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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Holidays? For The Public, Maybe!

Two days ago I went to the movies to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D. First of all, I finally got to see the Tron 2 trailer in 3D. That had me excited to little end. Seeing that Recognizer land, the light bikes – it all touched my geekiness right at the very heart. Regardless how cool it is, I think it's funny how 3D movies still look like nothing more than moving Viewmaster slides. My entertainment on this adventure began when the time came to put on the 3D glasses and the Disney logo appeared on the screen and all of these Japanese people emitted this collective sound of wonder and amazement.

Yesterday (Thursday) began a solid week of shows. I'm looking down the barrel of 21 shows in seven days Actually, I'm already in the barrel, locked, and loaded: yesterday began with four shows. We have a brief respite today with only two shows, but the next five days feature three shows each day. I'm pretty sure I'll make it through unscathed and none the worse for wear. And if I can't, my ego will propel (or drag) me the rest of the way. I'm going into it feeling like a million bucks (minus a few thousand) because I've been back into the swing of yoga for about a month. It's been rare that I've done any 60 minute sessions, but I'm at least able to start each day with a specially targeted 15 minutes and end with 30-60 minutes of yin yoga for the joints and soft tissues. Trouble spots that have appeared in recent months are slowly and surely smoothing out.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Expansion Vow – And Away We Go!

Why have I been limiting this blog just to work related stuff? That's so stupid and obvious! None of the seven of you who read this ever pointed that out to me! How can I trust you anymore as friends? Honestly!

So from hereon out, I'm expanding to include little daily adventures if I have them and other goofy, possibly boring stuff that may actually wind up being charming instead of boring. In fact, I may be typing multiple posts over the next couple of days to make up for lost time.

One of the things that I have been doing while in Japan is breaking a rule. It's not a written rule, but it's a rule that apparently I wasn't aware of when I came over here, and plan to continue breaking. As far as I can understand, foreigners passing each other in public aren't supposed to acknowledge each other in a friendly manner. Should you actually cross paths and/or share space with a foreigner, one should either be diverting their eyes, or meet the gaze with a soft glare that masks any hint of identifying with being a fellow foreigner.

I'm not sure what it is. Maybe the other people are worn down from being here. Maybe they're embarrassed by other foreigners – heck I've had an encounter or two that were quite embarrassing. Maybe they figure that I'm another anime freak tourist with yellow fever, come to Japan only for toys, crazy game shows, ninja stuff, and that elusive cute Japanese girlfriend. Whatever. Screw you sourpusses – I'm still going to nod and smile. I'm going to be that friendly face that you passed by in a sea of indifference. You'll take it and you'll like it!

However, I would like to report that the black guy nod still works over here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Have I Got To Show?

Yesterday, I was posed the question of how long I've been a clown. I've been a working, professional clown for ten years.

That got me thinking. Then again, it doesn't take much to get me thinking.

I have some good stuff on my resume, but really – after ten years, I'd think I'd be better. I'd think I'd have more confidence in my ability. One might think I'd have a closet full of props and costumes, enough material in my head to choke a horse, and a litany of skills that could make anyone's head spin. Instead, I only have scraps of ideas, a few things that I can do reasonably well as a generalist and not a specialist, and some good jobs on a resume.

I can be better.

Geeky Pleasures

I have no bones in making it abundantly clear that I am not a fan of audience volunteer work in gags. I mean that in the sense that I'm okay watching them, but I don't like to do them. I don't like so much of what I do hinging on someone being able to understand what I want them to do or on trusting that the person won't screw me over in the process. If something seems simple to me and someone doesn't understand what I want them to do, I get frustrated. I don't understand what is so hard about "Please do this, now."

We do two audience volunteer gags in the show, one of which, I do half of the "heavy lifting" as far as audience volunteers go. Most of the time it's successful, but not without sticky points.

That said, having outed myself as a control freak Grinch of questionable clowning ability, one of the audience volunteers I picked was wearing a most geektacular knit shirt. It was green and simple. In black letters across the front it said "HADOUKEN".

