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The Karasel of Progress
Sun, Jun 22 2008
Caught Clean: A Retro Review
Mood:  happy

I’ve spent the past two weeks working at a circus camp in my area. It’s my first year working with this group so I spent some time before the camp started going through their inventory or props and whatnot. I also went through their collection of dusty old VHS tapes. For the most part, I didn’t find anything that I didn’t already have on DVD. But I did find a treasure - an old forgotten copy of Caught Clean, a mini legend in the world of juggling films and I’m sure skateboard films. Filmed in 1996 by Invisible Films and directed by Laban Pheidias, it is a video that I have longed to stumble upon for at least five years. Not only does it feature some of yesterday’s and today’s most well-known jugglers - it also features killer skateboarding demos by stars like Andy MacDonald and Willy Santos. It’s been twelve years since it was released and as far as I know is only available in VHS form or in short clips online. Here is my retro review - decide for yourself if it’s worth your time to hunt down a copy…

Since this is a juggling blog, I’m going to spend most of my time talking about the juggling in the film. The skating is fantastic but as I’m really just a layman in that area, it’s hard to form educated sentences about most of the tricks contained therein.

First of all, the video starts with an editing trick that I can’t even do now, twelve years later. We see a well-dressed juggler showering the eleven letters of “caught clean” in a shower pattern before showering them into their positions for the video’s opening title. Anyone care to suggest what editing programs were available in 1996 for VHS films?

Right from the start, we have the man, the myth, Sean McKinney, a juggler who pretty much is the missing link between juggling and skateboarding. Pretty much the birth of extreme juggling. He busts out some crazy three ball tricks while a skateboarder hops over and around him. A few clips later, we see an amazing five ball trick that I have only seen Sean do. He does his famous triangle-shaped triplex out of five, catches the top of the triangle on his neck and then reverse neck flips it back into the five ball pattern - sweet! Next, we see a shot of Penn Jillette passing clubs - a celebrity appearance always impresses non-jugglers. I imagine I’d be equally excited if Tony Hawk had been in Caught Clean.

Next we see some juggler doing five tennis racquets solid while doing gorgeous Toby Walker style over-the-top flats which just look brilliant. I think if I ever learn another five club trick besides the cascade it will be a half shower with flats. Gilligan only makes a short appearance on CC - he lands his signature one-up somersault into three club overheads.

The video also has various skits. The first is called “Radio” and involves two jugglers getting mad at their props and going from torch juggling to flaming boombox juggling. Although I am rarely impressed by so-called “dangerous juggling”, the final two torches and one flaming boombox between two jugglers was ridiculously tense, especially because we know that they probably only have one boombox to burn and there are so many miffed throws and catches.

After some nice basketball juggling, we see some staples of the IJA that are now all middle-aged. Dan Menendez does a trick that I’ve only ever seen Erik Aberg do - while juggling three balls, he does headrolls with the fourth. Dan Holzman does some juggling while balancing a golf club. Steve Mills surprisingly pulls out some really burly tricks - “new school” for 1996. Among them include a 441 MM, some non-cheating BBB, and a cool trick where he juggles two balls and a dove. The dove hops from hand to hand - my friend wondered if he has to make it dizzy for the trick to work.

Okay, so has anyone ever heard of Mark Wyndham? No, me neither, but he had a really impressive three ball section of CC that reminded me of the 3 ball juggling that I used to do - very pattern-based, flowy, and fun. If anyone knows anything about what he’s done in the past decade, I’d be curious to hear. I really liked his juggling.

Another skit, “The Race”, is another perfect combination of juggling and skateboarding - it involves a race where both competitors will stop at nothing to prevent the other from getting across the finish line on a skateboard while juggling three clubs. It’s pretty funny…and bloody. Willy Santos is one of the few skateboarding sections that bears mentioning, even to jugglers. His skill with manuals (the “wheelie” of skateboarding) is just incredible and I really enjoyed his long trick sequences. Just like in juggling, it’s even more impressive to see a long “run” of tricks without dropping AKA falling off/bailing.

