Where’s the catch?

Dim at church fair july 89

In 1998, Peter Symond’s Sixth Form College hired an ex-student, Duncan Gale, to come in and teach the cast of the upcoming production to juggle. It wasn’t necessary, but the drama teacher (whose name I have completely forgotten, so sorry Dave…) thought it would be a good exercise. Since I could already juggle three balls, Duncan leant me a set of clubs and a catalogue from the main juggling supply shop in the UK, Pippa Tee’s.

All this ancient history was brought back to me yesterday when I spotted this book on the shelf in my library.

20190828_211849

I met Charlie Dancey in the summer of 1989, when he and his juggling partner Haggis McCleod came to the Winchester Hat Fair. I had been juggling for a little less than a year, but I had already formed a partnership with my friend Dougie (“Catch 22”, because we were stunningly original. Dougie hadn’t read the book, so he didn’t know it had nothing to do with juggling. In fact, he may not have realised it WAS a book….) In 1989 we went to the 3rd British Juggling convention and learned how much we still had to learn.

juggling convention hall

And at the Hat Fair I watched Haggis and Charley’s routine and and set out to learn it. We straight up stole their “pick up to six” club passing routine, except for skipping over some of the more exotic passing tricks. We couldn’t match their finale, since we didn’t have six-foot unicycles, but we could pass fire, and that was a big deal for the types of crowds we drew at village fetes and church events (the only gigs we were getting, obviously).

Wall juggling b

Haggis and Charlie’s show was blindingly good. They seemed half cocksure, half desperate. Tricks were pulled off with assurance, or a last minute effort, and their banter was hilarious and all off the cuff.

Except the next time I saw them, the show was almost identical. Aside from the little flex for changing circumstances, the lines, the tricks, the accidents and miracles were bang on. I learned that even the loosest-looking, most extemporaneous-sounding show can be planned in advance. These guys pulled off their great moves not because they were good (although they were and ARE exceptional jugglers), but because they had run through this show and those tricks a million times or more. The jokes landed in the right place just like the clubs did, not from a lucky coincidence, but by intent.

Doug and I never got to Haggis and Charley’s level, even when we were able to replicate all the tricks in their routine (including the six-foot unicycles…) We added members to Catch 22, which became the Juggling Fiends, because we (some of us anyway) were Shakespeare scholars, and it’s a quote, don’t you know?

bw playground fiends

The Fiends had a good run, reaching seven members at our peak, and doing shows every weekend from May to September. We even appeared on TV with Toyah Wilcox

Assotment0001

(That was the year I had to stand in for Dougie and perform the crowd-pleasing stunt known as “The Bucket of DOOM!” Simply put, we announced that one of the team would stand on his head in a bucket of water, and the crowd formed, waiting to see what the trick was. The trick was, of course, that there was no trick. Dougie, or in this case, I, simply stood on his head in the bucket of water. It’s not hard, just uncomfortable, but people seemed impressed. It has never been of any use to me since, however. Don’t put it on your resume.)

Catherington bucket 2

So, seeing Charley’s book brought back happy memories of stranger times, and reminded me that I’m juggling on September the 7th for the Burnaby Public Library Summer Reading Club Medal Ceremony. I won’t be doing the Bucket of DOOM, though. Sorry. Check out Charley’s book – it contains way more than just juggling tips.

https://www.amazon.com/Every-Trick-Book-Charlie-Dancey/dp/1468303430

 

 

Advertisements

In search of Roxanne

Roxanne_Cover_7595

Mrs Dim and I were big fans of the movie “Roxanne”, back when we owned a copy on VHS. Living in the UK at the time, we had no idea that the city where the movie is set really exists – Nelson, BC.

A few years ago, we decided to make the road trip out to Nelson from Vancouver, stopping in Osoyoos along the way. Sadly, that first night there was an apocalyptic rainstorm, and our tent was drenched. We didn’t fancy driving another four hours and setting up a wet tent and maybe having another wet night, so we packed u and went home. This year, with the weasels otherwise occupied, Mrs Dim and I decided we would get there.

