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Stage Fright

At GWW I taught my class on Theatrical Sklls for Bards.

One of the things we talked about is “stage fright” and how to deal with it.  I offered up an exercise on how to deal with it, but this video is a great introduction to understanding what it actually is.  I think I’ll be modifying my notes a bit to refer to this understanding so that in the future I can offer up some additional help on how to deal with it.

A Slideshow of Magic Lantern Slides

magiclanternToday I spent my time going through the slides which came with my new Magic Lantern.

By cataloging them I hope to be able to do some image searches and maybe find the stories that are being told or even find replacements for the slides which are missing.

Many people came by my table where I had the lantern disassembled and the slides set out to see what it was I was playing with.  It was fun to share the wonders of what I had in front of me with an appreciative group of people.  And at least one was inspired to spend time researching and developing their own photography skills further in the hopes being able to produce slides for my use.

All I did was place the slides on white paper and yet that was enough to bring the images out in brilliant colors.  It is amazing to see how well these slides have lasted considering how old they are.  I am looking forward to when I can actually fire up the lantern itself and test it out.  I won’t be doing that for a bit as the oil lamp which is the source of light for the lantern needs some care before I risk putting any fuel in it.  Either that or I will need to simply replace it.

Below is a slideshow of the images I took.  There are a few missing slides from the sets which are clearly sequenced stories but otherwise everything I have is present.  If you get any ideas about what the stories might be I’d appreciate a comment letting me know.


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The Performing Introvert

Comments about introverts and being an introvert in what seems to largely be an extroverted world come around every now and again.  They ring true for me because, despite how things might otherwise appear, I actually am very much an introvert.

As it turns out there are actually genuine physiological differences between the brains of introverts and the brains of extroverts.  These differences are basically which parts of the brain are activated more during different activities.  The studies show that for introverts the areas of the brain which become more active during testing are areas which involve memory, problem solving and planning while the brains of extroverts that become more active tend towards the areas involved in interpretation of sensory data.

The difference is that given the opportunity to sit and think, the introvert focuses inward and the extrovert focuses outward.  This may seem obvious but I share this up front to show that it isn’t just a personality thing like most people believe but is a genuine physical phenomenon.

What is also interesting to note is that according to a variety of studies as much as 75% of the population consists of extroverted individuals while the rest are introverts.

I tell you these things up front because I want to establish two basic things:

  • Introversion is not a personality disorder or other psychological issue.  It is a normal result of simple physiological differences in the brain
  • Introverts are a smaller part of the population than extroverts

So keep those things in mind as I wander off into the actual point of this article; being a performing introvert.

What is a performing introvert?  Simply put it’s someone who is both an introvert and engages in some activity that puts them “on stage” in front of crowds in order to entertain them.

This might seem like some kind of contradiction.  After all aren’t the people who are “on stage” used to being in front of people?  Don’t they crave the attention?  Isn’t being an extrovert what makes them so good at entertaining?

Those things might be true, but they are definitely not the only answer.

Giving a speech in front of large crowds of people is actually a greater fear than death to most Americans so one can argue that being used to being on stage is not as common as we might expect.  Sure there are lots of ways to train like Toastmasters or other speech training programs but statistically speaking at least one would think that even extroverts, who outnumber introverts by as much as 3 to 1, aren’t exactly craving that stage time in front of large crowds.

And introverts do crave attention as much as extroverts do.  After all, we’re all human and we like to interact with each other.  The difference is that introverts crave a different kind of interaction.  This is the whole “life of the party” concept.  Extroverts are often tagged as the “life of the party,” often justifiably so.  Introverts, not so much.  Introverts are usually the ones who, if they are at the party at all, are sitting in a corner having a quiet and pleasant conversation with one or two other people only.

Finally while being an extrovert might help create a level of energy for an entertainer, I don’t think it’s necessarily what makes them good at entertaining.  One can simply do a quick Google search for famous introverts and find lists of some extremely talented performers both live and TV/Film stars.  If being extroverted were a requirement we wouldn’t have those performances.

