Reminders

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Sometimes you need to be reminded of what you’re doing.  Or, more to the point, that what you’re doing isn’t normal for most people.

I was talking to one of my friends earlier today about how the same principles used to describe body mechanics in German wrestling are also used when being taught how to walk a tight wire.  For those of you not familiar with either, let me explain.  Your upper body is a frame.  Your hips and your shoulders have to line up, else you fall over.  Whether they are facing different directions on the same plane (think of how you’re turned when you crack your back), or if one is leaning (think trying to pull your sock up inside of your boot), they become misaligned.  Now, in your everyday life, this isn’t a problem.  When balance is of the utmost importance and a loss/lack of it will lead your to your downfall, your hips and shoulders have to stay lined up.

Now, back to my aforementioned conversation.  The friend I was talking to is someone who I don’t think I’ve ever seen in “normal” clothing.  Every time we have met, we have been in garb and were likely discussing authors that maybe a few hundred people world-wide have ever heard of.  So when he commented to me saying, “does this mean you’re learning to walk tight wire? That’s badass.”, it came as a bit of a shock.  Although tight wire is something I am nowhere close to mastering, at this point it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to see it around.  In fact, it’s been over a week since I’ve had a day where I didn’t see one sitting right in front of me, and occasionally below me.  I know everyone’s weird is a bit different, but sometimes it takes one of your “weird” friends to remind you just how out of the ordinary what you’re doing is.

Staying Weird

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Something I heard a lot, starting towards the end of middle school, was that I wasn’t going to be special anymore.  That although I might be the best at something or the strangest kid right now, I was about to meet a whole lot of people, a bunch of which would be just like me, if not better.  As I joined larger and larger communities, it was simply a numbers game that I couldn’t win.

Well, that didn’t really happen.  Not to me at least.  I’m always the one Jew, or the fencer, or the circus performer.  Even in groups that are thought to be inherently weird, I do things within them that differentiates me.  I’m the rapier fencer, or the poi spinner, or the Israeli dancer.  There’s always something.

There are people who criticize this by saying that I’m actively trying to differentiate myself in order to form a separate identity.  That I’m doing it just to get attention.  That I have a will to be weird.  None of these are really the case though.  Sure, I’ve considered some of these after doing something, but they’re never the reason I do it in the first place.  I’m just a person with very strange tastes.  I prefer delta blues over punk, I prefer spinning staff to tumbling, I prefer specially blended tea from a small local store to Starbucks.  It’s true that I’ll go out searching for similar things to what I’m already interested in, but who doesn’t?  When you hear an amazing song, you look up the artist and see what else they did.  I just tend to be carried away by the sound of a banjo rather than power-cords.  And you know what?  I like it!

Against My Nature

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I’m not very good with anything that leaves my hand.  I can choose which eyes my rapier goes into, but I can’t hit a baseball to save my life.  Past about middle school this was a problem I was comfortable living with and wasn’t much impeded by it.  That was until I joined the circus.

At the moment I’m working with a professional circus for a few weeks and one of the first things they told me I had to do upon arrival was learn how to juggle.  I tried explaining that I’ve had several different people try and teach me how to juggle, all to no avail.  This, however, did not deter them and every day since I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time juggling.

At first I thought that maybe I just hadn’t put in much time or effort and that after a few hours of practice I’d get it down.  Most of the patterns are the same as poi, so that should make this easier, right?  Wrong.  In the past few days I’ve spent 6-7 hours just juggling and am up to about ten pretty consistent catches with balls.  I started being able to get about three catches, worked my way up to five and then seven and here I am now.  I really do hope that this ceases being a struggle at some point and that the pattern just goes.  Until then I guess.

Virgin Burn

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I can only imagine how you found this article.  If you’re looking for ritual sacrifice of vestal virgins, I’m sorry, you’ve come to the wrong place

Whew!  Okay, that’s out of way.

So as you might have guessed by now, I tend not to be a very formal person.  Pomp and circumstance is something that I generally try to avoid.  This, however, does not mean I am without my own little rituals  Now, a lot of these are religious rituals, like lighting candles on Friday night, or keeping meat and milk separated.  Some, though, have nothing to do with religion, but are nonetheless still meaningful.

The group I first started spinning fire with has a little ritual for whenever someone spins fire for their first time.  As soon as they light up and start spinning in front of everyone, we all scream, “Virgin Burn!”.  To clarify, there’s nothing negative associated with this as often happens in most uses of the word “virgin” (in both its directly and indirectly sexual uses).  It’s more of a celebration that this is that person’s first time spinning fire.  There are no responsibilities that come with this, no social obligations.  It’s just an excuse for us to shout a bit and to commemorate someone’s first time doing something that we’ve all fallen in love with.

New Dreams

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Dreams aren’t supposed to be something rational.  You don’t think out what your dreams are going to be and do a cost-benefit analysis of them.  Dreams are something that drive you, they’re something that provide meaning.  Kierkegaard critiques modernism by explaining how its drive have more of anything and for it all to go faster.  What he suggests instead is to follow your one true calling.  Now, I don’t think I’m the kind of person to have but one calling in life, but still I see myself largely agreeing with Kierkegaard here.  Although rational thought is useful and I like to think of it as my default setting, meaning comes from something else.

One of the dreams I’ve had for awhile now is to join a Scottish circus.  I can’t really explain why, but this is just something I feel called to.  I have a friend studying in Scotland at the moment who is involved in a circus group at a university there and has been getting more gigs than I have of late (maybe it helps that she can actually juggle), so I know there’s a good scene there, but that’s not the reason why.  I’ve also been to Scotland before, so maybe that’s why I felt pulled to it of all countries.  Who knows?

