~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~


Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Thoughts Following A Recent Photo Shoot

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

For those of you who may have actually checked in on my Blog when I was writing on a more regular basis you’ll realize that I’ve been on Hiatus for about seven and a half months, and it’s not like this post really triggers my return to regular blogging , nor am I following the sort of guidelines that I set up at the very beginning for trying to spew out certain content on certain days… That’s all the disclaimer part… Now for the meat of the post…

A week ago I went back into the studio for a photo shoot with the specific goal in mind of capturing some more images to promote the Street Show and Festival work I do. The photo above is an example of the sort of stuff that came out of the shoot and for the most part I’m really super pleased with the shots we got! Kevin Clark, the photographer I worked with is awesome and is willing to put himself in almost harms way to get great shots! Also in attendance was my Manager, Corwin Heibert, who’s awesomeness is hard to describe. Corwin brought treats when he arrived, made sure props where where they needed to be, created a shot list to make sure we covered all of the ground we were hoping to cover, he generally oversaw things so that Kevin and I could play and worry more about capturing the fun nature of what I do than the pesky details that make any endeavour run smoothly.

Yesterday I swung by the studio to pick up a couple of discs worth of raw materials… In the two and a half hours (give or take) that I was at the studio last week we had nineteen set-ups, four costume changes with minor tweaks along the way, multiple props and a whole lot of fun capturing just over four hundred images.

While the experience is still reasonably fresh in my head and as I pour over the images on my screen, I wanted to make some notes (as much for myself as anyone else) about the things that worked and the things that I maybe could have improved upon so that the next time I go into the studio I’m more prepared and get an even higher percentage of awesome shots. Here then, in no particular order is a list of observations and self reminders for ‘the next time.’

  • Having Corwin at the shoot was awesome. Having someone to assist with props, keep the shoot moving forward and make sure all of the things that need to be in place are in place made the shoot go really really smoothly. This was great!
  • I occasionally use my yellow jacket when I’m doing street work, but I think I probably featured it more in the photo shoot than I should have. I don’t think I really got as many ‘non-jacket’ shots as I might have liked.
  • There’s a difference between doing what I do and getting a good studio shot… I like the shots of me posing with my ladder far more than the shots where I’m actually climbing the ladder… In future, remember to capitalize on being able to set up ‘posed’ shots in the studio and worry about capturing action shots when I’m in performance.
  • Check Check Check my hair each and every time that I put on a hat. Trust those around you, but don’t rely on other people in the studio to tell you your hair’s OK… I know how I like my hair to look much more than anyone else and many shots were compromised because I neglected to run a comb or brush through the haystack on my head after I’d had a hat on.
  • Interesting studio shots can involve the use of props in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with how those props are used in my show. This was true in the case of the ladder example above, but was true at other times during the shoot as well. Don’t pass over props that don’t seem as dynamic because you can make anything interesting if posed correctly and sometimes these possibly skipped over props can create some of the most interesting images.
  • Many things can be cleaned up in Post… I did a shoot wearing my stage outfit and forgot to wear my bow tie. I actually went in and did a second shoot with the bow tie, but some of the shots from the first shoot were so good that I ended up having the bow tie cut out from some of the shots in the second shoot and put into the shots from the first shoot. Photoshop can fix a world of pain!
Share This Post

Huge Time Suck Vol. 2

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

So… Over the past few months… Since about the beginning of the year really I’ve begun to notice how much time this Blogging thing is sucking up… Like ALOT! I started this project back at the beginning of 2009 as a way to force myself to write something other than emails which was the topic of “Huge Time Suck Vol. 1″ back on February 12, 2009 but now I’m finding that this Blog is turning into almost as much of a time consumer as the email (though lets be honest, few things can suck time up as efficiently as responding to notes in your inbox).

Sat down with my manager today and had a meeting about various things… Stuff I should be working on, stuff that could help move my ‘career’ (I still can’t believe I refer to what I do as ‘a career’) forward and how I should be handling my time to get the most out of my days. Creating blog content we determined was good, but daily blog content was taking up so much of my time that perhaps I should cut back to 2 – 4 posts a week and use the time saved to work on other more ‘career advancing’ pursuits…

My wife and I were talking about the fact that 24 hours in a day doesn’t seem to be enough some times. She recently quit her part time job which was really only a 15 hour a week time commitment, but having those extra 15 hours really seems to have helped her feel more on top of life and even with those 15 extra hours a week she really doesn’t feel like 24 hours is enough some days to get through the list of things she wants to do.