So what makes an introvert decide that being an entertainer is a good idea?  What makes them think that being in front of crowds of people is what they want to do?  What are the problems an introvert has to face and overcome?

Well, I can only speak to my own experiences and observations, so I will.  Perhaps you will find this helpful if you too are an introvert with a desire to entertain.

I was drawn to the stage very early on.  I mean very early.  Like Kindergarten early.  The first production I can remember doing was all the kids in class acting out a story from a story book and I played the villain (a very cartoonish Dick Dastardly type villain).  That might not seem like much until you get the full context which is that the project was supposed to be all the kids switching out roles every so often so everyone got to play on stage.  Except me.  The teacher liked what I was doing so much that I played the villain through the entire thing.

Now sure, kids are more outgoing and less likely to be embarrassed when what they are doing is pure play, but this stuck with me, obviously, and it has always been the earliest foundation of what I consider my performance trajectory.

Ever since then I was constantly in “school plays” and then moved to community theater and eventually into being a founding member of an acting troupe that has lasted for 21 years so far as of this writing.  Somewhere in there I also became a magician.  And not only that I became a professional one, making my living as a magician for four years.

So how does introverted me do all that?  Because it’s fun.  Not for the limelight, which is nice, but because I have a talent and I like to practice it.  I like creating.  I like the art.  Not just the magic but the acting as well.  I think about my characters.  I think about my delivery.  I think about what the audience sees and expects and I think about how to manipulate them to give them an even bigger surprise.

Everyone who knows me knows I’m a magician.  If they don’t know beforehand they will find out soon enough.  But I don’t crave doing card tricks for people.  My interactions are always first and foremost about creating an artistic or emotional moment for them.  And I am always more satisfied by the close up magic I do than the stage magic I do because it creates those connections to other people that introverts like me seem to crave.

This makes sense.  As an introvert my “quiet conversation in one corner of the room with a couple of friends at the party” very likely might include some interesting bit of magic or psychological trickery.  The entertainment of it, the connection that I make with people when I do that feeds that introvert connection.  It makes me interact with, and hopefully be more interesting to, the people at the party and thus makes me liked and validated, something we all want.

While I have done larger shows I have long come to understand that my best large audience size is about 20 people.  I can still manage a group that size and provide the connection to them that I want to provide.  I can still make significant enough connections with this size group of people that it is worth it to me to extend that amount of “energy.”

One of the ideas that is often presented as a difference between introverts and extroverts is where they get their “energy” from.  Now before you go off wandering into “new age woo-woo land” let me just say that all I mean by “energy” in this context is the level of connection and excitement one normally experiences when interacting with other people in a positive fashion.

The general thinking is that extroverts get their energy from interacting with groups of other people while introverts get their energy from quiet solitude.  As a result extroverts spend time with other people and introverts spend time alone both for the sake of “recharging their batteries.”

This too makes sense in light of what I mentioned at the beginning of this article with regards to the physiological differences between the two.  If extroverts brains are wired up to enjoy spending time processing external stimuli then spending time with others provides that stimuli.  If introverts brains are wired up to enjoy spending time processing internal information then seeking out quiet time to do that provides them that opportunity.

How does that play out for the introverted performer?

In my case at least it seems that the time I spend being quiet is also massively creative time.  I get to process all kinds of information that I have gathered and figure out what it means.  I get to decide how I might use that information and the conclusions that I come to in order to create better performances.  This quiet creative time is where new routines are born, where new magic is created, where new stories are dreamed up.  And I know this time well as the kind of time I want after I have had the time I need to just sit and process.  My desires for this quiet creative time are always as the last part of a cycle which starts with simply sitting, relaxing and just processing all that I have recently encountered.

In the heat of the moment I am “on stage.”  I know that I have a specific performing persona and a script that I am following (yes, magicians follow scripts, not just actors).  I am putting my energy into that and I can absolutely tell you that if the moment presents itself I will be right there ready to take advantage of a good improvisational opportunity.  I feel energized when I have a good audience.  I feel drained when I don’t.

Through that performance I will be gathering tons of information.  But when the performance is over, when I get out and back home I can sit and be quiet.  I can process all that I got from the audience and I can recharge my batteries from all that I am inspired by.  That’s the energy that I, as an introvert, need.  That is what fuels the quiet creative time that follows the quiet relaxation time.