McKinney’s section is like a jolt of electricity. He starts off with can-and-ball (thanks Rhys Thomas) juggling as well as tricks where he slams bouncy balls at the ceiling. He does two four club 2-up somersaults in a row (what!!?) and then busts out 5 torch backcrosses. Everything is clean and controlled but his frantic body language keeps you on the edge of your seat. Of course he blends the two disciplines of skateboarding and juggling better than anybody in his final reel where he freestyle walks all over the neighborhood, treating a suburban sidewalk like a skate park.

Keep watching until after the credits! You get a glimpse of the Passing Zone’s chainsaw ballet as well as a cool but potentially gross three club trick involving an often unused body part of a juggler - the mouth. Reminds me of technique I saw back in April in Rochester - except more germy. Sean McKinney ends it all with an amazing 7 ball routine, including the rarely seen 4-up, 3-up multiplex.

Whether you’re a hardcore juggler or skateboarder, or just looking for a piece of juggling video history, I think every serious artistic/extreme juggler owes it to themselves to see Caught Clean. Many jugglers list it as a huge inspiration and now I see why. It’s one of those videos that leaves you unable to do anything but go outside and juggle until you’re dehydrated.

I really enjoyed doing this retro review. With so many instant jugglers posting practice sessions on YouTube these days, it’s nice to go back a decade and see a video containing so many passionate jugglers’ blood, sweat, and tears.

Now I just need to get my hands on Caught Clean II.

Posted by Michael at 5:49 PM EDT
Updated: Sun, Jun 22 2008 5:55 PM EDT
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Wed, Jun 11 2008
Selebrity Sircus
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: Trends

So for those of you who didn't catch it, tonight in America we saw the world premiere of "Celebrity Circus", a new show on NBC with ringmaster Joey Fatone and a host of B and C list celebrities doing circus stunts with help from professionals.

First of all, let me remind all jugglers that none of the celebrities learned to be an amazing juggler in 8 weeks.  's just not possible, haha, and we proved it again, albeit in abcence only.

That being said, there was really no juggling on the show besides a short little three torch cascade and these aquarmarine twins doing ring ultimates with each other while leaning towards each other.  Is non-dangerous juggling only interesting if it's fast?  Man, I guess that's a topic for another time...

Anyway, I definitely have some reservations about the show and will be curious to see if it ever gets to a second season.  Honestly, I could live a happy life without tuning in to see who gets kicked off next week.  I'm rooting for Peter Brady, Wee Man, and/or the Clueless actress because they seemed to be the most genuine of everyone.  But at the end of the day, it's just another American Idol, but less exciting because these semi-celebrities have nothing to lose.  So what if they get "kicked off"?  They're still richer than all of us combined.

Anyway, the last thing I want to point out is a music issue.  As dull as the show was at points, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that three of the music choices for circus acts were off the top 40 pop list.  Maybe not the current one, but definitely within the last year - most notable were Britney Spears (Gimme More), Rihanna (Shut up and Drive), and Timbaland with One Republic (Apologize.)  This excited me because I've always wanted to see circus acts set to modern hip-hop music.  I've done it but honestly, most jugglers stay away from what's current on the charts.  This made me excited for what someday may catch on - the hip-hop circus generation if you will.  What better way to get young people excited in circus arts than by using the music they already know and love?  

Well, it's always been a pipe dream of mine to have or see a circus which choreographs kick-ass acts to pop music.  I'm sure most circus afficionados would frown upon this but I think it's an experiment worth trying, and I'm glad NBC gave it a whirl instead of trying to stick to what they think people might expect to hear in a "circus" setting.

Any thoughts about the show? 

Posted by Michael at 11:41 PM EDT
Updated: Wed, Jun 11 2008 11:54 PM EDT
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Sun, Jun 8 2008
Mood:  lazy

Posted by Michael at 2:47 PM EDT
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Thu, Jun 5 2008
Points of Interest
Mood:  cool
Now Playing: Hide and Seek

Three points of interest for today:


1)Don't forget to register for the EJC by tomorrow!  You don't want to pay more than you have to, do you?

