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The Karasel of Progress
Fri, Jul 11 2008
Shane Miclon
Mood:  surprised

So sometimes you're surfing YouTube and you click on a video that you're pretty sure is going to suck...and then it doesn't.

 An amateurish juggling video with some surprising creativity.  I like what I see so far.  Kudos to that guy.

Watch it and encourage him.  It's something other than the same old drivel.

Posted by Michael at 11:06 PM EDT
Updated: Sat, Jul 12 2008 1:12 AM EDT
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Thu, Jul 10 2008
Shoebox Tour Update
Mood:  a-ok

Just to let you guys know, the Shoebox Tour America juggling show with Tempei Arakawa and me is really shaping up.  We're continuing to book dates and for those of you who are interested in attending, I've put up a new page on my website that lists all the venue, time, and ticket details.

Keep watching for more updates!  This is not a show you East Coasters are going to want to miss!

Posted by Michael at 11:22 AM EDT
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Fri, Jul 4 2008
Wind Rings Update

Thanks to Paulie for reminding me - the wind rings being marketed by Mr. Babache are nothing new.  They've been around for ages.  A juggling friend of mine, Kathy Doutt, showed me an old set of wind rings back when rings used to be made using a heavier, less bendable plastic.  These were the types of rings that could shatter.

So these wind rings aren't new, but they don't apparently hold up to their name.  Strong winds can still easily affect them apparently.  Thanks to Paulie for the reminder. 

I like being corrected because it means you care and I'm learning.

Posted by Michael at 11:58 PM EDT
Updated: Sat, Jul 5 2008 12:09 AM EDT
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Tue, Jul 1 2008
There's Nothing New...
Mood:  down
Now Playing: Damp Rabbit Productions

There's really nothing new.  I am currently working on a ring routine where I have a section devoted to grinds.  I'm no expert, but at one point I did something that I had never seen done before - doing two grinds in one hand.  Basically, the left hand is holding the ring parallel to the ground and it is accommodating two grinds, one at a time.

 I thought this was mildly original.  Nope - Bob Nickerson lent me the 1981 IJA DVD by Damp Rabbit tonight and some juggler on there - no credit was given - was doing the exact trick.  We're talking 1981 folks.  Twenty seven years ago, people were doing a trick I thought was original.  Three years before I was born, a juggler was doing two grinds in one hand.

What the duck!??  I thought I had something new there for a second.  Juggling sucks. 

Posted by Michael at 10:51 PM EDT
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Sun, Jun 29 2008
Chaotic Potential or "Why Rings Suck"
Mood:  d'oh

"I hate rings."

"I don't do rings."

"I don't even own any."

"They hurt my hands too much."

"(uproarious laughter)"

      These are five of the most common responses I get when I ask various jugglers if they juggle rings.  Not knowing any better when I was learning, I figured it was important to learn the trifecta - balls, clubs, and rings.  Only later was I surprised to learn how few jugglers care to adventure into rings.  Outside of the Gandinis, it's often hard to find another juggler at a convention who is gung-ho to pass rings. 

       But now I think I have a theory why rings "suck".  I put suck in quotes to illustrate the point that I in fact love rings.  I am merely acknowledging the fact that on the ladder of 'prop-ularity', rings definitely rank beneath balls and clubs.  I have no official data on this, but I think you jugglers out there will take my word for it. 

       For a while, I believed and preached the whole "dimensional" theory.  A ball is like one dimension.  A ring is like two.  A club is like three dimensional.  Until I realized that that theory is like stupid because it ignores the most important part of what makes an object easy or difficult to juggle - chaotic potential.

       Many jugglers I know are interested in Rubik's Cubes so I'm going to use a cube to demonstrate what I mean by chaotic potential.  Let's take a cube and place it right next to a juggling ball.  Now I forgot to mention that this cube has magical powers - it can hypnotize other inanimate objects.  So the cube is going to hypnotize the ball so that it does whatever the cubes does.

       Now let's start testing what I call the NFF or "noticeable flip factor".  No matter how I twist the cube (forwards, sideways, or horizontally), the ball (assuming it is a clean no-seams ball) shows no visual movement.  Its silhouette remains unchanged.  Sure, the ball can rotate any way the cube can (in fact, it can rotate an unlimited amount of ways) but its silhouette will always remain the same. 

       Let's look at a club under the cube's hypnosis.  When I twist the cube forward, the club does a reverse flip - very noticeable.  When I twist the cube horizontally, it does a "helicopter", a trick done often by Cecile Poncet.  However, when I twist the cube sideways, the club spins along its longest axis and no change in its silhouette is noticeable.  Though three-dimensional, the club only has 2 out of 3 flip bases covered.

       Finally, the ring under the cube's hypnosis.  Flip the cube forward - nothing (the typical way to throw a ring).  Sideways - a pancake facing sideways.  Horizontal - the ring spins as if spun on the floor.  At this point, it seems like the club and ring are tied for difficulty.  Both show noticeable silhouette change under 2 of the 3 cube spins.

       So then why do I think rings have more chaotic potential?  Well the only way to truly find out is to start throwing them.  Here's where the hidden danger of the ring shows up:

       Throw a club in as many ways as possible, but keep its flight path straight up and down.  Forgetting flats for the moment, you can do regular flips, reverse, helicopters in both directions as well as all sorts of diagonal flips in between.  Every time you release the club,  ALL points on the club (except for its exact midpoint) will spin in the same circle, somewhat like concentric rings or ripples from a rock.

       Now take a ring.  Position somewhere between a regular throw and a perfect pancake so that it is being held diagonal.  Now throw it straight up like you're trying to do a normal pancake and experience why rings have the most chaotic potential:


       That's right - rings are the hardest prop to juggle because they have the potential to experience the most chaotic flight path.  Wobbles are almost never attempted by ring jugglers on purpose but if they occur, a ring will be the most chaotic of all three props to catch with any sort of logical calculation.  In a well-executed wobble, many points on the circle are going back and forth as well as rotating.  Forget about concentric circles here - the points are doing a sort of mish-mash of intersecting ellipses.

        Now of course I still maintain that rings are easier to juggle than clubs from a cascade perspective.  Assuming you throw the rings "normally", you don't have to worry about spin whereas the easiest way to throw clubs is WITH spin.  So under normal cascade circumstances, we could say that rings are easier.

        But from a nerdy scientific geometrical standpoint, rings are much harder because they have the potential to be far less predictable in their flight path than clubs. 

        So next time someone asks you why you don't juggle rings, just tell them that "rings have too much chaotic potential."  I take no responsibility for the response you get.

Posted by Michael at 5:13 PM EDT
Updated: Sun, Jun 29 2008 6:35 PM EDT
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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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