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mglovesfun [userpic]

Anthony Gatto, a criticism

February 24th, 2016 (05:52 pm)

A little context first.

Anthony Gatto, probably the world's greatest juggler retired a couple of years ago at the age of 40. He's declared on his YouTube channel that his videos are probably going to get deleted. By luck I came across this channel of old AG (Anthony Gatto videos) and I'm trying to watch the whole lot. I'm down to 18 to go.


First of all Gatto's my pick for the greatest juggler of all-time. There are a couple of others you can make a case for, notably Wes Peden and Enrico Rastelli, but Gatto's my choice. And my cat is named Gatto after Anthony Gatto and it being the Italian for cat.

Still having seen loads of Gatto videos, talked about him in person and online, there's remarkably little criticism of him. I think there are a lot of fair criticisms that could be made about him.

Basically, I do think he's a bit of a dick. I can't really sum it up in one video clip, but there's this one:


Obviously that's just harmless fun but there are a lot of bitchy comments like that in his videos. It's also not funny and in fact none of his videos are actually funny. He puts quite a lot of humour in them but still none of them are funny.

I've come to the conclusion that if I ever had a chance to meet him and ask him a question, I wouldn't.

I found the same thing when playing Scrabble having met Antonin Michel who was at the time my pick for the greatest of all-time. I definitely wouldn't spend time with him. Furthermore Nigel Richards who has surpassed him in my view, I wouldn't want to meet him either. It's like you can't put that much time into something and also be good with people.

I don't consider him a good example to others in that by his own admission he's not a hard-worker. He's just so naturally talented he's never had to work hard. On one of his videos he claims to practice 90 minutes a week which is pretty extraordinary for a performer to practice their art for on average a little more than 10 minutes a day.

His videos are very repetitive. That's why it's taking me so long to get through them. I mean as a juggler I can tell the tricks apart but a lot of tricks with high numbers look pretty much the same. Gatto's never been interested in originality either. The tricks he does could've been done 100 years ago, many actually were and we have records of them. He's original in the sense he's just better than anyone else, but you can't exactly call 9 balls for 57 seconds an 'original' trick just because it's more catches than anyone else is doing (350 I seem to think).

I would rate his knowledge of juggling as below average. Again, because he's so talented he's learned to do things without knowing how to do them. His body just 'gets on with it' as it were. His comments about juggling not coming from mathematics, it comes from the heart. Apart from being super cheesy, the mathematics describes the patterns. They don't 'come from' mathematics so much as the maths describes the patterns. Also his comments about balls being better than beanbags because balls don't change shape in the air got slammed for just being plain untrue but of course he's a good juggler not an expert on juggling.

I'd put him as middle-of-the-pack as a performer. I've seen worse, I've seen better. It does look very obvious to me that he's acting like he's enjoying it because that's what he's paid to do. If you look at this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cWJwe6dMhM that's how you connect with an audience. And Gatto doesn't have that. My view apparently tallies with observations of when he was young and a very good juggler, being taught to perform. In other words, it never came naturally to him, he had to learn it. And that's what it looks like.

mglovesfun [userpic]

What to do with my life

January 13th, 2016 (10:31 pm)

Not often I get to fill in this blog as legitimate 'business'.

Let's start with some background. My careers advisor (they call themselves job brokers but that's very confusing) is trying to set me up with some work experience. What I didn't realize is that she doesn't have anything set up yet. I mean, I was led to believe they already had something lined up. It was more the case of, if they had given me warning that I needed to look for my own placement I would've started already but they didn't. I mean, obviously it will slow me down.

I also had 9 days ago a meeting at with a careers advisor at the National Careers Service. The idea was, as I'm currently applying for retail vacancies, to see what other things I could apply for.

That gets me up to date.

So I'm supposed to be arranging some voluntary work. Me and my advisor are both working on it. There are two issues I'm facing.

The industry that came out of the NCS appointment was care/social care, that is, working with people who are vulnerable such as children, adults with learning difficulties, the eldery and so on. If you look at my CV this is no surprise as everything I've done you could easily categorise into this sort of work or retail.

So the problem is I can only have a work experience in one of these industries. Retail or care/social care. I mean, I'm already at Cats Protection so that if anything goes under the care header.

So if we say that leaves retail then we're off to a good start. Next problem is what retail experience? In fact my advisor looking through some voluntary vacancies came up with the one I left in October last year as I was bored of it. It's a bit of a problem actually to be perfectly honest.

We rung up some individual business to find out if they take volunteers. It was a bit odd to be honest calling up a shop and asking to work for free when everyone else is getting paid. The next odd bit is that they all said no. While that sounds initially odd, it's because their insurance covers employees so if you don't have a contract you're not an employee and you're a lawsuit risk.