Part of this, I think, is a question of time management, part of this is prioritizing, part of this is about making smart choices about how I spend my time and what I want to achieve. When I set out to start writing a blog I didn’t really have a sense of where it was going or how long I’d be doing it… I sort of set out with the general intention of using this space as a venue for some sort of creative output and it’s been great for that. Now I’m thinking that I need to shift gears a bit so a bit less of my 24 hours and creative process is consumed by this particular outlet and can be focused on some other projects that are becoming a priority.

This begs the question – Will anyone care?

My website has a stats counter on it and I see from the stats counter that lots of people are apparently coming to the blog to check out the content, but I get very little in the way of feedback in the comments section. I get the sense that there’s an audience out there and have been more or less blindly throwing content out there because people ‘might’ be enjoying it, but now’s the time to let your voice be heard. If you’ve enjoyed the content of this blog and have 2¢ you’d like to share about this decision to scale back the output I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The comments section is open for feedback, or if you prefer, just pop me an email to cbg@checkerhead.com

As of next week I’ll be posting a little less frequently I think…

Share This Post

TED Talks

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

It was about a year ago that I went out to my friend Robin Chestnut’s place in Teulon, Manitoba and not only had a great time riding horses with he and his wife Rhonda, but also got introduced to TED TALKS. If you swing by the TED Talks Website you’re greeted with this simple concept -

Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world

Last year Robin introduced me to a few of the talks via the TED Websites and the ones that really stood out were -

The amazing intelligence of crows: Joshua Klein

And

Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world

These two talks were just awesome, but all of the stuff I’ve watched on TED has been excellent and opened my eyes to a different way of looking at things.

Right after I got back from Robin’s place last year I downloaded a few of the talks and was right into it, but sort of lost steam as the regular day-to-day chaos I’ve surrounded myself with filtered back in and I didn’t continue my pursuit for knowledge via TED because of other distractions in life.

Well… I went out to Robin’s house again this year and again TED talks were a featured part of the evening. This time around the two talks that really stood out were -

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

And

James Cameron: Before Avatar … a curious boy

Both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, but beyond my enjoyment of of the talks, the think I took away from our evening was that TED Talks have been made available on iTunes as a Video Podcast. This means that all I had to do to have TED infiltrate my life on a more regular basis was to subscribe to the feed via iTunes and let the talks come to me.

I think these talks along with the stories I was also recently introduced to via “The Moth” both sort of fall into the same general category in that they’ll provide an outlet for my brain to be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking in a manner that I know I need. Some people do sudoku, hopefully a steady diet of new ideas will help keep my brain young. We’ll see how it goes.

Share This Post

I’m Holding Out for a Hero…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada then on to Winnipeg, MB, Canada

In 1984, Bonnie Tyler released “Holding out for a Hero” as part of the Footloose Soundtrack… The Chorus is awesome!

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light

He’s gotta be sure

And it’s gotta be soon

And he’s gotta be larger than life

Somehow I was reminded of these words when I received a link from a friend of mine yesterday. This is all she sent -

Have your digital photo or webcam at the ready, then go here and do what it says!

http://en.tackfilm.se/

So I went and played along… It’s a really elegant implementation of a pretty great idea and if you’ve got a few minutes to turn yourself into a Hero then I highly recommend swinging by for the fun.

Share This Post

The Moth – Stories Told

Where in the world am I today?: Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

While I was in Seattle last weekend for Moisture Festival, the friend I was staying with, Matt Baker, introduced me to “The Moth – Live Storytelling Performances.” Matt had several of the series on CD so I dumped a few onto my iPhone so I could listen to them in the car on my drive back to Vancouver.

Over the course of the three hours or so that it took to drive back to Vancouver I heard various stories including a couple of great ones that were performed by Thomas Dolby who described how he had met Michael Jackson and another by Joe Jackson who described the moment when it clicked and he decided to become a professional musician. These two really stood out, but all of the stories were great to listen to.