I have considered frequently what seems to be the inherent contradiction that when I finish a good show I feel hugely energized and the fact that as an introvert my first craving when I feel worn out is to seek silence and solitude.  But it’s not really that surprising in retrospect since that huge charge is really coming from a job well done.  Much like exercise a show well done is very revitalizing.  The adrenaline does work its way through the system and a vigorous performance can definitely be like a vigorous workout.

This bodily energy is not the same thing as the mental energy I crave as an introvert.  In that case the bodily energy carries me on further through the rest of whatever I have to deal with such as striking a set or packing up my magic props (a task only I will do).  Even at this point I am still expending mental energy maintaining a persona or at the very least keeping myself engaged with my audience.  This means I’m still draining my reserves.

It occurs to me too that there is a very definite expenditure of energy leading up to the show.  I have long had a reputation for being somewhat disagreeable when I am backstage waiting for the show to begin.  When I am back stage I am often very withdrawn and very quiet.  I am nervous and generally rather flushed with adrenalin.  I can be snappy.  I try very hard not to inflict that on my fellow performers but it can still be difficult to be around.  Remember that fear of public speaking I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, this is it.

Some really do have very good coping mechanisms for this.  Others, such as myself, do not.  What I do know is that the moment I am on stage all of that nervous energy turns into performance energy.  As soon as I hit the stage it’s on.   The performance itself becomes the catalyst for the nervous energy of being in front of people and turns it from a chore to a challenge.

I have noticed however a certain lethargy I must overcome as well lately.  I commented about this in my article about “flight time,” that I haven’t gotten enough of it lately and that I need more.  One of the things I have come to realize is that being an introvert does become one more hurdle I need to overcome.  It is far too easy to blow off performance opportunities simply because I’m not feeling up to it.

Is that really lethargy or is that reticence because I’m feeling my introverted nature a bit too much?  Is it because I haven’t had enough time to myself to either recharge my introvert batteries or am I really just under the weather?  These are questions that I seriously need to find the answer to, but my gut tells me that my introvert nature is a bigger part of the problem than I might have originally realized.

After all, the thing that introverts don’t want to do is expend energy on something which is not worthwhile or worth their time.  That certainly includes unappreciative audiences.  We don’t come with vast renewable energy reserves and it’s really pretty hard to sneak off in the middle of a party or a performance to sit quietly for a few hours to recharge.  We’ve got to be ready when the time comes and that means planning ahead and knowing the situation we are headed into.

One could easily mistake this for fear of the performance, or fear of the audience, but looking at this from the current perspective it seems like those are just ways of saying “fear of running out of energy.”

I will not suggest that extroverts are capable of an unlimited amount of energy simply because as long as there are people around they can recharge all they want.  Sounds rather vampiric in nature actually.  Rather I will suggest that given the fact that there are other people around and they can renew from these people they are less likely to be concerned about failing in the first place.  Their natural tendency to laugh and joke makes them capable of easily picking up and moving on if something didn’t work in the midst of their performance.

But as an introvert I know that when something doesn’t work right I am personally horrified by that and I have trouble recovering.  And the presence of others isn’t what I need at that point.  What I need is time to analyze why this thing failed.

There it is again; outward focus and inward focus.

Now that’s a lot to take in but I really am leading up to something and here it is –

The natural advantages of being an introvert may make them extremely good entertainers.

This is, at best, a premise only.  But one that I base on my own experiences as well as my observations about a long list of highly skilled and talented introverted entertainers.

What is that list of “advantages?”  Well, it is subject open to argument but there is a book entitled “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World” and in this book a list of the top ten “advantages” enjoyed by introverts is presented.

10) Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships
9) Maintain Long-Term Friendships
8) Flexible
7) Independent
6) Strong Ability To Concentrate
5) Self-Reflective
4) Responsible
3) Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking
2) Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity
1) Studious and Smart

I’m not going to run down this whole list, but it does provide some interesting food for thought.  I will target some specific characteristics this book is attaching to introverts.

