December 21, 2019 § Leave a comment
Entertainer Michael Davis used to begin his act with this line: “They say a comic says funny things, but a comedian says things funny. This makes me a juggler.”
Truth is, we’re all jugglers of some sort, trying to balance multiple roles in life, keeping all the plates spinning and the balls in the air. That’s the way it’s always been, and, I’m sure, always will be.
But when it comes to the pastime (or career) of juggling, things have changed over time, as pointed out in this TEDx Talk by Jay Gilligan:
Gilligan, who’s juggled for 28 years, tells (and shows) the differences between American/Western juggling—with its symmetry and repetition—and Scandanavian/European juggling—which features asymmetry and lots of starts and stops.
From there he goes on to talk about the origins of juggling rings. Have you ever wondered why juggling rings are the size they are? Giligan has. And he found the answer from his friend and fellow juggler, Dave Finnigan. In 1976, Finnigan, also known as Professor Confidence, wanted to find a place in Asia for making juggling props, so he visited a plastic fabrication factory in Taiwan. While describing the rings to the factory owner, Mr. Tsai, he grabbed a cookie tin from Mr. Tsai’s desk. He drew a circle around it and then used “another round item” to draw a smaller circle inside. This became their template. The cookie tin happened to be about 13 inches across.
Juggler and juggling historian David Cain adds to the story, locating the factory in the south-Taiwan city of Tainan and writing that the original rings were later fine tuned by expanding the hole inside. He quotes Finnigan as saying, “When jugglers complained that the ring would not easily fit over their heads, we came up with the white ring the next year, so it would fit over the head of the jugglers.”
Speaking of innovation, juggler Michael Moschen is so innovative that in 1990 he was named a MacArthur Fellow, receiving a “genius grant” from the foundation. In the early TED Talk below, Moschen shows off his creativity and delves into what I would call the “philosophy” of juggling. At 19:24, he juggles inside a triangle, and at 25:50 he uses a single ball to give a short introduction to “contact juggling,” which became one of his specialties.
If you’re not completely sure what contact juggling is, let’s go back to Taiwan and watch Zheng Jhe demonstrate his skills. Relax and enjoy.
(David Cain, “Juggling Rings: Their History, Development, and Innovation—Part I,” International Jugglers’ Association, October 9, 2016)
September 18, 2019 § Leave a comment
I last posted a Bellerby & Co video a year ago. So it must be time to post some more . . . because those Bellerby videos, they just keep a comin’.
This first one is from the annual EG Conference for creatives, in which Peter Bellerby tells the full story of how he became a maker of globes.
The next shows the craftsmanship that went into the creating of a globe for Royal Ascot’s “World Like Nowhere Else” campaign.
And finally, in this video we get to hear from a couple artisans behind the scenes. (By the way, that really, really big globe that they’re making—it’s the Churchill. It’s 50 inches in diameter and costs £79,000, or about US$99,000. But if you want one, you’ll need to act quickly, as they’re only making 40, and you have to wait a year before delivery.
So, would you like to join the Bellerby team? From the company’s hiring page (actually, right now, it’s more of a we’re-not-currently-hiring page), here’s a list of “personal qualities we look for.” It’s not at all a bad set of skills to have on hand:
- Patience is the most important thing in globe-making!
- You will incorrectly make a globe every day for 6 months, you could then do one perfect and then next 10 will still fail. You have to not get easily frustrated and be stubborn and passionate about the role to get it right & not want to give up . . . it is a long learning process.
- Light with hands and aware of space around you. You are working around a lot of delicate items.
- Nimble fingers . . . good with precise cutting with a scalpel/blade.
- Work well as a team and work well in a SMALL team.
- Though a very social family-like atmosphere, the studio is very quiet most for long periods of time as each role takes concentration. You must like a very serene environment—it will be the opposite of a normal office job for most.
- Quick to learn and eager to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills.
- Good communication, hard worker, not afraid to get your hands dirty, capable of multi-tasking. . . .
- Keep a clean, tidy and organised work space.
