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The Karasel of Progress
Fri, May 30 2008
Vova's NYTimes Article
Mood:  happy
Now Playing: The Imaginary Invalid

Hey everyone,

      Sorry for the delay in posting.  I've spent the last week all over the eastern seaboard touring with FoodPlay, in addition to spending two fun-filled days in Busch Gardens Europe!  FoodPlay, after nine months, is now officially over.  I can't believe it - I clocked out at 234 shows.  If you add those performances to my Smiling Sam shows last summer (440) and add in freelance juggling gigs, I've been in about 700 performances since I graduated college a year ago.  Not bad for a first year out of school.

      Anyway, today there was an article in the New York Times about my friend Vova Galchenko.  Check it out here:

       I encourage you to read the article first and then return to my blog for commentary.

       First of all, I have to say that as a juggler who is interested in seeing my friends succeed and do well, I was super stoked to see Vova in a long detailed article in the Times.  However, I'd be curious to see how many non-jugglers would find it engaging enough to read.  I'll get into that a little more later.

       Here's the thing - I really like Vova.  And the fact that he has somewhat of a self-deprecating personality is one of his trademarks.  He is actually very humble whenever I've talked to him.  People can be at his feet gushing over a performance he just did (see TurboFest) and Vova will politely nod and thank them.  He has a way of diverting attention away from his amazing achievements, possibly because he isn't full of himself and doesn't always feel comfortable the way some people worship him.

        However, I'm not sure if this humble, unsure attitude works to promote Vova or juggling in general in this New York Times article. 

         The title alone contains an apology.  "As Seen on YouTube (and pretty much only on YouTube).  Again, to jugglers in the know, this phrase makes sense.  We know Vova is not into "gay" [expletive] like comedy juggling and typical American cruise-ship style hack juggling.  But the road to promoting Vova is not by having the big print say "On YouTube (and pretty much only on YouTube".  Again, we in the know know that he has performed in Russian circuses, has won multiple awards at international conventions, and has appeared in commercials and on several national talk shows.  The man deserves a better first impression, especially if non-jugglers are even to get past the title.

              Again, I'm trying not to find any major fault in Vova, so I'm going to direct most of my frustration with the writer, Jason Fagone.  Like I said, the article's title is bland and unimpressive.  The article's first sentence paints Vova in a bad light by using the term gay, outlined in apostrophes.  So already the gay population is offended and we haven't even hit the meat of the article yet.  Heck, I'm not gay and I'm a bit perturbed that Vova would use the term "gay" to describe things circusy and French.  The French reference is even funnier because we see Vova happily appearing in a classic French comedy while eating apples near the bottom of the article.

        Once again, it seems nary a paragraph can go by without painting Vova in a bad light.  In the second, we see Vova getting angry and throwing clubs at the walls.  To reiterate once again, this sentence makes me and other jugglers relate with understanding.  Other people see jugglers as violent, angry people.  Again, not promoting the sport well. 

        I really enjoy the third and fourth paragraphs.  Here the writing is more engaging and we also get a Penn Jillette name drop which is really great for Vova.  I sense that things are picking up - phew.

         Then we hit the fifth paragraph.  It reads like a really interesting novel, not a image-enhancing expose.  It's sentence after sentence of Vova dropping, scowling, and biting his lips.  Does anyone even care about this guy anymore?  Well, yeah, I do.  I keep reading.

          The article again redeems itself with its discussion of Vova's sport juggling philosophy as well as an explanation of the article's poor title - the fact that YouTube has helped create a sub-culture of jugglers who study his moves and then re-create them on their own videos. 

          Then of course we run into Vova's "problem" as the article states: "Galchenko isn't well-suited to this world", meaning the world of juggling showbiz.  Then out of nowhere Jay Gilligan enters the picture.  Really?  Jay gave them permission to use his name to bash Vova?  Jay apparently says, "Put Vova in Cirque [du Soleil] and he'd die."  For someone as intelligent and articulate as Jay, this seems a little harsh. 

          The paragraph ends with Vova's concerns about performing - I knew he got nervous, but not this nervous.  Hell, I'm still with him, if not more.  I often get nervous myself before juggling shows so to me, this article is beginning to make me feel like I'm bonding with Vova.  Even the great Galchenko suffers from stage fright.  However, I'm still wondering whether this is the best way for him to market himself - as a nervous, shaky handed YouTuber.

          History, history, fine, fine...wait!!!  WTF?  They write in this article that Vova would sometimes SCREAM at his sister during practices?  God, what a jerk.  I don't care if it's true, this article is just not making sense to me.  Did Vova really approve this?  I'm so confused.  The paragraph ends with a failing street show.

          After some convention talk (in which I was pleased to see siteswaps treated nicely), Freddy Sheed comes to the rescue with some compliments (for once) for Vova.  Thanks Freddy - we knew you could do it!!  I'm pretty happy with the WJF section but the IJA section again finds Vova having "prepared nothing".  He's lazy too?  That's the impression I'd get.  He's once again in "the gayest costume ever" - whatever, I'm numb to it by now.

           There's even some good Peden insults in this article, haha.  Why, God, why?  He's a born -again Christian with a stylish yet sloppy performance, heavy on drops.  Really?  Sure, it wasn't perfect, but I watched the 2007 video and I don't think Wes really dropped that much, did he?  We're nearing the end of the article now and Vova's routine is painted pretty much as a disaster. 

        But wait!  Lots of movies and novels are filled with disaster.  But the reason we like them is because our hero triumphs in the end!!  Maybe Vova will triumph on the 6th (online) page. 

        Here's what we learn about one of the best juggler in the world on the last page:

1) He wishes he were something other than a juggler.

2) He posesses an "unsentimental temperament."

3) Never surprised by failure.

4) He's trying to "redeem" himself.

5) He feels lame and has self-mortification.

6) He rather enjoyed being a thespian.  (Yay, go Vova!!)

What's best, the article's grand finale is a Vova quote:

"I'm a thespian, and I'm very proud of that."

The final impression you want to leave with the nation's most popular newspaper is that you're proud to be an actor!!??

I pray that if and when I am ever interviewed as a juggler, I don't choose Mr. Jason Fa[r]gone as my mouthpiece.

Vova, I am truly sorry.

You deserve so much better.

Posted by Michael at 9:52 PM EDT
Updated: Fri, May 30 2008 10:45 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

Tue, Jun 3 2008 - 12:13 PM EDT

Name: "Bethany"

I read the entire article first, then your commentary. 

I wholeheartedly agree with you.



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