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The Karasel of Progress
Wed, May 21 2008
Me at 400
Mood:  bright

So, as of today, I have 400 subscribers on the most popular video site in the world - YouTube.

Wait!  Don't stop reading.  Because if someone else started a blog post like this one, I probably would throw up a little.  I really hate people who even give a shit about how many stupid subscribers they have.  I could care less - whenever someone subscribes to my channel (which is about one person every day), I don't waste my time by writing stupid cyber jargon like "Thanks for subbin'" on their channel page. 

So the fact that I have 400 subscribers is a pure accident.  And don't think that I'm going to release a super secret juggling video when I hit 500 subscribers because I'm not...okay, well maybe I am.

Anyway, the whole 400 subscribers bull-crap is simply a transition into what I really want to talk about today - how artistic (oh no, there's that word!) jugglers choose (or not) to showcase themselves on the world wide webamadoodle.

Let's talk about Luke Burrage, creatore of Burke's...nevermind.  Luke (I believe) considers himself an artistic juggler.  If not, at least everyone can admit that he's a novelty juggler.  Almost all his acts have something novel in them, some sort of creative thread that is usually creative.  Case in point - the "441 441 cross" routine, the jacket 3b routine, and the video backdrop with a "twin".  Pola has admitted on podcasts that Luke is not as business-minded as he should be.  I forget which one it was, but it had something to do with the fact that Luke loves putting himself and his work out there for free, forgetting all the hard work and time that go into his creations.  Like him or not, no one can deny that Luke Burrage has put thousands of hours into creating material for us jugglers to peruse online.

My point is not to critique Luke - it's to give an example of a juggler who has continually and consistently made his body of work available via multimedia on the internet.  For the longest time, I followed his practices.  On my website, for the LONGEST time, I made a comparison on the home page between juggling and magic, citing juggling as being better because we as jugglers don't try to keep secrets from one another.  There is no Masked Juggler show on FOX. 

However, there are also a large amount of jugglers whom I very much respect whose body of work on the internet is almost nonexistent.  These are the jugglers that people like Jay and Erik tell you about at conventions in America where you sigh because you've never heard of them.  Morgan Cosquer was like this a few years ago although more and more video footage has leaked of him, especially because of ADDICTED.  Jouni Temonen had the same invisible buzz a few years before 9-1 and SITESWAPS DVD. 

Now some of these people aren't publicly available to watch on the internet because of their location and the fact that they haven't decided to make themselves public with their work.  I'm not concerned with that issue.  The issue I'm concerned with talking about is what I would call the anti-Burrage.  The juggler who is creative and inspirational but consciously decides to keep ideas and research from the internet in an effort to maintain creative privacy.

SAY WHAT??  That was a mouthful.  Stay with me.

Over the years as I have:

a)become a professional juggler

b)seen more amazing live performances

c)talked to more amazing creative jugglers

d)amassed more and more incredibly exciting juggling ideas

I've realized that, shit, magic may have more in common with juggling than I originally thought.  For example, you want to know about true MAGIC?  True magic is seeing Erik Aberg's new three club routine LIVE for the first time.  He uses a technique barely explored by any other juggler in the world and guess what?  It's based on a simple 1 club move and I'm NOT going to tell you what it is.  Erik, if you're reading, your secret is safe.  WHY?  Because I respect your work and research and history and why should someone who has made no more effort than to log on to rec.juggling to see if there are any new posts with [VIDEO] in the title get to witness your innovative piece?  Make some effort - come out to RIT 2008.  Oh wait, you missed it.

Of course Erik is only one example.  You want more?  Well, let's just say that I wish Florent Lestage's club act weren't available online to see.  Its magic exists purely in live performance.  Sean Blue's 5 ring "flipbook" act (Juggle This 07).  Thanks Sean for not making your stuff readily available online.  Jay Gilligan's complete body of work - yes, available on DVD (if you punks are willing to spend money) but not online for just anyone to peruse with a few spare minutes.

My point (although I'm being a bit harsh) is that I'm realizing that it's important to protect your art.  Right now I'm working with an engineer on a really cool idea that I've been mulling over for almost a year.  We're currently sending video footage back and forth (privately) working on prototypes.  I love what I see so far and in the past, I would have told everybody!   But, all of a sudden, I don't want to.  I want someone to be sitting in an audience at some random juggling festival or performance and when the curtain is drawn, they see something they never expected to see.  There are no pre-conceived notions. 

A live routine will never be as "PERFECT" as it is on video.  And by "PERFECT", I mean flawless.  Video can create a flawless routine but flawless is boring.  Raw, live, juggling is electric.  Don't believe me?  Go to the WJF and watch Thomas Dietz perform. 