So much media these days seems to bombard you with images and sounds and chaos and confusion, that I found it really refreshing to just sit in my car and listen to various human voices telling stories about events in their lives that had had an impact. There was something quite a bit more human about the stories, the voices and the shared experience of a story that was really great!

I was reminded of a conversation I had with Glenn Singer at one point many years ago. We were discussing his show and how on many levels his show is based around a story that he just loves telling. One of those stories that gets better each time you tell it because it get refined and polished. The intonation in the voice as it’s being told, the pace, the dynamics and expression. Certainly these things are heightened in a live performance situation when you can enjoy the narrator’s physicality as well, but sometimes the telling of a good story is such and auditory experience that it’s better not to be distracted by any visual stimulus because it allows you to craft the image in your mind’s eye and that’s almost always a more vivid playground that what ever reality someone else might create.

Years ago I was on a road trip from Edmonton to Vancouver with Glenn and Amy Rose, and Amy picked up a two cassette tape (yes cassette tapes…this should be an indication of just how long ago this was) story telling package by Garrison Keillor called – The Book of Guys. Garrison Keillor is an amazing story teller and the three hours of tails that the collection contained both amused us and kept us distracted on the very long drive from Edmonton to the coast. There’s something really great about stories on road trips…

Anyway… I quickly devoured the stories that I had downloaded to my phone on the trip back to Vancouver and hopped onto iTunes to download some more from “The Moth’s” podcast. There were six more stories available when I hit iTunes up for my Story fix and I ended up finishing those off on a jaunt on public transit a few days ago… I’ve subscribed to the podcast so that as new stories are posted I’ll download them automatically and feel my hunger for the spoken word.

Sometimes I feel like the world is moving faster and faster and faster all the time, and taking a moment to slowdown and just listen is good for the soul I think. Do yourself a favour, take a moment to slow down and check out ‘The Moth.’

Share This Post

Enthusiasm…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

So I’ll be heading down to Seattle for a couple of days and I called up my friend Matt Baker to ask if I could crash with him for the two nights that I’ll be in town to take in some of Moisture Festival and contribute some schtick to the two variety shows on Sunday the 14th… As I’ve eluded to in the blog before I’m really looking forward to going down to do this not for financial gain so much as to remind myself why I like to perform again.

Called Matt up and was even more pumped about the trip because of the enthusiasm he shared about having me come down to visit. I was sort of thinking of this trip as a very self-serving sort of adventure, a chance to play for the sake of playing with out having to worry about the pay cheque, but then I get hit by this wave of enthusiasm from Matt who is just as keen on the idea of ‘play’ and I’m even more excited about the journey because it’ll give me a really decent opportunity to hang out with him, meet his girlfriend and enjoy the sort of visit that isn’t hinged to some sort of time limit…

I should probably back track to explain why this has such an appeal. Years ago, I got a call out of the blue from The Brothers from Different Mothers (Matt and his partner Alex) to see if I’d be interested in coming down to perform as part of the Seattle Juggling and Footbag Festival that they were organizing. Specifically if I’d be a part of the public show that they were putting together. I was a pretty new father at the time and although I did blast down to Seattle for some fun and to play the gig, I arrived, did the show and more or less turned around and headed straight home because my sense of duty to my young family was stronger than my desire to chase a great hang.

Last June while working aboard a Princess Cruise ship I had a turn around day in Seattle and again hooked up for breakfast and a bit of a visit with Matt (shot the picture above on that day), but the looming deadline of getting back to the ship seemed to cut things short.

This time around the only thing that’ll cut the hang short is exhaustion at the end of the evening. I’m thoroughly looking forward to arriving into Seattle on Saturday afternoon, hooking up with Matt, getting the official introduction to his girlfriend then grabbing some groceries for a dinner later in the evening…

I have one distraction in the middle of the evening when I’ll head off to check out the 7:30 pm Burlesque Show at Moisture Festival and check out the venue where I’ll be performing the next day, but that’ll only be a small road bump in the middle of the evening. Sunday morning we’ll grab some breakfast, I’ll pack my car, I’ll get to the venue, I’ll have fun with the shows… It’ll be awesome!