Since she’s smart, Mrs Dim arranged for the overnight stop in Osoyoos to be in a hotel this time round. No wet tent.

20190816_073422

Road trips as adults without kids in tow are really good. We listened to music, to audio books, drank coffee and talked, talked, talked. The weather was fine, the roads were clear and the scenery was awesome.

20190816_101122

We were hoping to visit some of the locations in Nelson that were used in the movie, but we hadn’t had a re-watch before we left. Mrs Dim had made a couple of notes, but we were relying on the self guided walking tours that we’d heard were available from the Visitor Centre. And they may be very fine tours, but we couldn’t FIND the visitor centre. The signs said 1km, 3oom, then vanished altogether.

We walked Baker Street, the main drag, and had a lovely coffee in the Dominion Cafe (not featured in the movie). We eventually located the shop that was used as “All things Dead” in the film.

20190817_142835

But regardless of our abject failure in locating film spots, Nelson is a great place to visit. There are some beautiful buildings, quite old (by Canadian standards!)

We walked all the way up to the viewpoint and took in the whole cityscape:

20190817_114751

20190817_114716

Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, Nelson is worth the trip. Also, you can stop in Osoyoos on the way home and pick up some Mooncurser or Nk’mip wines..

A project’s premature end.

20190727_184608

Building things is a hobby of mine, as you’ll know if you’ve read this blog or accidentally bought one of my ebooks on the subject. I’ve been building props (mostly helmets) since we arrived here in Canada and I got room to have a little workshop. Each time I’ve tried to build something, I’ve run into some kind of problem, and every time there’s a point where I almost quit. That “almost” is important. I suffer from the unfunded fear that if I fail to complete one project, I’ll never finish another ever again. This fear was the only reason I completed the disastrous Death Trooper Helmet.

20190328_083902

I took the lego model pictured above and set out on the biggest build since Derek the dalek: I wanted to make a life-size version of the model. That would have been huge, so I reconsidered, and based the final size on a couple of tubes I already had. I figured if the tubes would stand for the steering vanes, the lego man would be about three feet tall. That made the whole thing half life size, but it quickly became apparent that that was quite big enough.

I enjoyed building the speeder bike, but it was a very different process from the helmets. I couldn’t just grab five minutes here and there to do a little piece. Each work session had to be carefully thought out and done with attention to detail. None of those are my strong suit.

So I’ve struggled with measuring and finding time to do the job right, but I’ve had to admit that the remaining sections – the landing skids, mainly – would take an enormous effort. Having seen the project stall for weeks, I thought it was time to say I had achieved all I intended.

20190727_184620

So I’m going to stop, and disassemble the bike (but keep the lego man, I think). I’m glad I built it, and Mrs Dim s glad it’s not going to be cluttering up the basement any longer. I’m looking forward to taking on a smaller project next (though Derek is still being reassembled and is planning to make an appearance at the next Fan Expo).

Is this me learning?

The Weather and the state of the roads

If you’ve read the last post, you’ll know Mrs Dim and I took Tiny Weasel back to the UK for a couple of weeks, stopping off in Paris for a few days. Since we’re a talky family around our own dinner table, we warned Tiny Weasel that she ought to be a little more circumspect with her views in front of her UK elders. Mrs Dim offered Jane Austen’s advice “Stick to the weather and the state of the roads.”

Much the same advice is given to writers, actors, and artists of all stripes on social media, but only when those concerned don’t agree with the statements made. “Stay in your lane”, the Right Wing folks shout at Chris Evans (Captain America, if you prefer), but they cheer James Woods for presenting the opposite sentiment.

The general thought is that you should avoid alienating your potential audience/market by expressing political opinions that may upset people. The problem with that is, these days you have fans of concentration camps and forced exportation on one side, and fans of universal healthcare and free education on the other. I don’t WANT the good opinion of people who support or excuse Trump, thank you.

