Going Nuclear at Garden Bros. Circus Can Be Crazy Fun, Or So It Seems ...

Going Nuclear at Garden Bros. Circus Can Be Crazy Fun,  Or So It Seems ...
Kijome Hara with the World’s Smallest Man and Wini McCay

Friday, May 29, 2015

Peanuts to Paranoia! On PBS, Science Sanctions Dread and Fear ... At the Circus, Alienation Acrobatics on the Rise


It’s a digital hell we are headed for if I, hopelessly unscientific, understand the very scientific PBS darling, NOVA.
Other night, NOVA’s teeth-rattling Rise of the Hackers swept me into provisional hysteria, going deep into the ever-expanding world of Hacking and the Hacks who make it happen.  Worst case scenario: Our enemies out there might hack into our nuclear software, ordering our missiles to self-launch in REVERSE COURSE, thus turning on -- US!

Okay, calm down.   It’s a “PARANOID FUTURE,” I learned watching this shock doc.  Well thank you, Nova.  So, I have time to prepare for my paranoid date with backfiring bombs?    Let your darkest fears take flight, Kids.    We are at the brink, quoting NOVA here, of  “ULTRA PARANOID COMPUTING.” 

Do you get my digital drift?  Let me spell it out, while Nova has me in its grips: Big Picture from yours unruly, sneer if you wish: Every time one of us flexes the latest electronic gizmo, joins another mad Apple line to stay stupidly in the cool, that person contributes to a digital doomsday, saith I.  So, then, are you ready for a little old-fashioned danger?

Back in the land of human flesh: China goes high wire crazy, one of its own making headlines treading the steel thread over city streets ... Clyde Beatty Collection, gathered over decades by Dave and Mary Jane Price, headed for The Milner at ISU ... Aerial legend Elvin Bale, breaking a leg in his bus, recently, back on the Cole Circus lot and recovering, confined to the bus ... Chicago’s Contemporary Circus Festival, back for a second season, June 17-21, this offering said to be framing 13 shows featuring “world class” action from several European cities and the U.S.  The aim being to foster “a deeper artistic process.”  All of it aimed to help performers  “compete in the global marketplace,” on a more “intellectual and visceral level.”  The drive to cerebralize continues apace, to wit ...

Acrobat Aliens:    Another circus from Down Under going – down under?  From the land of extreme innovation that gave us Circus Oz, another ensemble troupe, Circa, seems bent on bleeding that thread to death.  None too impressed with the group’s latest, What Will Have Been, is one Douglas McPherson, reviewing what hadn't been much in London’s venerable The Stage.  Enduring an evening of what sounds like stilted pretentiousness punctuated with heavy primal pauses, McPherson wraps up tartly: “Alas, this show is so safely aimed at the arts brigade that it dares not do anything as shamelessly populist as amuse.”

Danger in a Globe of Death: What I have long feared could happen with this daredevil stunt does happen, though rarely.  Fate knocked a globe into perilous mayhem when two riders collided at Uncle Sam's Great American Circus, a Brit show sporting an American slant.  Both riders suffered broken bones, and were stitched back up.  Ah, just like a pair of invincible robots ...

Strike up your all-human band, Circus Bella!  Oakland’s own now prepping for its annual summer dates in Bay Area parks.   Lineup looks promisingly diversified, what with, among a radiant wave of fresh faces, a clown bearing a Chinese name.  Yes, a Chinese clown?   Now, that alone should be cutting edge.  Show’s divinely delightful big little band, five pieces including and led by ebullient composer Rob Reich, returning.  Ah, I can’t wait.  The music sometimes alone is worth a visit.   Juggling director Judy Finelli  has a career arc spinning back through directing some of the old Pickle Family Circus shows, before that, performing on the Circus Vargas of Mr. V. 

Back to Dread and Fear:  Millions of Chinese workers being replacde by robots. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak granting that, yes, in time, robots WILL take over the World.  Let me not be around when that day arrives.

It may not be too late to stave off Hacker Hell.   The promising young --- Watch them!!! -- are open to the old, having rediscovered VINYL records with a vengeance, sparking a niche-market return of the LP record album. Turntables appearing in store windows.   Perhaps, we will one day be forced to default, away from the dangers of the Now, to the relative safety of the Before.  Bring back, before it’s too late, rotary telephones, Maytag washers, fly swatters and wind up clocks, post-it notes, push mowers, fountain pens and stick shift covered wagons – for starters.