It’s a nice Ninjin dangling in front of my face at the moment and it’s fun to feel the excitement building.

Share This Post

Print a Map?

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’m learning more and more that I’m a bit Old School when it comes to certain things, but I remember the days before iPhones and GPS units for cars (man I’m starting to sound like a grandpa here) and having a map to get you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ even in this day of electronic wizardry can still save your bacon if the electronics fail you…

I’ll admit that I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to having this navigation thing sorted out and I’ll also admit that I’ve always been fond of maps… I think this goes back to the time when I was about 10-year’s old on a family trip. We were in Los Angeles having arrived late morning and my mom thrust a map into my hands and said… If you can navigate our way to the hotel and we’ve got time in the afternoon after we’ve checked in, I’ll take you and your brother to Knott’s Berry Farm. Never had a kid had such a good incentive to take an interest in reading and using a map and I’ve been a fan ever since.

Doing the show is the fun part of the gig, the lead up, the getting your crap in the car, to the venue, into the venue, set up etc. All that, that’s that’s the work. The last thing you need is to not be able to find your way to the gig or find yourself lost…

Years ago (well before the modern age you kids live in) I totally screwed up getting to a gig because although I had directions, I didn’t have a map and hadn’t looked at a map. This had the compound effect of me not really knowing where I was going and also not really having a sense of how long it was going to take for me to get there… I ended up arriving right as my show was supposed to be starting as opposed to the 45 minutes early that I typically like (time to get loaded in and set up etc). When I did arrive it turned out that the client had also misjudged what the start time of my show should have been and the crowds that had been there forty-five minutes earlier were now gone. The show was cancelled, I got back in my car and drove home very frustrated.

Now, in the last few weeks I’ve received a TomTom car navigator (a lovely GGOL from one of the performers who played at Robson Square during the Olympics) and also recently bought an iPhone. I’m becoming quite a fan of the TomTom navigator because not only does it plan the best route to get me to where I’m going, it also gives me a sense of how long it’s going to take to get there. This is AWESOME! I should have invested in one of these things ages ago!

I’m headed down to Seattle this weekend to perform at Moisture Festival and took some time today to program in a few key addresses so I don’t have to fumble with the unit when I get to town. I programmed the address where I’m staying, the theatre where I’m performing and the house of a friend who I’m going to visit. With all of these plugged into the navigator I should be good to go, but I still took the time to head over to Google Maps and print a couple of maps out as well just as a back up. I likely won’t need or use them, but what can I say… Old habits die hard…

Share This Post

Decompressing…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Love the image I found to go along with the post today… It’s an image of an old decompression chamber that was used to help deep sea divers… Come up too quickly and divers would suffer from decompression sickness which in serious cases could be lethal.

In my case there’s no risk of death, but I always find that after an intense period of gigging I need to take some time to decompress and adjust to regular life… February ended up being a huge month for me with nineteen out of twenty eight days spent performing, add into that the time I spent traveling to and from India and the total goes up to twenty five out of twenty eight days. That’s a lot! And really if you look at the prep for gigs my brain and body were occupied for the full month.

Especially during the last two weeks of the month while I was home and working the Robson Square project during the Olympics I seemed to let an enormous amount of crap pile up on my desk. Stuff that really did need my attention, but not nearly as much as the focus I needed to give to the daily shows I was doing and the simple act of successfully living through each day.

The result of letting things collect in Piles on my desk was that when I got to the end of the run during the Olympics and along with everyone else in Canada erupted with excitement when the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team won the Gold Medal Match on the 28th to close out The Winter Games I needed a few days just to sift through the piles and make some head way on the stuff that had accumulated.

Normally if I’ve been away doing a cruise ship job, this decompression process takes about two days. After about forty-eight hours I’ve successfully managed to tidy up from what ever trip I was on and get back into the swing of things at home. This time around it’s taking longer… I think this is in part due to the fact that I was both performing in as well as helping organize the BC Street Jam program so I had admin work to do for not only myself, but the program as well. Then there’s likely the reality that I didn’t really have a chance to decompress from the trip to India before I jumped straight into the gig during the Olympics. Add to this the relationship I’m building with a guy who’s taking on some managerial duties for me and getting both of us up to speed with each other’s systems etc… Simply put there’s been more to deal with and it’s taking longer to sift through it all.