And so I come to the news from the UK. Boris Johnson falls into the role of Prime Minister, despite demonstrable incompetence and outright falsehood. He and his friends lied, over and again during the Brexit campaign, then they lied again by denying that they lied. Now he’s marching about, shouting that he’s going to “deliver Brexit”, as if he knows some secret that was denied to the government up to this point (a government he was part of while it failed to deliver Brexit.)

Part of me is curious. I genuinely believe that Boris and his cronies know that Brexit is a ruinously bad idea, and that they have been making money and influence off the chaos that the vote produced – Boris is, after all, Prime Minister now. He’s in an excellent position to hand out favours to his mates. I don’t think he wants to preside over the fall of the UK, so he’ll find some way to weasel out of the break with the EU. Most importantly, he’ll find someone else to blame for it.

If anyone actually reads this post, some may feel they have to point out the wretched “17 million” figure as proof that Brexit is the will of the majority. once again, I’ll just say that there was a 4% majority out of the people who were eligible to vote AND voted at the time. That’s not the whole population, it’s not even the whole voting population. And just the day after people were saying they hadn’t understood what they were voting on. Coupled with the lies told by the Leave campaign, it’s clear the referendum itself was no mandate for change. In two years, there’s been no clear plan for how to proceed, and Boris has given no sign that he actually has any PLAN beyond his usual nonsense bluster.

Though my family and I are safe in Canada, my parents still live in the UK, and as older citizens I worry for them. With his Etonian, profit-oriented, selfish worldview, Boris inspires no confidence that he can understand the problems of regular citizens, let alone have any compassion for them.

Jeremy Hunt would not have been any better, but appointing Boris is almost as big a mistake as Brexit itself.

Paris in the Spring time…Wait, is it Summer?

20190703_100611

This is not a travel blog.

Having said that, my family did go traveling recently, and I’m about to blog about it. Huh.

It’s been six years since I last went back to the UK, so a return visit was overdue, plus my folks had moved into a new house etc etc. However, we knew from past experience that trying to visit all the people you want to see after traveling so far can be exhausting. y wife, always the smart one, programmed in a three-day hiatus in Paris so we could recharge.

20190702_210202-effects

We Air BnB’d a small apartment in the 16th Arrondissement. (When I say “we”, I mean Mrs Dim did.) The place was small, but since we were only using it as a base for day trips, that didn’t matter. There were basic cooking facilities and more superior coffee-making facilities, so all was well. Each morning we had a five minute walk to the bridge pictured above, and from there we would walk along the Seine until we reached a Metro or the Bateaubus for the day’s activity.

20190702_120324

I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of our visit, because not everything we did will work for other people, and some things were just plain wrong, like trying to go to the Musee D’Orsay on the one day of the week that it’s closed. But maybe it’s worth noting in passing that there are still huge crowds flocking to Notre Dame, even though it’s (obviously) closed, and the streets around it are clogged with building supplies and trucks.

20190703_121213

The best view of it may be from the Bateaubus.

We loved strolling most of all, taking advantage of our flexible schedule to stop off in cafes whenever we felt like it. Tiny Weasel objected to the endless cigarette smoke, but they do at least attempt to keep it outside, even if all the cafe windows are wide open in the heat.

20190703_113827

Versailles was disappointing in many ways, but we didn’t brave the mighty queues to go into the palace itself, so maybe we’re just really critical gardeners, but for me, the high point was a tip we got from Richard Ayoade’s YouTube Series “Travel Man” .

In his visit to Paris, he mentioned that it was pointless to climb the Eiffel Tower, only to take pictures of the Paris cityscape without the Eiffel Tower in it. He recommended the Tour Montparnasse, so off we went.

It was BRILLIANT! No queue to get in, Europe’s fastest elevator taking us up 59 floors in less than a minute, and a wonderful 360 degree view from the top:

20190701_155104

Which INCLUDES the Eiffel Tower.