“Strong Ability to Concentrate” seems like something a working entertainer would want.  Certainly the level of concentration I expend when performing magic or juggling is high and the ability to stay focused is extremely valuable.

“Self-Reflective” might not make sense at first until you tie it to the idea of both self critique and taking the criticism of others such as your directors, stage managers, and yes, critics.  A performer who doesn’t pay attention to these things is going to put themselves into a dead end with their creativity and their presentations.

Can we just say that “responsible” and “professionalism” simply go hand in hand and leave it there?  Good.

“Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking” is probably a total no-brainer here.  After all, we’re talking about entertainers.  Being creative, being able to create something new and original is exactly what we are expected to do.  But if being an introvert makes you more likely to be able to do these things than certainly it is an advantage.

“Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity” is also something which seems a no-brainer to me as it goes hand in hand with the whole “creative” thing.  Introverts take it all in.  We look at everything around us and we catalog and categorize it within our minds.  We take notes.  We make observations and we are, if I may be so bold to speak for my people at this point, obsessive about the things that interest us.  We want, we need, to know everything we can about them.  Because once we do all of those things churn around in our skulls and when we have that time to sit and be quiet and let our creativity flow all of it comes in to play.

I’m sure I could make arguments for everything that is on this proposed list of introvert advantages but I trust that by now I have made my point.  Despite what might seem the obvious conclusions, introverts can and do make fabulous entertainers.  We come top full with a tool kit of skills that are inherently a part of our very nature.

Do we have it all over the extroverts?  No clue.  I’m not one so I can’t judge from the inside.

But I would like to hear from you.  I would like to know what you think, especially if like me, you consider yourself to be an introvert performer.  Leave your comments below.

Bleeding Edge Entertainment

Like most of the rest of the world I have seen “The Hobbit.”  Like a good portion of them I made the call to see it in 3D with the High Frame Rate (HFR).  Unlike a portion of the world I decided to use the restroom before the movie started and to not indulge in the 55 gallon drum of soda thus allowing me to sit through the entire movie.

In retrospect I may have wanted that bathroom break just get away from the visual bludgeoning I received.

I’m not going to get into a review of the movie itself.  This has been done to death everywhere else and I don’t know that I could really add anything to it.  I will say this much; I literally grew up with this story from kindergarten on.  Story time in school was this book and as a class we made a huge wall sized panorama of the whole book where I made The Arkenstone.  So I have a connection.  The movie is not the book.  I may not decide how I feel about that until all three movies(!) have been released.

In any case it’s not the plot I wish to talk about but the technology of 3D and HFR.

First, 3D technology.  We’ve been dealing with a variety of movie attempts at 3D for a lot longer than people might think.  The earliest attempts at 3D cinema were done in the 1890’s.  The first film viewed by a paying audience was “The Power of Love” released in 1922 and it used the basic “Red/Green” viewing technology most of us are familiar with.

From there the leaps in technology have been pretty minor in the grand scheme of the audience viewing experience.  The technology behind the scenes was mostly on process and creating projection systems that could handle the changes in process.  The main problems that had to be dealt with were largely caused by the need for dual projectors, dual projectionists and the complications of keeping the two films running in sync with one another.

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that someone figured out a variety of ways to put the images on to a single film strip alternating frames and the use of special projectors and lenses to allow them to be seen.  Still, these came with their own problems mainly in how bright the images were or the sightlines in the theater being to narrow to get any proper 3D effect.

In 1970 we got Stereovision and thanks to the Porn industry a 3D flick called “The Stewardesses” where the frames were on a single strip but squeezed in side by side.  Soft and Hard core porn led the way for 3D for several years.

In the early 80’s we got more attempts at 3D with the sci-fi films such as “Spacehunter: Adventures in The Forbidden Zone”, “Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn” and “Treasure of the Four Crowns.”  None of which could compete with the traditional 2D format of our beloved “Star Wars” and so 3D fell to the wayside again.

But IMAX came along in the mid-80’s and IMAX 3D started giving us a lot of documentary films at first followed by a whole slew of entertainment releases.