June 14, 2019 § Leave a comment
For most people, an uneventful international flight is a good international flight. That wasn’t the case for Ontario native Ippolit Bodounov when he traveled from Russia to Canada last October. His problems started when a Canada Border Services Agency beagle sniffed out a strange scent in his luggage. Actually, his problems started pre flight, when he decided to load a grocery bag with 4,788 wild leeches and put it in his carry on.
Bodounov’s story made the rounds last year when he was caught, and then again in May when he was fined C$15,000 for the illegal importation. Importing leeches, in and of itself, isn’t wrong—they’re often used for medicinal purposes (their saliva contains blood thinners, anti-clotting agents, blood-vessel dilators, and an anesthetic). But the species of leeches brought in by Bodounov are internationally regulated and he lacked the necessary permits. So remember that the next time you think about . . . nah, just forget it.
Hearing about leeches brought to my mind a passage in the book Exodus to a Hidden Valley, which tells the story of the Morse family, missionaries to the Lisu in Burma. They were ordered by the military government to leave the country by the end of December 1965, but rather than leave the Lisu behind, the Morses relocated to a remote area in Burma near the Indian border, away from government control. In describing their trek through the jungle, Eugene Morse writes,
There is no really effective weapon against the leech, Instead of keeping them away, bundling up often tends to hide leeches from your sight. During the rains we learned that even wearing shoes can be a hazard, because leeches hiding in a shoe can turn your foot into a bloody mess before you feel their bite. Leeches dread fire and ashes, and many American British soldiers virtually chain-smoked their way through the Burma campaign of World War II in an effort to keep them at bay. But we learned the Lisu technique of scraping them off with a sharp machete, a process that had to be repeated every few minutes to keep them from sucking blood. On one occasion my brother Robert helped his wife scrape 102 leeches off just one of her legs after she had been walking only five minutes. The mobility of these wormlike creatures is incredible. You can look at what seems to be a totally quiet area of jungle foliage, wave your hand, and suddenly find leeches crawling out from under every leaf, where they have been hiding from the rain. They almost seem to jump the last half inch or so to reach any available piece of warm flesh. If a man opens his fly to relieve himself along a jungle trail, later he will very likely find that at least two or three leeches have managed to make their way to his groin.
Once a leech has attached itself to you, it injects an anticoagulant into the surrounding area of flesh. It drinks until it swells up like a miniature sausage and then falls off. But because of the anticoagulant, you continue to bleed, and anybody who gets a number of leech bites is likely to suffer seriously from loss of blood. Nobody who has lived in the jungle during the rainy season underestimates the danger of leeches or ignores the importance of seeing to it that everything, from houses to latrines and other buildings, is made as leech proof as possible.
In the jungle opening one’s fly can be dangerous. Got it. But as it turns out, opening one’s mouth—or nose—can be risky, too. In 2017, a young Australian man claimed that while eating a pre-packaged salad from a Coles supermarket, a leech attached itself to his tongue. And he has video evidence. “I tried to get it off with a fork,” he tells The Daily Mail Australia, “and it just exploded in my mouth.”
Want more visuals? A report in the Turkish Archives of Ortohinolaryngology shows a leech on the base of a young lady’s tongue, the result of drinking unfiltered spring water. BBC published photos of a leech removed from the nose of a backpacker from Edinburgh, who came back from Southeast Asia with the unwelcome souvenir, which had grown to three inches long over a month before the traveller realized what was going on. And a YouTube video shows the extraction of a veeeery large leech from the nostril of a man from southern China. It had possibly latched on while the man was swimming in a river.
All this got me wondering if anyone makes a habit of putting leeches in their mouths on purpose, as in, for food. From what I’ve found, the answer is a definitive Maybe. In season four of Dirty Jobs, host Mike Rowe spends time with some some leech trappers in Minnesota. After they walk him through the collection and sorting process of the soon-to-be bait, Rowe asks them if there’s anything else he needs to know. “We occasionally eat ’em,” one answers.
Rowe later asks Jason, son of one of the leech wranglers, “Now look, man. Be honest with me. Leeches, are they served in fine restaurants up here in northern Minnesota, or anywhere for that matter?”
