Sunday, 28 October 2012

Learned pigs and Fireproof Woman

Based on Ricky Jay's book of the same title, this special was made up of a combination of magic, juggling, amazing feats, stunts, and performances, including a musical performance on wine glasses, a human calculator who could determine cube-routes of numbers in her head, and an antique acrobatic clockwork doll.

This is an hour long variety show, cheesy but with some great stuff in there including Ricky Jay, Steve Martin, Michael Moschen, Jamie Turner. It reminds me of a Muppet show episode.

Ricky Jay is one of the world's great sleight-of-hand artists. He is also a most unusual and talented scholar, specializing in the bizarre, exotic, and fantastic side of the human species. The youngest magician to have appeared on television, Jay has become well known for his astonishing stage show as well as for his cameos in such movies as Glengarry Glen Ross and, most recently, Boogie Nights.
Jay's unparalleled collection of books, posters, photographs, programs, broadsides, and, most important, data about unjustifiably forgotten entertainers all over the world made this unique book possible. An investigation into the inspired world of sideshows, circuses, and singularly talented performers, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women is history of the most unusual -- and irresistible -- sort.

Postapocalyptic Teller

A strange post-apocalyptic dream starring Teller.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Way of the Showman

The way of the showman
is the way between
Between real and imagined
Between the illuminated entrance
and the "Exit Only" sign

Along the midway
there are rides, carousels and carnies
You choose which one you get on
Some rides go round and round
and round and round
When you get off are back where you started?
Some says that is going nowhere
But you don't get on a ride
to go anywhere.
You get on for the experience.
You don't enter the carnival
because you want to get to the end

Or as T S Elliot said:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Life is a Carnival
You don't know what's waiting
around the bend by the ghost train
Or behind the sideshow tent
But you know
it's gonna be interesting,
weird and beautiful -
In its own unique way.

Such is the Way of the Showman
Join us
You will love it

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants

I first saw Ricky Jay on the Paul Daniels show. The routine he performed was a card throwing routine. He threw playing cards with great precision and force. I was amazed I had never seen anything like it. I later found out he has also written a book on the subject; Cards as Weapons.

I was first made aware of this remarkable show when a friend in Edinburgh sent me a DVD taped of a tape of a tape... This is a great combination of well crafted patter, remarkable skills, unusual feats and solid showmanship.

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

So You Want to be a Writer

I really like Charles Bukowski's poetry. This is a poem about the fire inside, advice to those who want to tread the Way of the Showman.
Or as the person posting the clip below says in his description:
"This is Charles Bukowski telling Charles Bukowski how to write like Charles Bukowski."
I dont know if I believe you need to have a starry furnace in your belly to find a purposeful existence from expressing them through art. If it makes you happy, its a start, and if you persist it will eventually make others happy too.

so you want to be a writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

{via BrainPickings}

Monday, 22 October 2012

Showmen, turn on immunosystems

Here at the Illuminated Showman we are very interested in the Placebo effect. We do believe that this strange and highly interesting phenomenon of self healing is an important key not only to the origin of Showmen but the genuine healing properties of showmanship.
The early Shamans, which we believe to have been proto-showmen using the very special and intimate connections of showmanship to actually heal the sick. The shamans role was that of healer, spiritual leader or guide so a mix between priest and doctor as well as a form of sacred entertainer. {You can read more about this Showman / Shaman link here the power of tricks, truth in reality and deception.}
I do believe that an understanding of the nature of the Placebo effect will explain in one big swoop why the whole arsenal of alternative medicine has some effect in healing people. The theory below, that there might be an on/off switch controlled by our minds that can turn on a full immune-system response or not seems to shed some light on a possible mechanism for this strange effect.
"There is a simple explanation, says Trimmer: the immune system is costly to run - so costly that a strong and sustained response could dangerously drain an animal's energy reserves. In other words, as long as the infection is not lethal, it pays to wait for a sign that fighting it will not endanger the animal in other ways."
As unique performers we do not have the luxury of being able to take sick days. During a run of shows at a festival we cant ring in and say we cant make it. Often, particularly in smaller companies or for certain in solo shows not showing up is not an option. SO I have myself experienced that I might feel a little under the weather during a season but as soon as it ends it becomes a full blown flu or something akin to it. There are even cases when I think I am well as can be only to find the first week of my holiday being hampered by a bug of some sort. If what the researchers below is true it would explain this phenomenon of "sickness on days off".
From an evolutionary stand point it makes a lot of sense to get sick, or to "give in to" the sickness when some stressor vanishes. The mechanism would of course have been more important when the stressor was a dangerous mammoth hunt, where not only your own life and those of the hunters was in danger but the possible starvation of the whole clan.