And now we find ourselves here in an age where 3D films seem to be making a real go of it with vastly superior technology.

And now we’re talking about High Frame Rate.  There is not nearly as much information on this technology because other than using HFR cameras to get super slow motion images the tech doesn’t seem to have been used for very much as far as entertainment is concerned.

Going back to those really old cameras and projectors there was no particular standard for film frame rates due to the simple fact that those items were hand cranked.  The frame rates didn’t standardize until the invention of Sound Sync technology and the creation of the first “talkies”.  In 1927 the first feature length “talkie” was the film “The Jazz Singer.”

So it was sound that drove the visual frame rate standard which became 24 frames per second.  That means when you look at that strip of film each and every one of those little pictures is racing by and you see 24 of them in one second to create the illusion of movement.

Which brings me to “The Hobbit.”

Peter Jackson decided that he wanted to do this movie at 48 frames per second, the first feature film to do so.  I’m sure you understand fully what that means now.

The first thing that I have to say is that in talking with various people who have seen the movie they have all come down hard on opposite ends of the spectrum with very little in the way of middle ground.  They either really love the 3D HFR or they really don’t.

The positives are the sense of realism and the very deep rich colors.  The experience is very immersive.

The negatives are the overwhelming nature of some shots as they go by so fast that the vividness of the images become too intense or even painful.  Certainly my wife and my apprentice both complained of being overwhelmed at times even to the point of headaches and a bit of dizziness.

If I am to be honest I’d have to say that there were a couple of times, especially during battle scenes, where the action became so overwhelming that I couldn’t follow what was going on or keep up with it.

But that got me to thinking; is it the technology or the direction itself?  Certainly there have been other films in standard 2D formats where things became so crowded and “action packed” on the screen that it became difficult if not impossible to follow everything taking place.  Can I really lay blame for that on 3D HFR?

The intent of Peter Jackson and the other directors that will follow him (James Cameron plans to use 3D HFR technology for his “Avatar” sequels) is to create a rich world that invites you in and gives you a powerful experience.  They wish to “push the envelope” with “new and exciting” technology to make your movie experience “one of a kind.”

Suddenly it was those buzz words and phrases that pushed my buttons and got me to thinking.  Isn’t that what story tellers do?  Isn’t that what our imagination is for?

Really, as fantastically exciting and even beautiful these worlds are, do they compare to what was in your imagination when you were a kid?  I grew up with “The Hobbit.”  After it was read to me as a tiny kid I read it again and again for myself over the years.  Eventually I saw the animated Rankin and Bass production.  I even played the children’s album story of “The Hobbit” over and over again wearing out groves in it.

But it was the book, and my imagination that filled me with what hobbits and elves and dwarves and dragons looked like.  It was my imagination that took me thru the horrors of Murkwood Forrest and to look upon the face of Gollum.

It was good solid storytelling.  J.R.R. Tolkien told a magnificent story.  Certainly I know there are those who don’t like his writing style, but that isn’t the point so much as it’s about story telling.  Pick your own favorite author whose work has been made into a movie.  Is the movie ever as grand as what your imagination created from the story that took you too far away places?

I would argue not.

So is 3D HFR just a waste of time?  No, I don’t think so.

But neither do I think it is the answer.  Right now Peter Jackson and his ilk are playing with it.  They are seeing what they can do with it.  And as visually spectacular as “The Hobbit” is ultimately going to be, I will be willing to bet that it’s going to be the original story teller, the director who uses the technology with restraint and artfulness who will ultimately produce the greater product.  If the visual bludgeoning I received watching “The Hobbit” is any indication at all Peter Jackson isn’t the artful director I am looking for with regards to this new technology.

Yes, I completely enjoyed the first installment of “The Hobbit” and if truth be told I fully expect that I will see the remaining two installments in 3D HFR as well.  I’m a complete-ist like that.  That’s how I started my “unexpected journey”, that is how I will finish it.  Peter Jackson is to be commended for the job done thus far.

In my perfect world someone is going to come along and they are going to give me a 3D HFR movie with an original story, talented actors and an artful use of the beauty that can be created by drawing me in to a space that seems to surround me.  I look forward to that cinema experience.