2)Luke Burrage asked if I would be willing to appear on #53 of his juggling podcasts.  It was rather fun.  You can download it here:

3) Shoebox Tour America is official, meaning that the poster (designed by my good friend Allie Andreano) is up on

I will continue to post more shoebox details as they roll in from around the country.  So far, two dates are for sure - Pittsburgh on Sept. 4 and Philadelphia on Sept. 5.  Less than three months away!!!  If you are a juggler on the East Coast and are interested in having the Shoebox Tour (with myself and Japan juggling sensation Tempei Arakawa) come to your city, reply to this post and let me know.  There are still some dates available and if it's somewhat on the way, I'll try to make it work.

Posted by Michael at 11:02 AM EDT
Updated: Thu, Jun 5 2008 11:10 AM EDT
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Tue, Jun 3 2008
Wind Rings
Mood:  blue
Alright, I'm taking bets.  Which experimental juggler is going to utilize these babies first?

Posted by Michael at 3:41 PM EDT
Updated: Tue, Jun 3 2008 3:44 PM EDT
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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
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Thu, May 22 2008
Salty Eyes


Fun routine!  How long have you owned those clubs?  :-)

Posted by Michael at 12:03 AM EDT
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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
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Wed, May 14 2008
Mood:  surprised
Now Playing: Men of Station

Today during a production of FoodPlay I was an idiot and literally fell off the stage.  It's actually really embarrassing.  The show went on as planned and luckily I am basically unhurt.  Either I am really lucky, have really good instincts, or am so well trained (thanks movement instructors) that i fell in a way that minimalized bodily harm.  I fell about four feet in a position where (my co-actor told me) my feet were higher than my head.  I landed on my back and then reached around with my left hand to break the rest of my fall.  I didn't hit my head and the only pain I have is in my left wrist. 

Suffice it to say that I am going to take a day or two off of juggling until I feel 100% again.  This is definitely one for the books - falling off stage.  I could've sworn there was floor there when I put all my weight on thin air.  Ugh.

Anyway, legally download "Men of Station" by 13 & God.  It's an oldie but a goodie from Erik Aberg's Springtime Manipulation.  The original - the good one.  Who knows if you can still find it anywhere? 

Posted by Michael at 9:37 PM EDT
Updated: Wed, May 14 2008 9:42 PM EDT
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Tue, May 13 2008
Skateboarding > Juggling
Mood:  quizzical

Skateboarding owns juggling.  American Sports Data (2002) estimates that there are 18.5 million skateboarders worldwide.  I'm no census, but I find it hard to believe that there are 18.5 million jugglers in the world.  I do find it possible to believe that 18.5 million people in the world know how to toss juggle three beanbags or at least three scarves.  Like riding a bicycle, thousands of adults have repressed grade school kinesthetics that would probably enable them to manipulate three scarves.  But most of these people do not consider themselves jugglers.  And of course I don't count the people who can only "dwo two".

So yeah, juggling is a "subculture", a "niche", a "sideline hobby".  Wow, Michael, great discovery.  We all know that juggling is not on the radar screen of most people.  Our ugly word is mostly known to the human race as a way to describe having too much to do.  I simultaneously beam and shudder every time I see it used in a magazine article to describe the busy lives of celebrity moms.

Then we have skateboarding.  Phenomenon.  The lifeblood of the X Games and the only reason I care to watch ESPN ever.  In middle school, you either hung with the yo-yo crowd, the Pokemon crowd, or the skateboarding crowd.  I tried each one.  Unfortunately I seemed to like the people in the Pokemon and yo-yo crowds best but the girls simply flocked to the skateboarding crowd.  It's a sexy hobby.  In many ways I think it's like juggling but we'll get to that later.  Anyway, skateboarding is mainstream.  Cities now fund the building of skate parks.  Tons of video games are devoted to the sport.  Tony Hawk has a legit clothing line.  Reality shows and movies are successful just by having skateboarders in them - they don't even have to skate!  (Viva La Bam and Jackass).