 And may the iForce Not be with you.

[all hacked photos from Nova website]

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Huffington Post Hails Hopelessly Hollywood

From The Huffington Post

“A genuine Tinsel Town tragedy ... Lewis is a prose stylist with a voice that sizzles on the page ... If you’ve ever dared to dream, you’ll be with him all the way. "

 From Kirkus Reviews
"The dreamy Hollywood magic of it all ... An entertaining, insightful, and tragic memoir about trying to make it in show business."

Journey into the shadows of Tinsel Town, where little people with big dreams appear on small stages every night in plays and musicals, desperate to grab the eye of a producer, an agent, a talent scout, desperate for the Big Break.  Journey into it all with Broadway dreamers David and Mike, the two believing  that their musical about the Ringling Brothers is ready to be discovered. But soon cured of their heady illusions, the City of Angels sends each down a separate road.  David writes a new version of his musical with a different composer, and the show, Those Ringlings, achieves fleeting overnight success, for a moment in time headed for Broadway.  Here is another Hollywood laid bare, its humbling realities evoked with amusing candor. 

 Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Friday, May 15, 2015

Big Top Bashing in High Season: Right Wing Blasts “Wimpy” Ringling for Elephant Fold; Bloomberg Blasts Cirque for China Infatuation; Mother Nature Bashes Carson & Barnes into Its Finest Hour ...

They have a big heart in a storm, the folks at Carson and Barnes.  Back a week or so ago, down in the Longhorn state, windy rain came lashing down on the tent, the show in motion before a hefty good crowd, a gal on a trapeze working her act, coolly unphased by Mother Nature’s stormy knock at the door.  Eerie to see!  Made the evening news.

Everybody told, it will be okay! The show will go on! -- until they were told, please, leave the tent peacefully!  So close to collapse as everybody got out, some screaming as they ran, before the tent could fall.  But it didn't fall.  A close call, lots of happy C&B fans, nonetheless,  feeling well treated.  The next day in a new town, returning customers were offered upgrades on their tickets for a dry show.  Also given free "CB bucks," to spend as they pleased, by none other than the Byrd of Byrds herself, Lady Barbara of Hugo, daughter of the late great Dory.  And how like a Brit Masterpiece Theatre family does that sound?

Super C&B fan Audrey Wallace, one of the returnees, being handed the mike by the ringmaster to thank C&B people for their “professionalism" and for getting everyone out of the tent safely the night before.  And then, a big hug from the ringmaster.  A touching moment.  You gotta respect these hard working troupers of our tent shows, facing capricious elements day in and out, specially in these weird and wacky weather times.  

Did I get that right?  Looking at sketchy notes, a lazy draft, okay.  Watching coverage on TV, I marveled at how they kept the show going until they hastily emptied the tent, ever so close to breaking stakes and falling.  High drama!  ... On the plus side, two things I happily noticed in the coverage:  1.  The newer ringmaster, a young Hispanic fellow, gives off a warm polite air, so much more human compared to the previous bombast.  2.  A good crowd in the seats, winning!  The tent layout inside looked spaciously terrific. Looks like a true New Day for Carson and Barnes.

"Greatest Pushover on Earth" Here's the Right Wing mouthing off in haste -- anything to bash the Other Wing, blasting Kenneth Feld & Company for his "cave in" to the animal rights crowd.  Sean and Rush, et all, blaming Feld for the exit of the elephants to be.  Okay, so how would they manage the show given diminishing crowds? It's a business, stupids!  And you on the right should respect the "free market." From the New York post, mad as hell Steve Cuozzo, predicting  that "the bozos at circus parent Feld Entertainment" will make the circus "extinct before the elephants."

End of the Greatest Show on Earth!  Good grief, I've not heard such dire blather since the Big Show gave up it's big top in Pittsburgh, PA, 1956 ...  Cuozzo was so upset that he lashed out at Feld showmanship:  “Who wants two hours of expensive 'family' tedium full of unfunny clowns and aerial acts that can end in catastrophe, like the human chandelier that sent nine acrobats to the hospital last year?"  Hey, Steve, while you're at it, and what did you think of the designer snow cones?

