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia I do regularly go on. Well, still a fun thing to play with anyway. 😛

Here’s my results:

Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 66%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 34%

Site Male-Female Ratio 0.98 0.74 1 1.08 1.11 0.83 0.98 1.06 1.15 0.59

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship

I was pretty excited when I found this video on the internet. This was from The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, an 1990 made-for-TV stop-motion film based on a Russian folk tale. The movie was originally released in the UK. I watched it as a kid when they showed it in Taiwan (I don’t even remember if it was dubbed or close captioned). In the story, the Tsar decides that he would marry the princess to whoever brings him a flying ship. A young man set out on the quest for a flying ship, and meets a bunch of friend with different strange skills. They eventually have a flying ship for the Tsar, but the Tsar regrets the decision and put the group through more tests. And let’s just say there’s a happy ending. For a more detailed story, read this article on the answer to everything website.

Strangely enough, I still remembered the song that they sang (not the lyrics, but the melody). I also remembered what the old man and the flying ship looked like. We’ve never been short of stories about not-so-smart but have-a-pure-good-heart young man trying to marry a princess, and stories about people with strange skills, but this story tied them together quite nicely.

I think this was also the first time I was made aware what a stop-motion picture was, and it certainly made me appreciate all the work gone into the film even more. I also started liking the style and started watching Grandpa’s Stories (阿公講古), a Taiwanese claymation series about where each episode was a different story (often folk tale) told by Grandpa (kids sitting under a tree listening to local grandpas tell stories was a way of life before TV). If you want to see what it looked like, click here to see the two screen shots. The site is in Chinese though. Ah, I sure miss old TV shows. Some of them are good; some of them are mediocre. But either way, they are a part of childhood. :-)

How I Battled the WordPress Category Missing Problem

This is going to be THE most technical post that’s ever appeared on this blog, so if you can’t stand it, just skip over this post. I am pretty sure that we’ll be back to more fun stuff soon. 😀

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, I upgraded my WordPress from version 2.1 to 2.6. Unfortunately, after the upgrade, all my post categories were missing. It took me a while to get them back again, and I’m writing to document what I went through and to share a solution if you ever run into this problem as well.

First let’s talk about the upgrade. I did this by downloading the new version from, and then uploading them onto my server, overwriting the previous files. Before I did the upload, I backed up my old files in case the upgrade failed and I would have to restore to the old files. After I uploaded the new files, I logged into my WordPress dashboard, and I was greeted with a question asking whether I wanted to also upgrade the database. I clicked on yes without thinking too much. This was sort of a mistake. I didn’t back up my database because I wasn’t planning to change it, but clicking yes meant that I’m allowing WordPress to make changes to my database. It’s a good thing that I only lost my categories and nothing more.

Anyway, after the database upgrade was also done, this was what my website looked like. All the category labels are missing:

After Googling around for a fix, I found this webpage. I didn’t follow it exactly but I was doing stuff along the line of what he did. First you want to view your database. My site and the tutorial author’s site both use phpMyAdmin. Depending on what you have installed on your server, this step might be somewhat different. But you want to go view your wp_categories table. You will see that all the category descriptions are gone. I then used the pencil icon to edit all the category descriptions. I changed them to something like aaaaa, bbbbb, ccccc, etc. This is so I will know which categories are actually used. This actually turned out to be an optional step, but it can save you some confusion down the line. Here are the before and after pictures:

Now go to http://(your site url)/wp-admin/categories.php?action=edit&cat_ID=(category number) where (your site url) is your url, and (category number) is the category ID. From my example, you can see that I have 18 categories. But they are not all consecutive numbers. You will have to put that address into your browser for as many categories as you have. I had 18 categories so I had to do that 18 times with a different cat_id each time. Once the address is put in, this is what it would show:

The Description is something that you already entered in the previous step. Now you want to fill in Category Name and Category Slug. I will explain what they are later. For now just put in the same thing and save the category. Note that although the description entry was optional in the last step, it was good to have so you can double check which categories are valid since sometimes they do skip numbers in category IDs. If there was a description, you knew you are editing a valid category.

And now go to your WordPress dashboard again. Go to Manage tag, and then select Categories. You will see your category manager. In the following picture on the left, I’ve already done aaaaa through nnnnn. Notice the stuff after ooooo still has no Name (label) yet. Eventually these would all be filled out. And in the picture on the right, you see on the blog that categories are no longer missing… they are just called really weird names consisting of repeating letters. On the site it would’ve showed up as something like the picture on the right:

And finally, it’s time to correct all the category names in the category manager again. When I looked at Category ddddd, for example, I can click on the number 23. It would show a bunch of posts that was filed under this category. In this case, they were Episode 15 – Godfather Nightmares, Episode 14 – Tofu, Episode 13 – Tis the Season to be Charlie, etc. So I knew that the category name it should have is “My videos”. So I clicked on “ddddd” and an editor would pop up, now that we actually some kind of label to click on. Go ahead and change the name and slug. The Category Name is the name that would show up on the sidebar as a category or under a post. In this case it’s “My videos”. The Category slug is what would appear in the web address for this category. In this case I chose “my-videos” because I didn’t want spaces in my url. So go through and modify all categories to have the appropriate names and slugs, and you’ll have all categories back. So this is what it looks like when it’s all done:

Wow, that’s a lot of info. There might be smarter ways of doing it, but that is what I’ve tried and it worked. This is fun. Lots of fun. Way too much fun.

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