Making Up For Missing The Fly Over

Tim with The DiscoveryA short while back the Space Shuttles were being moved around the country to their final resting places after being retired by NASA.  I had hoped to see The Endeavor during its flyover.  It was scheduled to go right past my office building and, had the weather been clear, I would have had a perfect few of it from my office window.

The weather looked like it was going to be beautiful so I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.

A low hanging fog bank moved into the Monterey Bay between my vantage point and the flight path of the plane carrying Endeavor.  I missed it.

Yesterday I took my chance to correct that loss.  I visited the National Air and Space Museum.  And I got to spend time with Discovery.

It was a very moving experience.

I know the arguments about whether or not the shuttle program was a success or a failure.  Nevertheless they still represent something very important to me.  I saw mission after mission succeed.  I saw the tragedy of lives lost.  I saw the results of science experiments done in space that have gone on to improve our lives.  New technologies and new industries sprang up because of the Shuttle Program.

Many years ago, when I was a kid first experiencing a world with space shuttles I visited the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory on one of their infrequent “open house” days.  As I recall they only have them once every five years.

Among the many things I saw on display was a shuttle tile heated up to re-entry temperatures.  No shuttle had flown in space yet.  This was back when the only shuttle that existed at all was Enterprise and she would never fly in space as she was only a prototype test vehicle.

So much rode on the ability of these tiles to withstand re-entry.  I was told how each and every tile was unique because of its size, shape and placement on the skin of the shuttle.

And I looked at this glowing piece of material and was hypnotized by it.

We look at cgi-animations of re-entry vehicles and there is always the glowing cherry red and fiery orange look to them.  But no matter how impressive the animation is I can tell you that the reality is far greater.

Yesterday I sat and I looked at the tiles on the side and underneath of Discovery.  They made a definite decision to not clean her up.  She bore the scars of her final flight,  burn marks, dirt and char.  She looked weathered, worn, old.

She was still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.

An era of space travel has ended for us.  Another one is opening thanks to the Space X programs.  It looks like we stand on the edge of a new and exciting time in space exploration if we are brave enough, clever enough and idealistic enough to grab it and, like Felix Baumgartner just did, leap into the unknown.

Sky Diving from SPACE!!

No, not me.  I wish.

No, it’s Felix Baumgartner.

Hopefully I can catch it live here:

Amazing stuff!

Bubble Magic with Tom Noddy!

Tom Noddy making a bubble dodecahedron.

About a year ago now I met one of the coolest people I know; Tom Noddy. I had the good fortune to be on the same stage with him and being the easy going and friendly guy that he is it was extremely easy to walk up, introduce myself and find myself becoming friends with him almost instantly.

Tom does “Bubble Magic.” What’s that? Tom plays with bubbles professionally. You know, that sudsy soapy stuff that comes in a little container with a cheap plastic “wand” the you give to your kids and the run around spilling it everywhere while they blow bubbles at the family dog.

That’s the stuff.

But how do you build a professional career out of doing that? Well, in Tom’s case you decide you don’t want to live the life of a corporate or factory drone, get yourself organized and prepared to spend some time living on the road because you want to see the world, and in order to save enough money to make it doable you find ways to entertain yourself at home while you finish out your last year or so of punching a clock.

And cheap and easy ways to entertain yourself at home include spending all your time playing with toys like yo-yo’s and paddle ball and…. bubbles!

First you spend a lot of time just playing. Then you spend a lot of time getting good with them. Then you spend even more time figuring out things that most people never spend the time to do. And somewhere along the way you get seen doing something incredibly cool with bubbles like bouncing a smoke filled one off your arms, making breakdancing caterpiller bubbles, volcano bubbles and even a bubble cube! Once you’re seen doing that on television you become known as “The Bubble Guy.”

That’s Tom.

Yesterday I spent the day with several friend and we learned “Bubble Magic” from Tom. Tom pointed out a lot of amazing things both artistically and scientifically about bubbles and just how cool they really are. For example did you know that the reason why you see all those colors on the surface of a bubble is because the film is actually thinner then wavelengths of light? The different colors show you the different thicknesses of the film so they colors act as a sort of topographical map of the bubble itself.

