Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Flashes: Circus Blogs on the Wane, and Why? ... Circus Report on the Rise: Ueckert Shows How to Review More Honestly - and Still be Kind ... And More!

  Logan Jacot
In no particular order, here ... we ...  go!

Where have all the circus bloggers gone?  Well, there never were many, but, take a look at those I've listed to your right, and wonder, with me, why so few?    Even the regulars only now and then put something out.  I've removed a few either gone (the late great Dick Dykes, Balloon Man) or dormant (Wade Burck's No Spin Zone).

Curious about other showbiz sectors, I found a list of 500 movie blogs, and there are doubtlessly more.  There are dozens of theatre and Broadway blogs.  Pop music and TV may produce even more. So, why only a dozen or a half under our littler big tops?   My best answer is this:  Circus fans and pros in this country shun taking positions -- other than, I suppose, hiding out behind cowardly Anonymous. Thus, we end up with streams of pretty pictures, and all that Those-Were-The-Gold-Old days stuff.   Nobody wants to offend anybody.   Nobody dares risking a view.  Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, the American circus community (and this may go for the world) has long ago locked its lips in public.  You just don't criticize a circus or a performer.  No, no!

So, okay, let's bring on a better act.  Refreshing it is to be offered by Circus Report's Herbert B. Ueckert  real circus reviews, meaning, he tells us what he liked and what he didn't like.  And in so doing, however small a step this is, count it a giant leap for authentic circus reviewing, of which by tradition we see almost none.  (Perhaps Ueckert's reports are picked up by the White Tops, I don't know.)

A few excerpts from Uekcetr's review of Sahib Shrine Circus, and, to be clear, he found a lot about the show to like.  I am focusing more on his quibbles, to prove my case in praise of Circus Report's appearing to break a tad free of a moldy traditionFor starters, Ueckert takes Shrine clowning to task:  "Even [Joseph] Bauer's running patter could not save this skit!  ... Shrine clowns were back (ugh!) in another painfully pitiful skit" ..

Elan Espana

Other examples:  "Tattoos on performers do not enhance appearance but instead detract ... a highlight was the one-paw stand by the Fox Terrier ... leaps over fire hurdles concluded this great act."  On Diablo juggling from Elan Espana:  "Watch for this amazing and talented young man!"  On Jennifer Herriott Walker's mixed liberty animal review:  "The act still appeared to be a little rough around the edges."  And finally, lamenting the demise of Shrine circuses that once contained "glorious productions," elephants and cats and "professional clowns," Ueckert concludes, "Temples need to do some serious soul searching if they wish to come up with winning shows." Ooooo, I said to myself. 

This sort of a review is far more interesting to read, and far more informative. It thrives in virtually all other showbiz venues.  Maybe there is a tie-in between my two lead topics? Pretty pictures are nice; I enjoy them, too.  A few thoughts now and then, aired freely, might even be better. CR publisher and editor Bill Biggerstaff and contributing writer Herb Ueckert are showing a middle ground, both discriminating and supportive, that others may feel more safe and confident following.  Big top bravos to that! ...

Logan with his two-boddied frog, among the Barnumesque curiosities at Mr. Marvel's Wondertorium  Great name!  Photos, Baraboo News Republic.

End Ringers:  About circus bloggers, I wondered about a young fellow,a while back blogging for a bit, named Logan Jacot, to find that he is now centered, or was, in Baraboo, there presenting last summer Mr. Marvel’s Wondertorium at the Al Ringling Mansion.  Logan performs contortion and fire eating, among other side-showish amusements.  He loves side show culture, giving off a little of the old intriguing P.T. Barnum spirit..  For a time, Logan traveled with Lewis & Clark, and then helped manage a Ringling train. ... The CFA's website does updates on ongoing stories, but I can't find a whisper about Feld Entertainment having been found to blame for the rigging collapse in Providence.  Lip locked on that one, too, CFA? ... Where are we?  Okay, new paragraph!

Look, to support the circus is wonderful and all, but do you give an automatic pass to major management blunders?  Which makes me wonder if the Felds hand out corporate grants to various circus entities; if they were able to charm (what a wimpy euphemism!) Variety into rewriteing  John Ringling North half-way out of history, well, how much easier elsewhere?  ... Circus World Museum reporting a one percent drop in business for the season just wrapped ... Anybody see the Big Apple Circus on your local big screen?  Between my brother and his wife,  fan J. Kurt Spence in PA, and my own trip to the cinema, total attendance, before intermission, for the three lonely venues:  ELEVEN. After intermission, EIGHT.

Off the Lot, Across the Street:   I'm bummed out that Mayor Jean Quan did not get reelected here in Oakland, she has done so much, such as bringing in Police wiz William Bratton for advice, which enraged many PC locals -- the woman who beat her has vowed to take a more "holistic" approach to crime, and this when the murder rate is down by 30% ... It takes the New York Times and Bloomberg to go beyond a tired old story about Oakland being the armpit of the Bay Area to discover all the great things happening here. A couple of years back, the Times likened crusty creative Oakland to the "Brooklyn" of the Bay Area.  I'll take that, and, oh, there's my bus.  Give me a call next week, about the, what was it?  Tell me when you call!  See you! ...


Douglas McPherson said...

Bravo for critical circus reviewing - we need more of that. And no, it's not just in America. Criticism is just as frowned upon in the UK. But as to why so few circus blogs, could it be that there are actually very few circus fans in the sense of people who go out of their way to see circuses a lot? I'm not saying people don't go to and enjoy the circus, but maybe the majority take their family to "the circus" - whichever one shows up in their vicinity and don't really know or care which one it is. Could be in the nature of a travelling art form as you'd often have to travel a long way to seek out a particular show. Or it could come back to that lack of critical reviewing, especially in the mainstream media, telling people this show is better than that one. Yes, people know Ringling and Cirque du Soleil, but if you stopped and asked people as they came out of the show, how many circuses would the average audience member be able to name and how many people would say they'd been to more than one in the past year?

Showbiz David said...

Another thought, after reading yours: Circus lacks the celebrity factor, and so the public has no big top icons to keep it interested. Nik Wallenda would be the closest, but I doubt he generates blog or Facebook interest anywhere near equal to movie or TV stars.

Biggest reason, I suppose, is that the circus community over here is very very small, and so ambitious bloggers are never going to attract the kind of traffic they may dream of.