I’m not complaining mind you as these are all things that I brought upon myself and I do have the sense that all the work will pay off in the long run, but when you’re in the middle of it all and feeling rather exhausted it’s sometimes better to get a good nights rest than it is to panic too much about the state of one’s desk.

It’s been a good week of organizing and prioritizing though and I feel like I am making pretty decent headway when it comes to clearing off the desk and de-cluttering my brain. One of the biggest tell tail signs for me ends up being the state of my email in-box. I tend to use my email in-box as a to-do list as often messages will come in that I want to keep floating around because they require some additional action. Four days post Olympic Closing ceremonies and I’m just now starting to feel like I’m getting a handle on things… The in-box is down to 25 messages, but considering early in the week was up well over 50 I think I’m doing reasonably well… Hopefully by the end of the day I’ll have it down under fifteen…

Not quite at the surface yet, but hopefully the slow decompression process will help me avoid getting the bends.

Share This Post

Moisture Festival

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

How do they do it? Swing by the Moisture Festival Web-site and you’ll see an incredible alumni of incredible performers appear on screen. All acts who have journeyed to Seattle to take part in a festival where the salaries are entirely dependant on ticket sales.

It’s a pretty simple equation. The festival runs for four weeks, shows are put together from a star studded collection of variety and burlesque entertainers, each time you perform you earn one share, once the festival wraps up all of the expenses are paid and then the proceeds are distributed equally amongst the share holders… Is it Democracy? Is it Communism? Is it the way things should run? I’m not sure, but one thing is for sure, incredible acts seem to be drawn to this event.

Back in December when I was sending out festive greeting cards I created an email version of the card that I could send out along with the three hundred and fifty 0dd hard copies that also got distributed during the holiday season. One of the recipients of the email version of the card was Tim Furst one time (all time?) Flying Karamazov Brother. Tim also happens to be one of the key players (if not THE key player – well my main connection anyway) in the Moisture Festival Organization. I sent out a ton of the email versions of the Holiday greeting and some people responded… Tim was one of them. When I heard back from Tim I took the opportunity to ask about Moisture Festival.

Now I have to admit that I’m generally motivated by money when it comes to gigs and I think my capitalist tendencies are well enough known that one of the first things that Tim did was warn me of exactly what I was getting myself int0 -

First, read the Performer / Booking Information page on our website www.moisturefestival.org so that you know what you would be getting yourself into (ie, no financial guarantee but lots of fun – and only doing 5-12 minutes per show.  It is, after all, a Varieté festival . . .) Then, if you are still interested, let me know if you can legally work in the USA.

So I read and I reported in that I ‘got it’ and that really all I wanted was a chance to play for play’s sake.

This is, I think, the key. The idea of playing with out worrying about money is very liberating… I know many performers for whom this is the driving force behind why they became performers in the first place and somehow by the sheer act of playing the money seems to look after itself. Perhaps I’m a bit too left brained at times and I should trust my right brain more when it comes to the play quotient, but left brained concerns like family, bills, and responsibility have a nasty way of creeping in more often than I’d necessarily like and play is often shelved in exchange for security.

Moisture Festival for me will be a chance to play. Sure it’s only for one day, two if you count the extra day I’m spending in Seattle to just watch shows, but especially after a very busy February where jobs that offered security were at the for front, this chance to play for the sake of playing is going to be great and I know I’ll get as much (if not more) from going down with this mindset than I may from the actual time I spend on stage…

If you’re in the Seattle area, I’ll be a part of two variety shows on March 14th one that starts at 3:00 pm and the other that’s slated to begin at 7:30 pm. Details can be found on the Moisture Festival website.

Share This Post

Temptation…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Is resistance futile?

Ever since the very first iPhone was released on June 29, 2007 I’ve been resisting the temptation of getting one… Mind you getting one in Canada wasn’t an option for quite a while after it was originally released in the US, but even when the iPhone did arrive in Canada I was quite happy not to buy into the ‘God Phone‘ as it was sometimes called.