I enjoyed the trip a lot more than I thought I would, because of the company, the relaxed scheduling and the regular food and drink. It’s likely to be many years before I go to Paris again, but if I do, I’ll do it this way again.

20190702_210226

Talking a good game

My next book

Publicity is a tricky thing. A lot of social media is people carefully trying to sell you their stuff, without looking like they’re trying to sell you anything at all. Influencers call this “your brand”, or your “author platform”, and some people are better at it than others, like most things in life.

My own experience with selling my stuff (ie, plays, ebooks and whatnot) online is that I am not good at talking myself up. I like the things I have written, am often quite proud of them, but it just doesn’t feel right to shout “My stuff is great! Buy it!” without at least adding “Of course, you may disagree, and there’s lots of other great stuff out there which may suit your needs better, I would perfectly understand if you want some time to compare and contrast and make an informed decision…”

This is NOT a great advertising strategy.

The trouble is, if you’re going to build a brand online, you need to be consistent. If you’re going to be consistent, you have two choices. The first is to invent the person you’re going to be, and stick rigidly to that persona whenever you post ANYTHING AT ALL. The second is to be yourself, and admit that sometimes that might not be great for everybody. This is why we see actors or authors get slammed for having political opinions online. We think we want to get to know the real person, but often there are doors we don’t want opened, or illusions we want to keep intact.

Part of who I am is the self-deprecating, anxious, uncertain person who feels it’s wrong to brashly boast of your brilliance. Certainly you won’t find me quoting reviews of my stuff on Twitter where I refer to myself in the third person (I have seen authors do this, and it looks weird.)

Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying, when I finally got “Even More Cosplay Disasters” fixed for the third time and published for the second time, I was all out of enthusiasm for doing any publicity at all. I’d done a little for the first publication, and luckily it had fallen flat, because the book had NOT been properly published, and anyone who bought it would only have been able to download the cover.

I thought I might try and interest the local papers, but writing a press release is really just talking about yourself in the third person again, so instead I wrote directly to the reporter for the local paper (Janis Cleugh of the Tri City News) and asked if she might be interested in the story of a playwright who builds strange helmets and props with his daughter. She was, and she came round to interview me and my Eldest Weasel, as well as taking a very nice picture. She was kind enough to mention the books, as well as being very thorough in her questioning (best of all, she didn’t ask “Why the hell do you bother with all this tosh?”, which is Mrs Dim’s favourite question.)

Here’s the online copy of the article:

https://www.tricitynews.com/entertainment/sci-fi-superfans-build-costume-props-1.23852723

Sales of the books have not gone through the roof, so as an advertising stunt, it hasn’t achieved its aim. On the other hand, I did take a positive step towards marketing, and it was a different one to the ones I’ve done before. We got a nice picture out of it, if nothing else, and the article seems to have spurred Eldest Weasel on to fixing up Derek the Dalek for the next Fan Expo.

20190616_212443

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Re-watch

Image result for marvel cinematic universe order

Mrs Dim found a graphic very much like the one above soon after we saw the brilliant “Captain Marvel” at the cinema. Since, like everyone else, we were waiting for “Endgame” to end the misery following “Infinity War”. it seemed like a good idea to work our way through the movies again, following this sequence.

Captain America:

Image result for Captain America

We always liked the original Captain America movie, with Haley Attwell giving a star performance, and Tommy Lee Jones underplaying it brilliantly. Another family favourite is JJ Field, who the Weasels have loved since “Northanger Abbey”. I’m still amazed by the weedy young Steve Rogers, and while I know it was done with CGI, it hurts my head.

Iron Man:

Image result for Iron Man

Like Captain America, time doesn’t seem to have affected this movie overmuch. Mrs Dim pointed out how much of a jerk Tony Stark really is in the movie, how unlikeable. His transformative event, the inciting incident of his storyline, really is traumatic and shapes his character for the upcoming movies as well as this one.

Iron Man 2:

Image result for Iron man 2

It seemed wrong to watch this movie next, with so many different characters to get through. Still, that’s what the instructions said, and we follow the instructions, no matter what.