A couple days ago I had a new dream, something new compelling me, to start a historical European martial arts (HEMA) school in Israel.  I have a friend there who I worked with over the summer and taught how to fence.  He picked up most of what I learned these past few years in only a couple months (if that).  We only had some sticks and goggles, but I think that if he got his hands on a real sword, he could hold his own against most SCAdians.  Maybe it’s a little selfish of me, but I’m a bit proud of the fact that I can still beat him most of the time.  He really does need to stop just giving me his sword, last time we fought I just kept beating in fourth and riposting.  He’ll probably be pulling contracavazziones on me next time we meet.

He also just picked up a crossbow (you’ll have to ask him the story about getting that through customs) and will probably have it down in no time.  Hey, maybe he could teach archery at my school cause god knows I can’t.  I’ve played with recurves a bit, but it was more because that’s what my rapier buddies were doing.  I wouldn’t trust myself with a bow for anything important if it ever came down to it.  I can choose which eye to stab you in with a rapier, but you’d have a pretty good chance at survival at thirty yards if I had a bow.

So, maybe someday I’ll start up that HEMA school in Israel.  I know there’s a SCA group in Jerusalem, but I don’t know what else is going on HEMA wise.  I don’t know all that much about Krav Maga, but most of it looks like it’s straight out of Fiore, except with guns added in, so I guess it could be considered a modern Western martial art (WMA).  Maybe some of you who know more about either Krav Maga or what the going definition of WMA is, could help clear this up

Auf Wiedersehen

Cabaret MC

I just got back from another gig with the marching circus band I had mentioned in a previous post.  After the show I was hanging out with a few of the band members in the hall and one lady who had just seen us perform was complimenting our costuming.  One of the comments she made was that we looked very “20’s Germany”.  If found this to be a very interesting comment.

Now, I do not plan to defend Weimar Germany as a time that was on the whole pleasant, and in fact it was in all likelihood a terrible place for most of the people at the time.  There is something to be said about the underground culture that developed in places like cabarets during this period.  Now, before you go any further I implore you to go out and watch Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret” with Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli.

Back?  Okay, good.

Now, I openly admit I have a fascination with the image portrayed of that time.  The thrill of being on the edge, not knowing whether what you’re saying will get you shut down or not.  I love the music, the clothing, the feel of it all.  Being able to form critiques of the world around you through song and dance.  What more could you ask for?

The fact that I was able to bring forth that imagery through my circusing lends me great hope as to what more I can do with it.

Tea Ceremony

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“Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life’s true delights.”

-Uncle Iroh

 

Tea is something that I hold a special place for.  I don’t own a whole lot, and of what I do own, very little of it could be considered fancy, high end, or posh.  Tea is one of the rare exceptions.  Above desk where my laptop sits and I have papers strewn out, I have a small section just for tea.  Sitting there I have a tea strainer, a box of gunpowder green tea and a bag of specially blended black tea.  This is a blend I picked up at the small tea shop downtown, about a mile from where I live.  I had gone to Scotland a few years back and picked up a taste for rather strong black tea.  Unfortunately, good strong black tea isn’t as plentiful here in the states and it was not until just a few months ago that I was able to find any that suited my tastes.

Tonight I opened up a present as part of Hanukkah from my mother (who I credit for introducing me to the world of tea) that contained a tea spoon specifically shaped in order to perfectly portion out loose tea, as well as a package of green matcha tea.  While writing the first part of this post I had my first cup of it and am currently waiting for the second cup to finish steeping.

Although I would say that I am more of a tea snob at the moment, my mother has definitely received more education in the field than myself.  During her college years, she took many a class on Japanese culture, one of which was on tea ceremony.  Although I doubt she remembers the entire ritual at this point in her life, by the end of the class she was able to successfully perform the entire ceremony for beginning to end.  For those unfamiliar with the Japanese tea ceremony, this is no easy feat.  My college advisor, the head of the East Asian studies department, a man with a doctorate in history, particularly Japanese, and who is fluent in Japanese, gave up on trying to learn tea ceremony after getting through the wiping of the spoon.

I myself have never learned how to do Japanese tea ceremony.  I do, however, have a tea ceremony of my own.  In no way is it as steeped in tradition, or rich in culture, but I still do what I can to make tea a special thing.  If you ever have the chance of coming to visit me and I actually have time, one of the things you will notice is that I will offer you a cup of tea.  On the shelf I mentioned earlier, there sits two cups.  One is a plastic travel mug, normally reserved for bagged tea, the other is a large black ceramic mug that tends to have my tea strainer sitting in it.  Unlike the ceramic mug, the plastic one seeps into the tea and you can taste the plastic.  This isn’t as terrible as it may seem, I doubt I’m getting severely poisoned, and it doesn’t make a huge difference.  The difference, though, is still noticeable.

If you ever stop by I will always offer you the ceramic mug as well as one of the teas that require the strainer.  I will then proceed to make a cup for each of us, with myself drinking out of the inferior mug with a tea of lesser (yet still high) quality.  All of this is done with every bit of intention.  Hospitality is an art that often goes by the wayside.  Now, don’t expect me to offer to wash your feet or anything of the sort as you enter the door.  I still though, hold lowering myself in order to make my guests feel comfortable at a high place.  And what better to sit down and make someone feel welcome with than a good cup of tea?