A little over a year ago I opted to get an iPod Touch instead of buying an iPhone because I reasoned that if I kept my regular phone and didn’t buy the additional data-plan that goes with all smart phones on the carrier I use I’d save enough over the course of the year to more than pay for the fanciest of the iPod Touches and that’s exactly how things played out…

Then back in October, almost a year to the day after I had originally gotten my iPod Touch I accidentally stepped on it at a gig cracking it’s screen and have been staring at a somewhat funky screen for a little over four months… Apple could fix the screen for $250.00 but the funky screen doesn’t seem to effect the playback ability of the audio on the device…hmmmm. It is rather annoying when it comes to doing anything that uses the beautiful touch screen interface for video, games or other apps… Sigh…

A few months back I also upgraded to the latest version of iPhoto and was introduced to a cool new feature called ‘Places’ that allows you to ge0-tag images and track where in the world the picture was taken. I’ve been geo-tagging by hand and love opening up iPhoto and then clicking on the map to see where around the world my pictures have been taken… I’m a bit behind with my iPhoto responsibilities though and one of the most time consuming aspects when it comes to the Places feature is the tagging of the images with a location stamp… Of course, the iPhone does the tagging for you automatically thus eliminating one of the most time consuming aspects of that particular task that I do like to stay on top of… Sigh…

Back in the Summer I was really impressed when my friend, Rick Kunst, whipped out his iPhone, took a picture, connected to Facebook and uploaded the image with in seconds… Moments later people were commenting on the photo and leaving feedback… Crazy! I think it was around that time that I started to see how powerful the iPhone could be in terms of doing stuff like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. I’ve resisted the Web 2.0 revolution for ages too, but I’m slowly becoming a convert and having an iPhone to use as the interface device would certainly allow me to update my status on the various sites easily from just about anywhere potentially helping me stay more connected to friends and clients…

To make matters even worse my wife who’s as thrifty as I am turned to me the other day and more or less said… Dave, you should get an iPhone… Man… It’s like seeing the most delicious cookies going into the cookie jar and then told you can eat as many as you like… Does it get any better than this?

Everywhere I turn I see people using and loving their iPhones… Hooked up with a friend yesterday who put it this way…

Ask ten different iPhone users if they love their phone and nine out of ten of them will pull out their phone and start kissing it.

Temptation… I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to resist…

Share This Post

Cross Pollination!

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Olympics in Vancouver saw so many performers descend on town to perform including six members of the Big Nazo Lab from Providence Road Island… I had no idea that they were going to be in town but ran into Erminio Pinque in costume on the corner of Granville and Robson one night just bringing Art to the crowds and being involved in the excitement on street level.

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the work that Erminio does not only as a builder of some of the most amazing foam monsters and creatures you will ever see, but also for his love of creating renegade video and capturing the raw energy of the moments that he embraces… It’s awesome!

Anyway, I called Erminio this morning trying to figure out if there was going to be a way for us to hook up and hang out. Over the course of the conversation he told me about the Big Nazo Blog which was launched a bunch of weeks back and helped captured the build up to the gig they were in Vancouver to do. I ended up spending about an hour poking around an checking out stuff that was posted on the blog and getting a better sense of what they had done while they were in town to perform during the Olympics.

Got some time? Then I highly recommend swinging by their blog and checking out some of their fun!

I ended up hooking up with the Big Nazo Crew at Yamato Sushi on Davie Street in the evening and I handed out CBG Ball Caps for the whole gang… On one level this was a promotional move as all swag is, but on some the level I was trying to find a way to say… Man… I wish we’d had more time to hang out while you were in town, here, take a little bit of me back to Providence with you…

Erminio and I dove straight into reminiscing about the fun we had in Halifax the year we met and some of the craziness that took place at the Halifax Busker’s festival. The year was 1988 I ended up hooking up with Brian Hulse and a group called Twist and Shout (Dave Rave and Henrick Bothe) on about day three of the 17 day run and forming a sort of Boy Busker Super Group which we called The Bounty Brothers… Erminio and the Big Nazo Crew did a show at the time that included having a monster come out and eat a small child… The flood of memories was awesome! At the end of the evening as we headed out of the sushi restaurant I took the crew past my car (very much the sort of thing I thought would expect a Nazo creation to drive around in) and took the snap that accompanies the post.