But for my purposes it’s good to know that there is a historical avenue for bubble blowing as a part of my Carnival project. There is an example of children blowing bubbles from Bruegel’s painting “Children’s Games” as well as a number of other historical images that fall within our SCA historical period. And given how much fun everyone was having I think it will become a fairly consistent part of our “playtime.”

One of our members was already spinning ideas of how to create her own bubble act and that is a good thing!

So, who is Tom Noddy? He’s a man of great talents, wonderful patience and a good friend.

Thanks Tom.

A First Event Outing With The Telescope

First, let me apologize for being silent the past week or so. It has been very busy for me at my job and I have been anxious to get back to my writing.

Also, I’ve been stressed out getting ready for this weekend as I am the autocrat of Mists Coronet. (For my non-SCA readers that simply means that a weekend long medieval fair type event is taking place and I’m the guy in charge of the whole shindig.)

However, I realized that I have a wonderful opportunity this weekend as well.

We will be up in the hills, camping, away from city lights on a a couple of nights moving into a full moon! So, I’m bringing my Galileo telescope prototype with me to the event.

I haven’t had the opportunity to put buckles on the leather harness I was going to use to mount it on my tripod, but that is more critical for stellar observations. Lining up to observe the moon is very doable just hand holding the telescope.

So, for those of you who will be at the event and are curious, please feel free to come on by and take a look at the prototype. In the evening I’ll have it out and you can take a look through the prototype as well.

I promise you it’s a very cool sort of experience.

ps – My beard is nowhere near as big as Galileo’s.

Crazy Yo-Yo stuff

A couple months back I was sitting in a little restaurant with my apprentice discussing I don’t know what and as we sat there we looked out the window and saw, across the street at a bus stop, these two kids about 13 to 15 years old.

One of them was playing with something and we weren’t sure what.  It looked like a Yo-Yo but he was handling it in ways neither of us had ever seen.  At times it seemed he was doing what we both recognized as basic yo-yo tricks and at other times there was a second object on the other end of the string being flung around as a counter to the yo-yo which allowed for moves which were totally foreign to both of us.

Eventually my apprentice decided to get up and go speak to the kid and find out what the heck he was doing.  I sat and watched from my seat as she walked out, engaged the kid who seemed to be extremely shy about what he was doing (he never seemed to look up once he realized he was being watched) despite the fact that I know she was extremely complimentary.  After all we were intensely interested and he seemed to be really good at what he was doing.

When she returned she told me all about what he had said and shown her.  Yes, it was a yo-yo but with a counterweight on the opposite end of the string which was a large plastic die drilled through the center and tied on.

We both wanted to find out more but like so many other things we forgot about it by the end of the meal and moved on to other topics of discussion.

Last night, after seeing the video of the astronaut doing Yo-Yo tricks in zero gravity I was reminded of this kid and his counterweighted yo-yo.  So I looked up a few things and discovered, as I have been discovering pretty frequently of late, a whole realm of “circus skill” which I wasn’t even aware existed.  So I collected some links and information together and created a new page here so I’d have something to remind me and come back to.

And below is a video of this style of yo-yoing, called Freehand, Counterweight or by it’s more technical term in Yo-Yo circles “5A”.


Editors Note:  THe original video I had in place went off line so I’ve replaced it.

It’s always been about the physics.

I used to play with Yo-Yo’s when I was a kid, like a lot kids.  Sitting in my chair here at home I have one within arms reach right now.

I was never particular good with one only being able to do basic throws, sleeping, walking the dog and around the world.  That was about it.  I certainly would have liked to have been able to do more and I practiced a lot when I was a kid, but I never got any further then that.

That guy on the plate?  He’s from Ancient Greece, about 500 BCE and he’s playing with a Yo-Yo.  So they’ve been around for a long time. But I haven’t had nearly that much time to practice.

But I think maybe, just maybe, if I had the advantage of a zero gravity environment I might be able to do some pretty cool stuff.

Certainly this guy is doing some cool stuff.

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