{It turns out that this idea was first proposed by Nicholas Humphrey which has recently been featured on this site.}

 The article below is from the {New Scientist}

Evolution could explain the placebo effect

 {06 September 2012 by Colin Barras}
ON THE face of it, the placebo effect makes no sense. Someone suffering from a low-level infection will recover just as nicely whether they take an active drug or a simple sugar pill. This suggests people are able to heal themselves unaided - so why wait for a sugar pill to prompt recovery?
New evidence from a computer model offers a possible evolutionary explanation, and suggests that the immune system has an on-off switch controlled by the mind.
It all starts with the observation that something similar to the placebo effect occurs in many animals, says Peter Trimmer, a biologist at the University of Bristol, UK. For instance, Siberian hamsters do little to fight an infection if the lights above their lab cage mimic the short days and long nights of winter. But changing the lighting pattern to give the impression of summer causes them to mount a full immune response.
Likewise, those people who think they are taking a drug but are really receiving a placebo can have a response which is twice that of those who receive no pills (Annals of Family Medicine, In Siberian hamsters and people, intervention creates a mental cue that kick-starts the immune response.
There is a simple explanation, says Trimmer: the immune system is costly to run - so costly that a strong and sustained response could dangerously drain an animal's energy reserves. In other words, as long as the infection is not lethal, it pays to wait for a sign that fighting it will not endanger the animal in other ways.
Nicholas Humphrey, a retired psychologist formerly at the London School of Economics, first proposed this idea a decade ago, but only now has evidence to support it emerged from a computer model designed by Trimmer and his colleagues.
According to Humphrey's picture, the Siberian hamster subconsciously acts on a cue that it is summer because food supplies to sustain an immune response are plentiful at that time of year. We subconsciously respond to treatment - even a sham one - because it comes with assurances that it will weaken the infection, allowing our immune response to succeed rapidly without straining the body's resources.
Trimmer's simulation is built on this assumption - that animals need to spend vital resources on fighting low-level infections. The model revealed that, in challenging environments, animals lived longer and sired more offspring if they endured infections without mounting an immune response. In more favourable environments, it was best for animals to mount an immune response and return to health as quickly as possible (Evolution and Human Behavior, The results show a clear evolutionary benefit to switching the immune system on and off depending on environmental conditions.
"I'm pleased to see that my theory stands up to computational modelling," says Humphrey. If the idea is right, he adds, it means we have misunderstood the nature of placebos. Farming and other innovations in the past 10,000 years mean that many people have a stable food supply and can safely mount a full immune response at any time - but our subconscious switch has not yet adapted to this. A placebo tricks the mind into thinking it is an ideal time to switch on an immune response, says Humphrey.
Paul Enck at the University of Tübingen in Germany says it is an intriguing idea, but points out that there are many different placebo responses, depending on the disease. It is unlikely that a single mechanism explains them all, he says.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Beat Magazine interviews the Captain

[Captain Frodo] puts on a master class of physical comedy, as if the black and white films of Buster Keaton had come alive and actually were funny.  

JACK FRANKLIN, Beat Magazine

The following is from an interview with yours truly from Beat Magazine in Melbourne in preparation for La Soiree's season in Melbourne starting October 11th with its first preview.  (reading the direct transcription of my words from an interview they do sound convoluted... They would benefit for some editing...)

