Reverse flick.

Today’s practice was all about throwing my cane up in the air and catching it. The throwing is so easy. Making sure it lands where you want it to, not so much. I’ve been practicing it on-and-off since last week. So it wasn’t all that difficult. There’s this little bit where, at the end of the toss, you give a reverse flick. The resulting spin is much more exciting, and the flick makes it easier to keep the cane up close instead of flying off into the distance.

Thinking on that reverse flick makes me wonder: in daily life, are there other actions where such a subtle reversal helps keep everything in place?

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Heard over the weekend

There was a point when I spun fire sword last weekend. I heard someone in the audience commenting to his friend that it was clear that I had martial arts experience. I had to smile. I don’t think I know a lot of sword style, but apparently I know just enough to impress the audience.

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Back in action

Phew. The broken toe put me out of commission for a few weeks, but I’m finally starting to feel like my old self again. Well… With a private festival last weekend and a baby renaissance fair a couple of weekends before that, you could say I’ve been feeling pretty chipper. Especially if you exclude the limping. 😉

So there I was, absent-mindedly practicing on my way to and from the usual lunch time place. My two canes were alternating between hook-stick and split-stick. My attention was somewhat split. There wasn’t any particular effort to my movements. I was going through the motions strictly for the sake of going through the motions. It felt good.

Now, sitting at my desk writing this post, I realize that I’m plateauing. The ideas have flowed, and now they’re refining towards the next creative explosion.  This is the perfect stage to be in for a benchmark video.

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At Loss for Words

I’ve been thinking a lot on my communication skills as of late. Maybe I do fine. I don’t really know. But what I get is a sense that I’m a beginner in a sea of experts. I’m not sure if I can explain the why, but I’ll list out a couple.

To start, many a time, I’ll be talking to someone, and I’ll get anxious. Coming from other disciplines, it feels like beginner’s anxiety. If that’s what it is, all I can do to deal is to keep practicing until the what-to-do and the how-to-do-it become automatic.

Following the last point, there are lots of times when I only manage to respond to what someone said after-the-fact instead of in-the-moment.

Skipping the hour of thought needed to flesh this into a fully developed essay, it’s about being able to tease out a fully fleshed conversation on the spur of the moment. Ideally, to make even a total stranger at ease and to have a healthy exchange of ideas. It’s a dream of mine. One of many. And I have such a long way to go.

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Triage of Dreams

Two Sundays ago, I fractured my big toe. It’s slowed me down quite a bit. Now I find myself looking at a shelf in the living room and asking myself: “Am I ever going to get that costume piece done?” Two shelves below, there are a pair of anvils. I find myself asking, “Am I even interested in getting back to blacksmithing?” Next to me is a sewing machine a friend gave me. I don’t even know when I’ll get around to learning how to use it. It’s times like this when you really have to sit down and look at all the little things you’ve accumulated, sift through the dreams that brought them to you, and decide what to hold on to and what to let go of.

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I got fans.

Yup. They’re fire fans. Yes-sirree. That’s my serious face.

Fire fans. Serious face.

It’s a very serious face. It’s a face that says, “I just bought these fans today, and I have no clue why.” Where did I get these fans? The Flow Market. It’s a yearly event at the Floasis, a haven for fire spinners in Brooklyn, and a fantastic place where all your fire dreams come true… OK. If your dreams involve about hanging with great fire spinners, fantastic performers, and other amazing people, then the Flow Market is for you. It’s also a great party.

Still not sure why I bought those fire fans, but I guarantee you I’ll be practicing with them.

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The Search for Sound : Part 2

Hot. Damn.

The violin is sexy, like super sexy. I want that violin. And the music? I want to go there. I so very want to go there. I want to go there, stop for a bit to enjoy the view, and then keep going.

That’s one. Here’s hoping for more.

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The Search for Sound

If you didn’t know, I play violin. I’ve heard plenty of people far better than me, but if you need a strings guy, I’ll do in a pinch. After a long dry spell, I started playing again as of… last year. Next thing I knew, I loaned out my only violin. It came back, but not being able to play while it was gone was intolerable. So I picked up an electric violin as soon as I possibly could. It’s an entry level NS Design  Wav 4 violin. It’s electric. So of course I want to do something different. Heck. I want to do something I wouldn’t even imagine doing with an acoustic.

Figuring out this electric violin thing is already quite a journey. I’m still at the “what-do-I-need-to-make-this-work?” phase. Any week now (before fall, please?), I’ll be plugging my violin into my computer to figure out how I can mangle, stretch, and otherwise distort the sound.

Tonight, I took a brief look at the electric violin world through the eye of YouTube. First up, Vanessa Mae:

How can I put this? It’s a violin that happens to be electric that’s played by a (skilled) chick. Next up, Linzi Stoppard.