Hanging out with the Nazo Crew and checking out their blog was really good for me as it was a great reminder of how important it is to sometime dream REALLY big and dive head first into the adventure of creating art and performance that connects with people and has a really positive effect on shaking up the status quo

I think if you can mix art and performance with a bit of anarchy there’s something really powerful and really magical that results. After having spent two weeks crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s it with the Robson Square Gig for the British Columbian Provincial Government and needing to be accountable, it was great to have the reminder that sometimes you really do need to shake it up a bit.

Share This Post

Tools in your Tool Box

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Still in the middle of the BC Street Jam program on Robson Square at the moment. It’s been a great run to date and today was the last day of the run for two great acts – The Chairmen and Mike Battie. It’s a pleasure to work with these two acts, because the totally ‘Get it.’ I was talking with Bob from the Chairmen after his show last night and really just thanking him for making it so easy to bring the Chairmen in as an act in the program.

Every gig is different and each environment dictates a certain acceptable or expected behaviour from the people fronting the bill. Working a straight street pitch is one thing, working for a corporate client is another, doing work on cruise ships another beast all together. Each venue needs to be approached as it’s own entity and appropriate behaviours learned for each. It’s been really interesting for me to be involved on both sides of the equation with this project during the Olympics, both as an act as well as part of the production team, because I’ve become even more aware of how important it is to make sure the performers involved in the program help promote the positive image of the end client in this particular case the Province of British Columbia.

In my conversation with Bob we used the analogy a mechanic pulling out tools from his toolbox to work on different jobs and compared that to what a performer needs do every time they work with a different client. A great set of skills, appropriate costuming, good promo, these are all a given. You need these ‘tools’ if you want to get the gig in the first place, but beyond this, the ability to recognize that when you step out on stage (and off stage for that matter) you are actually a representative of the client who booked you is critical. Understand this successfully being able to executing any tweaks to the content of your performance to keep your show and it’s image in line with that of the end client is critical if you want to craft a win-win scenario that might see you working for that client again.

Now for true ‘Artists’ these sorts of restrictions placed on their creative head space may appear too limiting and for that sort of performer, working for certain clients may not be the best option, but having the ability to adapt and conform a bit will open WAY more doors for you work-wise. Having this understanding of how your show reflects on the person who’s hiring you could well be one of the most important tools in your toolbox.

To use a hockey analogy, you need to not only be good on the ice, you need to be good in the locker room as well.

Having a sense of the bigger picture that your show is fitting into at a large event like this one I’m currently involved with is just a part of the job. The BC Street Jam program is just one part of the larger Celebrate British Columbia at Robson Square Programming. The result is that each show that’s part of the BC Street Jam ends up being one small element in a much larger picture made up of many other elements. The more harmoniously the individual parts flow together, the better the results are going to be for the entire program and the happier the end client is going to be. Playing well with others just make the whole thing work.

Share This Post

Friends!

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

In yesterday’s post I mentioned how people from all over the world are descending on Vancouver to enjoy the fever and excitement of the Olympics. Not only spectators, but performers too as Street Performers always seem to gravitate towards where ever large crowds are congregating… One such performer is my friend Cathy Peace from Swank Street Theatre Company.

Cathy and I met at the 2009 Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival and had a hoot hanging out then, so when she said she was coming to Vancouver to perform with Dana Fadkin (another performer I met at the 2009 Edmonton Festival) and needed a place to crash I was happy to provide a place for her to crash…

One of the big things I love about the world of Street Performing is the people who populate it. Lee Zimmerman recently painted a lovely picture of the ordeal that happens at a Festival when people gather for the ‘Circle of Judgement’ at the opening meeting of an event and captured a glimpse of the wonderful characters that inhabit this world. These hugely talented misfits are amongst the most interesting people I’ve ever met and the friendships I have with these people are amongst the most important relationships in my life.

I’m very good at compartmentalizing my life so I can give full focus to what ever it is I’m doing. I love being a performer, but I also love being a father and a husband. Both aspects of my life, the ‘work’ part and the ‘home’ part are incredibly important to me and I’ve spoken before about trying to craft the ideal balance between the two. It’s never easy and I find it much much easier to go away from home to work and when I’m home focus my energies on my family. The trick with it all comes when I get a gig like the one I’m doing currently for the Olympics in town because I run off, do my shows, then come home and attend to the duties at home. I’m in one of those ‘burning the candle on both ends’ situations and I find it exhausting.