That's a video game thing from Street Fighter, in case you didn't get it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Big in Japan

On Tuesday night I finally was able to see some friends of mine perform! Three Japanese clowns I know have their street troupe known as Ple-Mix and they performed two nights this week. It was an incredibly enjoyable show that mixed street and stage performance, dance, mime, and just plain goofiness. A couple of routines seemed very Mummenschanz inspired. I knew that Chang, Lonto, and Toppo had a group, but I'd never had the opportunity to see them perform before. I can check this one off of my list now!

The best part was showing up at their place and watching the rest of the Japanese clowns freak out when they saw me. I continued to blow minds by remembering the names of a lot of the people from the company, albeit their stage names and not their given names. I'm still dealing with that part of the equation. When I remembered a name, there was amazement. When I asked, there was eager answering and no one seemed to blame me for not having remembered.

There are a couple of more shows at Pleasure-B while I'm here in Nagoya and I plan to make it to see them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

13 Month Old Baby

Four years ago in Nagoya there were apparently quite a few events of concern with the show. It was a belief held to some degree that it had to do with angry spirits. This time, there were apparently monks blessing the tent and the grounds to settle any spirits that might be hovering around.

In the past couple of weeks, a few minor injuries have occurred – nothing serious. To some, they might be the cumulative result of incorrect technique/body maintenance or inattentiveness. The motorbikes always seem to have intermittent mechanical trouble every couple of months, so that's par for the course. As another measure to alleviate further incident, there have been bags of garlic hung at the entrances to the grounds and the entrance from the curtains to the ring. There are also two bowls of salt at the rear entrance to the tent that are supposedly always there, but this week was the first time I'd noticed them.

At the basic level, I'm glad that no one has been hurt in the show.

I'm just reporting a cultural curiosity, not judging. There are all sorts of circus and theater superstitions. I personally don't say "good luck," but at this point, it's more because that phrase indicates doubt than it is for tradition. I prefer to say "Go gettem!"

Friday, April 9, 2010

Return to "Normalcy"

I just had a friend from Ringling days visit me and she moved on to Tokyo a couple of days ago. I must say that with all of the people proclaiming that they wanted to come visit me because they'd love to visit Japan, I never honestly expected anyone to make the trip. She proved me wrong. However, I did learn a couple of things.

First off, I learned that sleeping on my floor is a very livable state of affairs. When the nights turned chilly again, I didn't have to worry because my carpet is an electric carpet: easy warmth! It also had me on the floor in the morning as I awoke, further prompting me to dive back into my regular yoga practice. Second, I learned that it's still kind of a bit difficult to fit a second person in my room, especially when that person has three bags with them. Third, when that person showers, it makes the room a little less comfortable. Being the one getting out of the shower and exiting the bathroom is no problem, but when someone else is steaming up the room, I definitely have to open the windows. Fortunately, she knew someone else on the show and wanted desperately to catch up, so we weren't really afforded the opportunity to get sick enough of each other that we were at each others' throats. I did have to deal with eating out multiple nights in a row, when I don't even usually eat out more than twice a month.

Now I'm back into the swing of things, not having to play host or tour guide or escort. Today we have four shows again, which makes everyone cranky. I manage not to get cranky – more "focused" – as I try to be efficient and take care of my body and take special advantage of rest periods. I have no complaints because the rest of the staff are working out in the house when they're not on stage. I have far less reason to gripe.

However, May promises a bit of delicate work and deft steps as I work around people being frustrated and surly during Golden Week. We start after a day off with four shows, then two shows, then five days of three shows. People will likely be tired and some in bad sorts more than others. I plan on not being one of those people, yet not being annoying cheerful guy. I'll just keep my nose to the grindstone and go.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wheeeeaster!

Do you know what's awesome about having a cold with a clown nose glued on? Nothing, which is why I'm glad that I have a string nose as well. I used to be against using a string nose, but after a few colds and four years on Ringling, I got over that.

Juggling is going well. It's going much better than it had been to date and our practice is finally paying off. I feel more confident, which frees me up to rock the character and context side of the routine even more and throw in some little goofy moments that I hear the audience enjoying.

Unfortunately, this morning's crowds were a little lackluster. Had they not brought their pet crickets with them, we'd have heard even less from them!

Kelly and I began consuming our Easter candy that our respective parents had sent. I'm doing my best not to consume enough to degrade my teeth.