Another hot chick violin. I’m I being harsh? Hell yes. Both of these women are fantastic musicians. I could easily play their music for hours. But right now, it’s not what I’m looking for. And it really drove home that there’s this “hot chick playing violin” thing. I’m a guy. I don’t get to play that game.

Here we go. A little bit of distortion in the sound.

(There’s that hot chick thing again. As a performer, it makes me go oh well.) I like the distortion. Definitely playing with that.

Next up, another rock cover.

I like the sound of this. I could do something with that. But what else can I do. Where the last one said, “BTW. I really am a violin.”, this one screams VIOLIN!

Have you heard of live looping? No? What rock have you been under? Here’s an example.

He’s playing a WAV! And I’ve been looking at both of those pedals! And yes, about 3 minutes in, the guy really starts mixing it up acoustically. Not sure if it’s what I’m looking for. But I definitely need an effects pedal and a looping pedal.

Here’s another looper, Peter Lee Johnson.

That’s a six string violin he’s playing. He mixes it up with precussions, plucking (I’m a horrible plucker. Must fix.), and the fact that he’s playing a six string violin. I like the sounds coming out of it.

Jumping back, now it’s Linzi Stoppard and Ben Lee.

On the one hand, kashmir with two violins. On the other hand, very violin.

So far, I’m not getting an electric violin vibe. I get the “violin that happens to be electric”  vibe. I get the “violin that kind of sounds like a guitar” vibe. I get the “live looping is awesome” vibe. I also get the “why haven’t you started plucking your strings” vibe. None of this gives me that electric violin vibe. I want that electric violin sound.

Am I crazy for wanting to take the sound of my violin through a meat grinder? Probably. Will I succeed? Probably not. But a guy needs goals. No?

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Impressions from Dance Class

(A messy, unedited stream-of-consciousness recounting of tonight’s dance class.)

Oh no! I’m running late! I should have set aside time to eat before class. I’m going to flake out. I kno… No. I’m going to stay focused.


Made it to class. Still feel like I should do more for the warm-up. Oh well. I’ll just stretch as best I can. Stretching, stretching, stretching…

Oh good. The warm-up…  Here comes the c-curve! More warm-ups. …. Ooh. I like that move.  And it uses ac-curve! I could use that. …. More warm-ups…. OMG! Legs! Keeping up! Keeping! Up!

Wow. We’re at the dance section already. Yeay. As long as I follow the dance teacher, I can almost follow along… Wait… I’m at the end where everyone can see me. I’ll just keep moving. … That’s how that wor… Keeping up… OMG. Starting to flake. …. The teacher’s having a student lead(!!!)… Following. Following. Lost but still going….

Done! My head hurts. …. Oh. More lessons. …. HOW am I going to tie this into my cane spinning! …. Ooh. The other students are talking about exciting arts/computer projects, but I’m too flaked out to speak up…

(class ends)

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Horizontal Hands

Open hand, pull position.Between a party, a heavy practice session, and getting back into bicycling, everything hurt today. So I focused on how to shape my hands while doing horizontal spins. In my explorations, I found two basic positions that feel natural and minimize on hand strain. What I came up with is what you see on the left. The curl of my hands is “bent” to shift the cane from the pointer finger to the thumb. The pinky and the ring fingers work in conjunction with the thumb to push the outer end of the cane towards the center of the body. The pointer finger is used with the palm to pull the outer end of the cane away from the center of the body. And the middle finger acts as a pivot. As you can tell, the first picture is the hand in the pull position. The pinky and the ring fingers could be completely straight, and you could still pull the cane away from your center. In practice, you’re more likely to have your hand bent like so. That way, you just have to move your arm to move the cane into the right plane. The cane will be nestled on your hand by those little fingers. And if you toss the cane from hand to hand, they’ll help you trap the cane while catching it. No need to close your hand either. Just let it land and move with the cane if it wants to slide.

Push position - thumb bent.Let’s say you want to push the cane back into center. Your hand might look something like this. The bent thumb makes it easier to get that thumb out of the way. And the pinky is ready to curl in to assist.   Thumb management is very important when spinning a cane. I can’t tell you how many times I fumbled a move because my thumb got in the way. So I’m always working on tucking the thumb down against to avoid getting my cane caught up in it.

Let’s take one more look at the pull position. It’s not all that far from the push position. If you keep your thumb open, it’s the difference between laying the outer end of the cane on the  pointer finger and resting it on the thumb, as I do in this last picture. Based on this first study of hand positions for horizontal cane spinning, it’s possible that I may tighten up the difference between the two so that the difference between them becomes imperceptible over time. Then again, switching between the positions is a good way to get the cane spinning. So perhaps it won’t work out that way.

Only time will tell.

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