The benefit of video is that you can get a snapshot from the exact moment you want, which in this case is when the whip cut the cards in half. Yes, yes, the cards, not the poor fellow's fingertips. Hence the bright red welder's gloves. If you look closely you'll even see that I switch hands half way through. Hence the bright red welder's gloves again, 'cos frankly my right ain't as good as my left.
Canmore Children's Festival was today. Man, what a great theatre space they have over at the school where it takes place! Raked seating, great sound system, proper crappy splintered sofa in the green room, everything a real theatre should have.
I was booked to do the Parker Doodlebug Variety Show (Parker Doodlebug being my alter-ego, an eccentric Victorian inventor who believes he's created the world's first true panacea and goes to great lengths to convince everyone that it works the way he thinks it does), and this time it included the whip-cracking finale. Yay!
The festival is always brilliantly put-together and well organised with great volunteers, great talent and a wonderful head honcho, and you know I'm being honest because head dude Casey Prescott doesn't even know I have a blog and will never read this. Will you, Casey?
And the accommodation they put us up in! Whew. Ok, a plug - Blackstone Lodge in Canmore, Alberta, bless you for helping the festival the way you do. Your apartments rock. Your tubs are Suez Canal deep, your beds are Goldilocks comfy, and you look swish. Well done.
Move over, Mr Whippy, there's a new kid in town. He's 11 years old and because he's related to me and sometimes likes me too, he's unlikely to sue if practice goes wrong.
Normally reticent to get involved, yesterday my nephew proved quite keen to dress up like (as Jade pointed out) a Monty Python Holy Grail extra and let me cut playing cards in half with a whip while he held them between his fingers. Not only that, he demanded I also try to knock a pop can off his head and disembowel a couple of balloon animals as he clutched them.
The cards worked well. The pop can took time (it's a different move I haven't practiced), and the balloons failed badly. Man, can those things absorb abuse! Whack whack whack and they still come back for more.
Jonas, my nephew, has even requested that I use him as my victim during my show at Turner Valley Discovery Day next month. The venue is close to where he lives so if I fail he's only a short limp from home.
I've compensated for the fact that we still don't have rabbits (despite a recent fact-finding mission to the Calgary Humane Society, an outing which by all accounts ought to have seen us return home with at least three more mouths to feed) by adding to our family in other ways.
I've built a plywood silhouette in our back garden and named him Sideshow Bob. It was either that or Mr. Whippy but if I'm going to get done for copyright infringement I'd rather get sued by the Simpsons than a New Zealand ice cream van franchise. (Actually, now that I put it in writing the Kiwi thing sounds a bit cooler than it did.)
Sideshow Bob's sole function in life is to hold playing cards in his outstretched hands so that I can cut them in half with a whip. He was born of necessity: I couldn't find anyone willing to stand in the garden with a bucket on their head and welding gloves on their hands, pinching cards between their fingers while I make mistakes with a stockwhip for an hour at a time.
When a person holds a playing card while wearing welding gloves the available target is about 3" wide, so it's taken me some time to get reliable enough with the whip. Missing the card to the outside is fine; it builds suspense. Missing the card to the inside is not so good; no one likes to get their hand whipped, even while wearing gloves. I tried larger targets like balloons and was amazed at how much force the balloons could absorb without popping. Generally they just moved out of the way with a 'thwup' sound. Fine for practice as it means putting up new targets less often, but a bit of a let-down if you're in the audience.
The routine is part of the new variety show I've been putting together for my Victorian alter-ego Parker Doodlebug. The show is making its debut next week at the Canmore Children's Festival, at which point I will indeed be using a real volunteer. With a bucket on their head and welding gloves on their hands.
Check out the bucket, too - a little bit of paint, an angle grinder, some foam insulation and chicken wire and you too could have protective headgear that lends you a certain...je ne sais quoi.
My friend and fellow-magician Paul Spenard called yesterday to bring me in for a last-minute booking at an up-market 'lifestyle salon' opening in Calgary. Quite a big do - superb catering, ballerinas in the window, Marie Antoinette-types lounging languidly on setees, a Rat Pack crooner in the lobby and Paul and colleagues taking photos of anyone and everyone.
Paul Spenard snapped this photo at the end of the evening.