I’ve learned from experience that when I’m in a scenario like this, getting enough rest becomes hyper-important. If I try to do too much on not enough sleep, everything suffers… So, I’ve been trying to remember this, not party too hard in the evenings though the temptation is there and stay on track and pace myself as there’s still nine more days of shows to go.

Cathy showed incredible insight the other night because I think she could sense my general energy drain and she stepped forward and offered to make dinner. In a world where Facebook makes it so easy to have superficial relationships with so many, there’s something really amazingly valuable about having a friendship that go a bit deeper. Cathy did the shopping, the prep and the execution of a lovely pasta dinner. Add to this a couple of baguettes that my wife made and I found myself very happily blending my family life and my work life over a fabulous meal which gave me an enormous amount of pleasure…

Hmmmmm… Friends!

Share This Post

Slydini

Where in the world am I today?: New Delhi, India.

My friend, Ben Robinson, from New York sent me a couple of links to some on-line video footage of the great magician Slydini. The videos were included as part of an article by Dick Cavett and the footage was originally shot for the Dick Cavett show back in 1977 and 1978. If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend swinging by -

Conjuring Slydini

and

Conjuring Slydini (Part 2)

- and give yourself enough time to enjoy the fact that this man’s artistry was captured on video tape and preserved.

The article that accompanies the video is also great and it’s clear that Dick Cavett had an enormous respect and admiration for his mentor. The article was also containes a hint of melancholy as it seemed as though in his later years Slydini more or less vanished from the public eye and was virtually unknown. Were it not for the fact that some of his artistry had been preserved on the Dick Cavett show, we might not have such a wonderful record of what this man was capable of.

At the beginning of the second video Dick Cavett introduces Slydini as primarily a retired magician who at that stage of his career was doing more teaching and coaching than performing. And I was somehow struck by the fact that it would have been even more amazing to see his work ten to twenty years prior to then these videos were shot. As an older man his grace and poise, the fluidness of his moves and the precision of his sleights are obvious, but to have seen his work when he was a young dashing man must have been amazing. Still it’s clear from the footage taken on the show that Slydini had rehearsed his moves and tricks to perfection.

I have another magician friend named Greg Moreland who teaches magic classes on cruise ships and I helped him out with one at one point. Something he said really stuck with me -

“Don’t practice until you can do it right, practice so much that you can’t do it wrong.”

From watching Slydini and from reading the article written by Dick Cavett it was clear that Slydini shared this eye for perfection and work ethic.

In a day and age when the breadth of our knowledge is vast thanks to the ability to google just about anything and know a little about a lot, it was refreshing for me to slow down to appreciate a craftsman at work. Although I don’t consider myself a huge fan of magic, I am a fan of great performance and it was a treat to be sucked in to watching Slydini as he captivated his audience.

Share This Post

Greetings from Hong Kong

Where in the world am I today?: Hong Kong International Airport on my way to Mumbai India.

I’m sitting in Hong Kong Airport 9:30ish am local time on Friday morning which is actual about 5:30 pm Vancouver time on Thursday so I’m a bit torn as to which day I should post this to… In the interests of keeping up appearances and posting daily(ish). I’ll date this one for Thursday…

A very brief post today just to announce to the world that the migration of all things Checkerhead is taking place in the next day or so and I’m going to take a wee break from the blog until the move is complete. This is so the people who are helping execute the move don’t have to worry about missing any posts I attempt to make while they’re moving things over to the new servers… The move should hopefully be seamless and no-one will be aware that this move even happened, but just to make things easier I’m going to take a step back while all the technical voodoo is happening.

Besides… I’ve got to wrap my head around being on the other side of the world, jet lag and getting ready for shows for the Canadian Tourism Commission at the Travel and Tourism Fair in Mumbai that starts on Saturday.

Fingers crossed that everything progresses according to plan!

Share This Post

 
Copyright © 2012, The Checkerboard Guy. All rights reserved.