There’s a lot of relevant parts to this movie, though I understand the criticisms levelled at it: At times the story meanders a little, and the logic of Tony discovering the element in a coded message from his father is…a reach, to be fair. Still, it underlines that Tony’s ego is unblunted, and causing trouble, something that gets dealt with in later films.

Thor:

Image result for Thor

Thor always seemed an unlikely choice for a superhero, and I wasn’t that enthusiastic about seeing the movie. Chris Hemsworth is a great performer, though, and the movie is surprisingly funny at times. My family can’t get over Loki, of course. It’s fun, and it still looks good.

The Incredible Hulk:

I admit, we skipped this one. Mrs Dim wasn’t interested in watching it (I don’t know why) and I had seen it quite recently. I liked Ed Norton’s performance, I have a weakness for Liv Tyler and Tim Roth is always great value.

The Avengers:

Image result for The Avengers

This is one of my favourites of the whole bunch. Whatever his failings as a person, I really like what Joss Whedon did with the challenge of bringing all these characters together and putting them through the wringer.

Iron Man 3:

Image result for Iron Man 3

Tony’s journey is really the most interesting so far. This movie shows how dependent he’s become on his armour, the PTSD of his captivity compounded by the battle of New York. In trying to protect the ones he loves, he puts them in greater danger, and he has to rediscover the truth that he later tells Peter Parker “If you’re nothing without the suit, you don’t deserve the suit.”

Thor Dark World:

Image result for Thor Dark World

One of the positive things about this sequel is that Jane Foster is at least an active participant in the proceedings. We’re introduced to the unlikliest Infinity Stone and get a bundle more comedy lines and the twistiest twist ending of all.

Captain America, Winter Soldier:

Image result for The winter soldier

The most memorable part of this movie is that it reveals Hydra infiltrated SHIELD years ago, and upsets the apple cart in a big way. We meet new allies, like Agent Carter’s niece Sharon, and discover that Bucky didn’t die after all. We also get our first hint that Cap\s personal view on right and wrong might lead him into confrontation with authority figures.

Guardians of the Galaxy:

Image result for Guardians of the galaxy

I still love the first Guardians movie, though I have heard the soundtrack way too much and loathe every single song on it. Thanks for that, James Gunn! It’s still a fun ride, with the bonus of underlining the whole Infinity Stones ultimate power plot.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2:

Image result for Guardians of the galaxy

Again, it was weird to be watching the sequel instead of bouncing off to a different group of characters, but it was nice to get a swift answer to that “Hey your father was a mysterious ancient being” line that is dropped casually at the end of the first movie. In terms of the greater arc, the only thing this movie does is add Mantis to the team and grant Nebula a step on her redemption arc. Also, I hate this soundtrack too. Really, the nostalgia for the music of the 80’s is overrated.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Image result for Age of Ultron

Tony builds on his “causing problems by trying to save the world” theme of Iron Man 3, and we get a brief introduction to Wakanda here. There are the first signs of fractures in the team,  and the addition of a couple of new recruits. My favourite part of this movie will always be Hawkeye NOT dying, despite the fact that he promised his wife he would come back to finish the renos. There was actually a groan in the cinema as he said it, and we were all wrong.

AntMan:

After the “world in peril” stakes of Ultron, AntMan feels like a real downshift. Sure, the Yellowjacket super-soldier could be a threat to world peace and whatnot, but really we’re concerned with Scott getting through the day without being sent back to jail. It FEELS like an origin story, and it feels late int he series to be introducing someone.

Avengers: Civil War

Image result for Avengers civil war

This is the payoff for Cap’s conflict over Bucky and the fracture lines we saw beginning in “Age of Ultron”. We also get to meet Black Panther.

What’s interesting about this is understanding both sides of the argument – Tony wants some oversight, to try and prevent the guilt he feels over the innocent who suffer. Cap wants the freedom to do what he believes is right, what he’s “meant’ to do, since he has these strengths. I like that we get to hear just a small section of the story of those who are affected by the actions of the superheroes – not those rescued by them, or defeated by them, but the collateral damage. Every fight we have seen in the movies to this point has included massive structural damage, and it’s good to know that the writers think of the small people in their stories too.