The Feld cave in, predicts Cuozzo, echoing his colleagues on the right, “will only embolden zealots to agitate for eliminating of all circus animals.”  And, know what?  He could be right.  Or more likely wrong.  I mean, do you really see horse and dog acts getting the boot?  Just stay clear of Frisco.  S.F. pols already wanting to ban all "wild" animal acts.  What next, fleas?  (Is anybody laughing? I am.)
Bloomberg Bashes the Montreal Monster in a story titled "Why Cirque du Soleil Has No Chance in China."  And a good many reasons given to guy-out their thesis, among them, oh how obvious, many of the greatest acts are already in China.  In previous Cirque shows, those same acts, and others, fell flat when CDS first courted Chinese audiences back in around 2007. 'Twas not a heavenly takeover.

So, what next, Cirque?  Oh, that's right, a return to the Great White Way that rebuffed you when you slipped on your banana shpeel.  But this time, it just might work ... Cirque's Theatrical Division said to be mounting a Broadway-bound revival of The Wiz, first to be aired for the next NBC Live, this December 3.  Hmmmm.  With a proven script to work with, along with circus acts thrown into the mix (think Pippin), they might get it right this time.  Then, a Mandarin version for China?

END RINGERS:  Twas in Circus Report that I read about Cirque's Broadway bound The Wiz; that I read about the day after the storm at Carson & Barnes.  And that, also, once again Chuck Burns tried luring me into his kinky side show.  This time, he's talking about the famed 1932, flick, The Freaks. Available on Netflix.  My thumbs are up. Think I saw one of the characters in a sideshow on the old Foley & Burk midway ... Let's close this one out with a cracking good cartoon, also from CR, called That's Show Biz, by Billy Earl. Frame to frame, it goes like this. "How does your truck get such great mileage? .... That's easy! .... Most of the time they have to tow it."  I did laugh.  And it made me think of Steve Copeland's clown car --- no, not the one in the show. The other one.  More, please, from the Duke of Earl!

May 15, 2015

Friday, May 01, 2015

Touring World Circus Festivals through the Pages of Planet Circus


As before, my eyes are opened to a world of dazzling innovation out there, most of it born beyond the borders of my own country.

As before, I marvel at the extraordinary feats of young circus artists in far off places, and take joyful comfort in a sure knowledge that circus is still very much alive. Vibrantly. Daringly. Thrillingly.

As before, I need only turn the pages of Planet Circus to behold the brilliant manifestations of it all, alive and brimming in rings of magic from Paris to Moscow, Spain to North Korea. And, yes, in these apolitical visions that fearlessly cross all borders, I take hope in the universal language of circus to help liberate tyranny and oppression.  I take pride in the people who inhabit this great embracing world.

Over There, circus festivals are taken seriously.  They draw gifted young acrobats and flyers to the spangled parade.  Inspire them to try harder, dig deeper into their imaginations, practice and invent, perfect and compete -- and reach for the stars.

Over There, they are at it, still, inventing new twists and turns and tricks in a quest to top each other and to stop the show.  And that is why the world returns.

Over There, in older worlds where it all began, younger minds and hearts find constantly surprising ways, season after season, to renew what Ernest Hemingway called "the ageless delight.".

Ageless, indeed.  Over Here, we await their latest exploits to fly our way.  We await them in our seats at Ringling and Big Apple, Kelly-Miller and Cole.  

Thank you, Planet Circus.

Thank you, Over There, for keeping our dreams alive Over Here. 

All photos from Planet Circus magazine, Festival Edition, 2015:

From the top:

Clay juggler Jimmy Gonzalez -- Gold Medal, Circus of Tomorrow, Paris

Pyongyang National Troupe -- Gold Clown, Monte Carlo; Golden Bear, Festival of Circus Art in Izhevsk, Russia

The Tianjin Acrobatic Troupe -- Silver Clown, Monte Carlo; Golden Bear, Festival of Circus Art

Gartner Family elephants --Silver Bear, Festival of Circus Art

Elakterina and Dimitry, straps -- Silver Elephant, International Circus Festival of Figures, Spain

Maxim Helmut on the Spanish Web -- Silver Karl, Riga , Russia

The Yunan Troupe -- Silver Elephant, International Circus Festival

Sons Company on teeterboard --  Gold Medal, Circus of Tomorrow