Another epic absence from the world of blogging. Or at least a faintly embarrassing length. We were off in England for three weeks for a friend's wedding plus a little holiday and are now firmly ensconced in a Canadian winter again. Icicles hanging from the guttering in front of my window. Minus somethingorother outside.
But to cheer us all up, how about this. Pretty astonishing. One of the coolest bits of trivia I've come across in a while.
Off to England tomorrow afternoon. My friend Steve is getting married and yours truly will be playing best man for the first time ever. It seems there isn't a wedding category for 'fairly pleasant fellow' or 'alright guy' so I've accepted the best man role in spite of its apparent hubris.
We'll be catching up with a handful of friends and seeing some places we've never been before. Hoping to get to Bletchley Park, Blenheim Palace, maybe even London House to look up some family military records that have now been opened.
James Freedman, one of the best-known stage pickpockets around (and author of at least one book and DVD on the topic...for magicians, of course) has appeared at TED London. It's a shame it's so short - I would have preferred a proper 20 minute talk, but so it goes.
I love this. I just wish they'd shown more of the mechanism. I've built one or two very simple automata but nothing nearly this complex...or clever!
On an unrelated note, the bunnies have had a companion for a week - our next-door neighbours' dog Rosco, an ageing lab-sized dog. Well-behaved and timid, though you wouldn't know it from Augustus' anxious reaction. Snowdon couldn't care less and even sniffed Rosco nose to nose, but not Augustus, the Guard Bunny. The rabbits are in large pens all week until Rosco goes, which is tomorrow morning.
A friend recently posted this link and I had to share it. It made me laugh and laugh and laugh - what an incredible combination of creativity, simplicity, precision, observation and humour. I'm going to make myself some popcorn and watch it on a loop until bedtime.
Yay! Festival done and dusted, and what a lot of fun it was. It's been... ooooooh... eighteen years since I've been to a festival in Edmonton or thereabouts and I got to meet up with four old friends and acquaintances I haven't seen since the mid-1990s. Yeah. We're all a bit wrinklier but in surprisingly good shape, I have to say.
1. the paper fight at the end of Russian/American clown show Aga Boom. Real clowns, these guys, not the creepy I-own-a-silly-wig-and-rainbow-striped-trousers wannabes. Trained clowns. The real deal. And they were great. The paper fight at the end starts off small but engulfs the audience in showers of confetti, a dozen oversize balloons (two of them about 9 foot in diameter!), streams of toilet paper and tarpaulin-sized sheets of newsprint. Mayhem and chaos and very, very liberating...unless you have a touch of tidiness-OCD, in which case it's enough to send you into paroxysms of panic. Sadly on opening night Irena (the spiky-haired clown) went to throw a bundle of rubbish off the stage into the audience, slipped and ended up breaking five ribs by landing on the arm of a seat in the front row. Soldiered on for the rest of the show but is now out of commission for months to come. Below is a photo of the aftermath...
2. the worm-puppet doing MC Hammer's 'Can't Touch This' in The Ugly Duckling (done by Corbain Visual Arts and Dance & Lightwire Theater). Mmmm. Funnier than it ought to be.
3. the incredible set of Alice in Wonderland - vanishing doorways, sliding bookcase panels, flipping shelves revealing puppets and people... Superb fun.
4. the grand finale show. The audience was wonderfully responsive and my five-minute bit of silliness was a highlight for me. What a warm, delightful crowd...and my young volunteer Conrad made it all work.
And a couple of short videos, if I can upload them. Trying it a new way today.
Here's James Hill on the outdoor stage doing a little Rimsky-Korsakoff and making the ukulele cooler than ever...
Ahhhh. Back home now. Warm baths. Chiropractor visits. Bunny hugs.
You have every right to pillory me for the ever-lengthening gaps between blog posts but I'll be honest with you - I write when I feel I have something worth writing about. Or just when I'm in the mood. And that's not all that often. But today it's time. Why? Because I've just returned from my first ever trip to Las Vegas.
And we loved every flippin' moment of it. I had people telling me that my planned eight days would be far too long ("Four days is all you'll be able to handle," said one person. "We got bored after three," said another.) And to them I say "thpffffft."
We both loved it. In spite of a mini-April-heatwave (up to 35 degrees C) it was tolerable and for the first three days we just walked and walked and walked. And looked at the lights, and watched people playing games, and checked out each and every hotel on the strip, and and and.
In a nutshell, we saw five shows, explored countless casinos and hotels, went window-shopping in laughably expensive places (seriously - $28,900 for a watch? No jewels or precious metals, just a nice watch), drove to Hoover Dam, drove to the Grand Canyon and took a helicopter ride, hit the pawn shop from History Channel's 'Pawn Stars',
and even went shopping. Oh - and even found the Zombie Apocalypse Store, for all your Armageddon needs.
The magic shops (I found four of them) were by turns slick-but-dull, slick-and-duller, dire-and-empty, and ok-but-uninspired-and-mundane. Such a disappointment. Someone seriously needs to put together a real (ie not for tourists) well-stocked magic shop with some rockin' decor - plush carpet, secret doorways, wood cabinetry, red velvet chairs and a wide range of real working magic stuff. Not just kits aimed at visitors.
So...shows. Saw Penn and Teller. Absolute masters of their craft. Showmen. Polished, original, funny, engaging and eminently watchable. (Me with Teller after the show...)
Then Mac King. Not as famous among laypeople as he deserves. Warm, funny, and again very watchable.
And then there were two other magic acts I'm not even going to mention by name because I didn't enjoy either one. Neither was satisfying, admirable, entertaining or original. Disappointment.
So here I am, back in Canada, writing this in the rain. But it's good to be back.
Next Sunday and Monday I've been invited to be a special guest at the next installment of the Mountain View Festival's lineup. Each month they put together an intimate evening of chamber music, sometimes interspersed with 'extra' entertainment. The last one I saw was all music by Chopin along with a very talented actress presenting a series of monologues in the character of Chopin's lover, George Sand.
So yours truly is up next week! The theme is English composers (with a slight romantic theme, being just before Valentine's day). It's held at the ever-wonderful Lougheed House which is the ideal atmosphere for something like this. The main room there can hold perhaps 80 people at the most and it's always fun. A glass of wine, some good conversation and an hour and a half of chamber music. And me, this time.
Just before Christmas I was invited to perform at the Make A Wish Foundation's annual fundraiser in Calgary. They had a professional photographer - Phil Crozier - there with his studio lights and backdrop, taking portraits of all the guests. He kindly took a few of me before I went onstage - I love the results!
Ok, so perhaps this is partly because it has its share of magic inside-jokes, but boy this is good. Helge Thun is magnificent regardless but this song made me giggle (and remember, English is his second language). In fact, it's the only die box routine I've ever seen that I actually enjoyed. Usually it's such drivel.
By special request from a friend in Orkney, here's the video. It seems for some reason people in the UK can no longer see this on Youtube. How can it have been blocked? I don't know, but let's hope this goes a short way to remedying the problem!