And yet skateboarding is brand new.  The Beni Hassan tomb of skateboarding is a newspaper article in 1893 warning New Yorkers of a dangerous coasting device being used on a slope in Brooklyn.  And a little more than 100 years later, skateboarders are able to make a luxurious living off of purely doing what they love in front of gigantic crowds of adoring fans.

Juggling is not there.  A small percentage of jugglers make a living from their art and an even smaller percentage make anywhere near the living that skaters like Tony Hawk and Bam Margera make.  Clearly, in the eyes of America, skateboarding > juggling. 

The question is, are we jealous? 

My first thought is yes.  Why is juggling so restricted to the sidelines?  Shouldn't Anthony Gatto be a household name like Tony Hawk?  Shouldn't Jay Gilligan have his own clothing line?  Shouldn't Dube pay Wes Peden $3,000 a month just to be the best juggler he can be and to rock their equipment?   Shouldn't we have a reality show about Jason Garfield, Albert Lucas, and Chris Bliss living in a house together?  Hell, I'd watch it and I bet a lot of other people would too.  Juggling has so much potential but for some reason, there's just no sex appeal in it.  The reality shows go to stuff like skateboarding and the UFC (ultimate fighting).  What do these have that juggling doesn't?  Easy - violence and death-defiance.  Why do you think people always ask if you can juggle chainsaws?  Sure, it's an annoying question but it bites at an eternal truth.  People are more entertained if you're in potential danger.  Most people aren't like us.  They don't enjoy the inherent beauty and art in kinetics and movement.  A five club cascade isn't worth anything unless you drop it.  If you don't drop it, it pales in comparison to what they're sure a 6 club fountain will look like.

But, and here's the difficult part, we have to be careful what we wish for.  What if juggling did blow up?  Let's pretend it did instantly overnight become the next big thing.  Would it really be good for the art as a whole?  I suppose, it depends on how it fared under the lime light.  In other words, it depends who makes it popular. 

In the movie "Being John Malkovich" (highly recommended), there is an interesting plot twist - at the height of his career, John Malkovich decides to quit acting and instead devote all of his time and energy to puppetry.  In 2008, the person to do this would have to be McDreamy - good old Patrick Dempsey.  If McDreamy all of a sudden decided to become McJuggley, we might see the possibility of a whole generation of actors deciding to learn how to juggle not only to fill up resume space but to pursue it simultaneously as an art and as a physical discipline.  A celebrity endoresement is extremely powerful and Patrick Dempsey is in a position where he could initiate a possible Renaissance in juggling interest.

Of course there's also the possibility that juggling could become popular through the WJF.  In this case, people would be so used to seeing juggling presented as technical, competitive, and sportlike in nature that they'd see anything else as archaic and not quite as cool.  This isn't my ideal situation but others might really hope to see the WJF succeed in attaining this popularity.  I certainly applaud the WJF for bringing juggling to television.  I'm not sure of their future plans for broadcasting, but I hope they have plans to air juggling on TV in the future and I hope that someday, because of these efforts or others, we can see juggling in the Olympics.

In the worst case scenario, someone could drag juggling into the limelight by using "danger" as the bait.  I'm certain people would flock to this.  Chainsaws, knives, fire, and more.  Juggling's fifteen minutes of fame could involve a juggler who so wows the world with his control of (supposedly) "dangerous" props that our lives as "normal" jugglers could be scarred forever.

So, at the end of the day, although I'd love to see juggling significantly rise in popularity, it's important to consider the pros and cons of said "blowing up".  It's going to take the right person at the right time and under the right circumstances to really make it stick like skateboarding.  Otherwise it will be a flash in the pan that could actually have a detrimental effect on our hobby/art/sport.

Posted by Michael at 10:13 PM EDT
Updated: Tue, May 13 2008 11:01 PM EDT
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