I saw Tony Gonzales's three club routine on video and really enjoyed it.  Then when he did it at RIT, I wasn't very moved.  Not because it was droppy.  It was disappointing because I knew it already.  I had watched the video multiple times and therefore I felt like I was seeing a video being replayed in front of me, but less flawless.  I couldn't snap out of it and realize that I was witnessing LIVE juggling, a gift that I think we all take for granted.

So, jugglers all, please protect your art.  Siteswap all over YouTube's hard drives, I don't care.  There's so much boring predictable juggling out there that it's tempting for us jugglers with something exciting and new to share to want to post it all over the internet for free.  Don't.  Wes Peden is right to charge for his videos.  People wonder why I don't release more videos online lately - it isn't because I haven't been juggling as much.  It's because I've been juggling more, much more, and have tons of new pieces that you haven't seen.  If you want to see some of them, come check out the Shoebox Tour in September - I promise to fill my set chock full of new stuff.

I guess turning 400 has taught me a lot.  I promise that I'm not trying to be snobby.  I'm not trying to be elitist.  I'm just realizing that, as a professional, I have a right to creative control when it comes to my ideas.  And in this day of cyber-everything, if we're to maintain juggling as a vibrant LIVE art, then we may want to think twice before revealing our life's work to the world.

Of course, after re-reading this entire post, I feel like arguing with myself.  I mean, look at Greg Kennedy.  All his kinetic wonders are up on YouTube and he got a GEICO commercial deal out of it.  And which one of us didn't curl up with a warm meal to gush over Michael Moschen's TED talk a week or two ago? 

Ahhh!!  As Bernie Mac says, "help me out America!"

Posted by Michael at 12:36 AM EDT
Updated: Wed, May 21 2008 1:32 AM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (6) | Permalink

Wed, May 21 2008 - 8:23 PM EDT

Name: "Ed Provencher"
Home Page:

Sure Greg Kennedy and Moschen have some video online, but didn't they experience some big success beforehand?  I agree though, visual performing artists can protect their 'wow factor' by making people see them live.

Wed, May 21 2008 - 11:24 PM EDT

Name: "Emman"

I've been having the same thoughts... Do you think I should or not? Send me an email about it :P

Thu, May 22 2008 - 11:07 AM EDT

Name: "Tim Hilton"

Many of us can't get to juggling conventions to watch people perform. I like Wes' solution - put the videos online, but charge for them. Give people the choice of whether or not they value the work highly enough to pay for it.

Fri, May 23 2008 - 1:32 PM EDT

Name: "GLF"

I don't know, Michael.  I mean, if you don't want to share your work then no one can force you to.  But that's always been one of the things I've loved about juggling; sharing new stuff.  One of my favorite things to do is just jam with another juggler, show him my new stuff and see his new stuff.  And don't forget that some people can't come to a whole lot of festivals, so the internet is almost their only connection to the juggling world.  

One last thing.  You said "I'm just realizing that, as a professional, I have a right..." Why exactly do "professionals" have more rights then the "normal" people?  I'm proud to be a hobbyist*, and I think that I have just as much right to do what I want with juggling as someone who gets payed for juggling.  

 *By hobbyist I mean that I don't plan to perform full time for a living.  That doesn't mean that I don't want to progress, nor does it mean that I won't occasionally perform, nor does it mean that I don't care about art, sport, etc.

Tue, May 27 2008 - 11:58 PM EDT

Name: "Dave"

dude, that Moschen video was sooooooooooooo boring.  But I find most of what he does boring all the time.  He's definitely the most overrated person ever.

Wed, Aug 27 2008 - 3:37 AM EDT

Name: "Ivan Smith"
Home Page: http://-

I agree with the first thing Tim Hilton said.

I live in Australia, where the juggling convention scene is almost non-existant. I would LOVE to see Erik Arberg live, doing something new and incredible... anyone want to buy me a plane ticket?

I agree that in all kinds of performance, nothing compares to seeing it live, least of all a low-quality YouTube video, but I think as we're saturated by more and more YouTube clips of all kinds of mind-boggling stunts, people are eventually starting to realise the magic of live performance.

So bring on the crazy juggling clips. It keeps me inspired, and keeps me wanting to push things further, and try things which I haven't seen yet (and stops me giving up on circus and getting a normal job).

Creative privacy is a term I have no respect for. I agree with whoever said "Once you create something, it is no longer yours". On the other hand, I agree that if you want to make a living out of performance, you have to be a bit of a capitalist and protect your income.

So don't give everything away for free. YouTube is an ideal place for promo reels, fancy tricks, nicely-edited videos, etc. so that people who aren't in a position to see artistic or creative juggling live (and there's really not a lot here in Australia) can be inspired. If you have a live show, by all means save that actual show for the stage. And if you have a truly remarkable show, people will come to see it regardless of whether or not they can watch a crappy YouTube clip of it.

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