Black Panther:

Image result for Black Panther

Introduced in Civil War, Black Panther doesn’t need an origin story, though in the opening of the movie we do get a potted history of Wakanda and the people who live there. Like many, many people, I loved the colours and sounds of Wakanda, and though I have to agree with my kids (why didn’t he just tell Killmonger that he had been treated badly and accept him as part of the family?) I enjoyed the film immensely and have rewatched it several times.

Spiderman Homecoming:

Image result for Spiderman homecoming

Spidey also got a cameo in Civil War, and one of the fun parts of this movie is how those events were shown from Peter’s point of view. There’s also a more realistic look at the problems of being a superhero : how do you find crimes to stop? How do you tell the guy locked out of his own car from the professional car thief? And, obviously, what do you do when you find out your prom date’s father is a supervillain? (I admit, I don’t know if prom and homecoming are different things, and have no interest in finding out…). Despite the struggles, the film is fun and bears many rewatches.

Ant Man and the Wasp

Image result for Ant man and the wasp

This was the first sequel where I found myself telling other people “Yeah, you maybe should watch a few of the other Marvel movies to get the most out of this one.” You don’t HAVE to, but it does make more sense if you do.

I like this movie particularly because Evangeline Lily actually gets to do stuff, and it features Hannah John-Kamen, who is awesome (I’m a big “Killjoys” fan). From the trailers we’ve seen for Endgame, there’s a lot of significance in the plot of “Ant Man and the Wasp” with regard to the Quantum realm and time manipulation and stuff. Unless that’s all a red herring.

Doctor Strange:

Image result for Doctor Strange

There’s a recurring theme with me and these Marvel movies: Characters I’m not interested in get movies, and I enjoy them way more than I thought I would. It happened with Thor, Black Panther, Ant Man and then Doctor Strange. Again, there was a sense of “Wait, we have to learn about ANOTHER new character?” but of course he’s tied to another one of the Infinity Stones, so we have to learn who he is and how he became the master of the mystic arts. I found the film enjoyable, despite the American accent Benedict Cumberbatch had to put on, though I wish Rachel McAdam had more to do in the movie.

Thor Ragnarok:

Image result for Thor Ragnarok

This is THE family favourite. If there’s a three-way tie for the Friday night movie, we can always compromise with Ragnarok. The look of the film, the lines, the characters, and the story all work well for us. The only stain on the movie is knowing what comes next.

Avengers: Infinity War

Image result for infinity war

Which brings us up to date. One of the things I admire most about this movie is that it allows the heroes to succeed in every way but the vital one – they defeat the minor henchmen, they stay alive against the odds, they drive off threats, and yet even when they band together and Thor produces his special weapon, Thanos (spoiler alert!) gets all the stones and clicks his fingers. It’s a tough job to do: write a story where both the villains and heroes are capable, and the heroes don’t win by default, and the villains don’t win because of an unlikely error.

We’re hoping to go and see Endgame in the first week it’s out. I don’t doubt there will be spoilers galore, and I’ll do what I can to avoid them, but I spend a lot of time online, and some people delight in ruining these things. A few days before I was going to see “The Force Awakens”, someone posted a picture of Han being skewered by Kylo Ren. No words, just the photo, dropped into a timeline where people would not have a choice about whether or not they would see it. Because I knew it was coming, I spent a lot of the movie in a permanent cringe. These things matter. Don’t be a spoiler.

I enjoyed rewatching all these movies, and I think we’ll do it again another time. They’re all still good, despite the fact that it’s been a decade or more that they’ve been being released. It was a bold strategy, and I’m glad it paid off, but I hope it doesn’t become the accepted norm. Not everything needs an interconnected universe to tell a story, and it’s telling the story that’s the important part of every movie.