Mindscanner #57

The Making of a Klingon

By Tajqa Duras <[email protected]>

This last September my family and I spent part of our vacation in Las Vegas. While there, we decided to make the trek to the Mecca of Trek, the Las Vegas Hilton. While I have long been a fan of Star Trek, I never considered myself even an avid fan, let alone a Trekkie � Trekker � whatever. The other member of my family who went with me had somewhat of an opposing viewpoint.

Whenever the latest, greatest, hottest summer sci-fi release would come out, she would look at me, laughing a bit and ask, "I suppose you are going to go see the movie where they have lasers coming out their�?" This being the case, I was the only one who entered the hallowed halls of Trekdom.

I got halfway through the exhibit and there they were, in all their glory. They were big, they were bad, they were Klingon, they were the Duras sisters. There must have been some magic in the yards of leather and spikes. I found myself fascinated with the exhibit. In the end, I videotaped every square inch of the costumes. When I left the exhibit, the groundwork was laid.

"If you are that interested, why don't you join one of those fan groups?" came the suggestion.

"Yes. Why not?" I pondered.

In the end, this proved more difficult than I had imagined. My image of fans and fan clubs were more in line with that bit of�ahem�dubious documentary portrayed so recently in a film of which we are all aware.

Me? A Trekkie? At first I dismissed the thought. Then it turned out a friend with a PHD after her name is also an avid Star Trek fan. Well, I thought if it is all right for her, it must be all right for me. (All the while I heard my mother asking "If Janey jumped off the Empire State Building would YOU jump off the Empire State Building?")

Sure, I had seen the very epitome of local fandom on a local public television program called "Wild" something or other. Finding them was another matter. In the end, the answer was no further away than the information super highway.

I found I was in need of my fist set of speed bumps, and so I set out to make my very own set of cranial ridges. Thinking back to my days in theater I went over a mental list of what was needed to embark upon the creation of a Klingon. I and my list both went down to the local costume house.

"Sure", I assured the man behind the makeup counter, "We used to do life masks and molds all the time when I was in theater. But it HAS been a while so maybe you should�ahem�go over the process a bit."

With instructions, admonishments and materials all obtained. I embarked upon the process. With the help of the same family member who made the suggestion in the first place, we made the life mask.

The little mistakes soon began. Okay, I forgot the chemical that lengthened the setting time of the alginate (the first flexible layer of the life mask). "What do the instructions recommend as a substitute, I asked? Cold Water? Okay." When the alginate went on, my helper and I both discovered how pleasant a lengthening agent cold water makes when the ice cold alginate went on. At the time, as I recall, I nearly sucked my teeth through the back of my head. The rest of the process went smoothly, until�

I discovered just how long it had been since I made a life mask. Half way through pouring the positive, I found myself short of plaster. The plaster was setting, the alginate lined negative was only good for one use. I desperately searched for something to make up the difference.

Unfortunately, the only thing that came to hand was the remainder of the alginate and the plaster bandages used to make the negative in the first place.

The fact that this made for a very weak positive became patently obvious after I poured the mold for the cranial ridges. Despite four layers of mold release, the life mask and mold for the ridges were stuck as tight as a misers death grip on his change purse. Prying the two halves of the mold apart, only ended up prying apart the life mask.

After a few wails of woe, I determined that I would not be defeated. Cautiously and carefully I discovered joys of repairing both molds from their remains. In the end, joy of joys, I succeeded. Only to have fate take one final stab at thwarting my efforts.

Time to pour the foam latex mold. Careful measurements must be taken. The instructions provided the most minute detail for the ideal conditions. There, several times on the page were the fateful words. "Measurements must be made", then in bold letters, "TO THE DROP".

Okay, just the right air temperature (Why is it so hot in here I would later be asked?) The molds were the right temperature. All the ingredients measured TO THE DROP. All the conditions were exactly as required.

Yes after this I checked them time and time again (usually followed by curses in two languages) "under ideal conditions the liquid will expand up to seven times its original volume." Seven times. Seven times�

Ever seen the old I love Lucy episode where they are working in the candy factory? The candy just keeps coming, faster and faster and neither Lucy nor Ethel can keep up. Well it was deja vu all over again.

Carefully I mixed and poured the ingredients. The liquid didn't expand, it exploded. All the while I was desperately trying to get the life mask all the way into the mold. It was like trying to put a cap back on a just-opened fire hydrant. I got the life mask most the of the way into the mold but it was to late. The beast was loose.

It was like the old "Blob" movie. The semi-viscous material erupted from the mold like a latex volcano. Over the edges of the mold, out onto the counter top, out onto the floor, threatening to swallow the entire kitchen. I desperately looked around for something to hold the life mask in the mold and could do little more than try to force it back into the onrushing latex.

Even the blob was eventually defeated, and so too did the latex stop its expansion. Far exceeding seven times its original volume thank you very, very much.

Did I learn a lesson? You bet. Never follow the instructions. And fear the next step in the process of becoming

Klingon. �making the foam latex nose.