David O'mer from La Soiree.
"La Soirée (rebadged from its Spiegeltent days of La Clique) is an absolutely wonderful, horrifying, impossible, astounding joy. It is a circus to stretch the sensibilities, a sideshow that has been given a full reign. It is as bawdy as it is sinfully beautiful. It is a true cabaret, not some grubby burlesque but a good old-fashioned variety show with full frontal nudity, coarse language and adult concepts are all expected, sometimes before you even make it to your seat. A rotating cast of miscreants form the rogue’s gallery that passes for a cast, each bringing a unique talent to bare in front of an ever more shocked and shrieking (with laughter or approval) audience. From the famous Bath Boy with his tight, wet, denim acrobatics through to the corpulent showstopper in spandex, Le Gateau Chocolat – no two acts are the same or even remotely similar to anything you have seen.
The show is about the personality of each performer: Captain Frodo, Frodo is his real name by the way, could be called just simple contortionist but that would be huge undersell. He first performed aged ten alongside his father, a magician, and the years of performance and showmanship shine brightly. He puts on a master class of physical comedy, as if the black and white films of Buster Keaton had come alive and actually were funny.   
“I had been doing contortion stuff for a long time and you need to find your own angle on everything,” he says of his act. “Because of the stuff I have been given by nature, my act is a very visceral experience for people. People find it very challenging to watch. When you are doing it as a street show and people haven’t paid and are committed to sitting through something, then if what you do is too challenging to watch they cover their kids’ eyes or walk away. So to develop a character that is a bit slapstick in they style of Chaplin is a good thing since in that context ,if somebody gets a brick in the head it’s funny where as in real life it is a tragedy. So I have found a way to present something that by its very nature makes people uneasy and makes it palatable.
If you can get the crowd on your side, they will go with you much further than they thought. When you do take the crowd with you, when they give up their apprehension, their pleasure and excitement is shocking and exciting to them.   “There might be people that disappear hankies, squeeze through tennis rackets or juggle knives better than us but the acts in this show transcend their talent so that it becomes about a story and a character, transporting the crowd to places they wouldn’t even have thought they would enjoy – it might have sounded vulgar or repulsive to them – but we change the rules to make it safe to enjoy.”
La Soirée will be delighting those brave enough to attend at The Forum Theatre from Thursday October 11 through to Sunday November 18.

Bikini Kill - Carnival

This is a song about the seedy underbelly of the carnival
The part that only the kids know about
This is a song about 16 year old girls giving carnies head
For free rides and hits of pot

I wanna go, I wanna go
I wanna go to the carnival
But it costs $16 yeah
I wanna go to the carnival
But I know it costs $16 now

Round, round, round...
Gonna lose $20 while I'm there
See the girls with the feathered hair
They're wearing plastic, not real leather
Boots that go way up to there

Round, round, round...
It's by the Lacey mall,
That's where you'll find me, yeah.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Freak Cards

These gorgeous trading cards of famous freaks are the creations of symbolist painter Gail Potocki. Most posters and cards made of freaks seem to only use them for their sensationalist value, these paintings on the other hand transcends their physical uniqueness.
The printing of the cards was done by the Century Guild and I believe there still are copies available. Click over and check them out here.
Gail Potocki also has a book out called The Union of Hope and Sadness which is worth checking out.


Monday, 1 October 2012

What if money was no object?

Alan Watts, Zen Master.
The question of how to find what you love is perhaps one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself.
We who have found and love the Way of the Showman are lucky. People tell me that I am lucky to get to live this life style, to travel the world and have so much fun and enthusiasm about what I do. Part of me feels a little miffed. To get here took more than luck.
You make your own luck and the harder you work the luckier you get. The luck part for me is that I found what I love and that I found it so early. I really have been doing what I love for my entire life.
When I listen to the words in the clip below I find that the words not only resonate deeply with me, they also very much describe choices I have taken in life.
Believe me when I say that there were time I could not rub two cents together. (Often because I was in a country which didn't use dollars and cents, but still). I did not decide to squeeze through two tennis rackets or to swallow swords because I thought it would make me rich. Just like the Zen Master predicted, that came later ;-).

"…If you do really like what you are doing - it doesn't really matter what it is - you can eventually become a master of it. It's the only way of becoming the master of something, to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is."

This is an inspiring oration by the Illuminated Alan Watts and his thoughts are worthy of some serious contemplation.

"So I always ask the question: What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Well it's so amazing as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say 'Well, we'd like to be painters, we'd like to be poets, we'd like to be writers' But as everybody knows you can't earn any money that way! Another person says 'Well I'd like to live an out-of-door's life and ride horses.' I said 'You wanna teach in a riding school?'

Let's go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do I will say to him 'You do that! And forget the money!' Because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing you will spend your life completely wasting your time! You'll be doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living - that is to go on doing things you don't like doing! Which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of which you like doing then a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing - it doesn't really matter what it is - you can eventually become a master of it. It's the only way of becoming the master of something, to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don't worry too much, somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in, you'll find others who are.

But it's absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don't like in order to go on spending things you don't like, doing things you don't like and to teach our children to follow the same track. See, what we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lifes we are living. In order they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. So it's all retch and no vomit - it never gets there! And so therefore it's so important to consider this question:

What do I desire?"

- Alan Watts