“Not too much in the United States just because of the whole food standards and everything,” Jason replies, “but over in Asia, it’s good to go.” He then proceeds to de-vein some leeches and deep fry them. Jason and the cameraman eat some raw, while Rowe waits until they’re cooked, claiming, “You know what? It’s pretty good.”
“But over in Asia, it’s good to go.” Really? Actually, I’m thinking probably not. Asians do eat a lot of things that aren’t normally on Western menus, but it’s a too easy go-to to claim that they eat anything and everything.
In truth, if you’re looking for a good leech recipe, look no farther than Europe. In one episode of Heston’s Feasts, British chef Heston Blumenthal hears from a Transylvanian historian on how to prepare “leeches swollen in goose blood.” Good may be stretching it a bit. After sampling the chewy result, Blumenthal declares, “That’s just congealed goose blood with a leech-membrane casing, and that to me, no matter how I try and wrap that up, it’s not appetizing.”
Dina Fine Maron, “Why Was This Man’s Luggage Stuffed with 5,000 Leeches?” National Geographic, February 10, 2019; “Leech Smuggling: Canada Fines Man after 4,700 Carried on Plane,” BBC News, May 28, 2019; Eugene Morse, Exodus to a Hidden Valley, Reader’s Digest Press, 1974; Nic White and Josh Hanrahan, “Man Says He Found a LEECH in a Coles Salad—and Only Noticed when the Creature Attached Itself to His Tongue,” Daily Mail, January 14, 2017)
April 17, 2019 § Leave a comment
“Bauhaus Movement: Every Time You Sit Down, Thank the German Art School”
Every time you plop yourself down in a chair at work, rush to your favorite seat in class, or lounge at your desk at home, you can think the Bauhaus Movement. The Bauhaus was originally a German arts school started in 1919, whose teachings eventually developed into an art and thought movement that inspired a generation of artisans, architects, and designers around the world. [April 12] was the centennial celebration of Bauhaus, and Google marked the occasion with a front-page doodle.
Hungarian furniture designer Marcel Breuer was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus. He was quickly recognized for his carpentry skills, and in short order became the head of the school’s carpentry shop. Eventually, Breuer designed two pieces of furniture that changed chair design forever: the Cesca Chair and the Wassily Chair.
The Cesca was the first chair made out of a combination of tubular steel and caned seating that was also mass-produced, and has since become a common chair in offices and homes. . . .
[The Cesca] eventually became the blueprint for countless chairs after it. Cara McCarty, the former associate curator at the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art considered it to be a pivotal invention in furniture design.
“It’s among the 10 most important chairs of the twentieth century,” she told The New York Times in 1991.
Danny Paez, Inverse, April 12, 2019
December 13, 2018 § Leave a comment
One of Sunday’s 60 Minutes segments was on the effects that continual screen time has on children’s brains. In particular, they looked at a study currently being conducted by the National Institutes of Health, a study looking at brain scans of 11,000 nine- and ten-year-olds over the course of a decade.
One of the experts interviewed on the show was Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager. His comments were actually made last year for another story on 60 Minutes titled “What Is ‘Brain Hacking’? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care.” In the clip, Harris talks about the competition among developers to find ways to hook us on their apps. He calls it “a race to the bottom of the brain stem.”
(Here’s the entire segment from 2017. It’s well worth watching. But since it’s more than 13 minutes long, maybe you should keep reading and come back to it. I don’t want you to give up before you get to the second video below.)
So where do we find the off ramp from the highway to addiction? Gamification guru Gabe Zicherman tells the news show that we shouldn’t expect the creators of the technology to show us the way, as they’re not inherently inclined to make their products less habit forming. “Asking tech companies, asking content creators to be less good at what they do feels like a ridiculous ask,” he says. “It feels impossible. And also it feels anti-capitalistic. This isn’t the system we live in.”
Hmmm . . . maybe capitalism can produce solutions of its own. Take, for instance, this example of capitalism filtered through a Swedish furniture company in Taiwan. It uses technology to thwart technology. And it uses smartphones to get things cooking—literally. (Thanks for the link, Peter.)