(continued the next day)

My advisor's called me today and she may have something. I don't want to say publicly what it is yet. But I think my decision is, as far as is possible, not to go straight back to a charity shop.

mglovesfun [userpic]

Circus Zyair review

September 12th, 2015 (02:41 pm)

Circus Zyair, I said I'd review it but I don't think I can remember all the acts!

First of all, the ticket office had just one woman working on it, which meant we had to queue for about 25 minutes to get in. They had about 4 people checking for tickets when we got in. Um, maybe move one of them into the ticket office?

The show started about 20 minutes late. Standard. And people were still queuing until then.

First act was a handstand act. It was a good act but I would've liked more progression. He did a one hander (both sides) pretty early on and then for me, failed to progress from that. Good act though.

Second act was a good tightrope act. That was good and it had progression. I'm pretty sure when he fell off, the guy who leapfrogged his partner, it was staged because the music stopped about a second after he fell. I've seen an acted with a staged fall before. But the guy had a lot of personality.

From here on I'm probably going to forget a few acts. Just one female act, which is rare. She did aerial rope and she was really good. She did a neck spin (it was an aerial rope with a cord attached for extra tricks). The handstand guy did an aerial straps act, which is where you have two cords and the guy wraps them round his hands and gets hoisted up to various heights in the air.The last act that I can think of of the first half was the diabolo guy, who was really good. It's also nice to have some non-aerial acts as if you get a whole show of them they sort of blend into one a bit and you get bored.

The second half started with a juggler. He was we think the diaboloist from the first half. He wasn't that impressive. He dropped about 4 times. I was sat next to Jon Peat who could probably do that act dropless. The last trick was a 7 ring pulldown which is a hard trick but I've seen 9 done in person.

The aerial rope lady did an aerial swing act. It was a good act and she had a good personality. It's more important than you might think to be able to engage with an audience.

The second-to-last act was the wheel of death. It's basically two very large hollow metal wheels on an axel. It's genuinely dangerous, I've read stories of people dying during practice sessions. He was the tightrope guy and he was amazing. I was genuinely nervous when he did it blindfolded. He did wear a safety wire but you can't, really! Wearing a wire inside a moving metal apparatus that big could be extremely dangerous. Like fatal.

The final act was a motorbike act. The wall of death (or whatever it's called). I've never seen a motorbike act in a circus (apart from on YouTube) and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. They got three of them inside the ball which for the size of it was incredible.

The clown was good. He did nothing unusual or out of the ordinary but he was funny and he didn't take ages between the acts. My pet peeve is clowns that take ages when its not needed. And everyone either seemed to be in the show twice or be in one act and do the setup for the other acts. There were only about six performers even though there were 9 acts.

Also, the music was REALLY loud. Like a rave with a circus attached.


mglovesfun [userpic]

What is flow?

August 13th, 2015 (06:04 pm)

We were having a good old debate about flow yesterday on someone else's Timeline and I had so much to say I wanted to put it on my own.

Background: 'flow' is used a Hell of a lot in the hooping community so pinning down what is actually means would be pretty useful.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term 'flow' in 1975. It has rather a complicated definition in that there are nine criteria to determine whether flow is occurring, and each of those is open to interpretation. Flow is a mental state which is why I find the idea of commenting on someone's 'flow' such a difficult one. How you can you observe someone's mental state?

What's happening here is that flow has other definitions. Yep, big surprise. Flow is etymologically and topically related to fluidity so unsurprisingly, hoopers who use a lot of fluidity in their hooping get comments about their flow.

And why not? Someone picked this out as an error but actually this meaning of the term flow is much older. The psychology term only goes back to 1975 after all, where the link between fluidity and flow goes back over 1000 years.

Now the problem is you have two terms 'flow' with different meanings that overlap in practical terms. In this sense, I'd compare it to 'literally' where the meanings are distinct but interfere with each other.

For instance, my hooping is very start-stop. So there's no much fluidity of movement. But in terms of my mental state, you could well say that I meet all 9 criteria of flow and therefore it is flow. But it sounds odd to say that about someone who's doing the same trick over and over again and stopping in between.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Nigel Richards

July 25th, 2015 (06:14 pm)

Nigel Richards has won the matchplay World Scrabble Championship in French after just 9 weeks of learning the dictionary. He finished second in the duplicate losing just three points on the game but with a 5 point penalty for an erroneous reference. I don't know quite what this means; as far as I can see it should either be a warning (no penalty until the 4th one) or a zero (zero points instead of the full score) whatever this is, I think it must be a rule that's been introduced since I stopped playing about 6 years ago.

I think Nigel Richard's achievement is unique in a couple of ways.

There have certainly been some English-language World Scrabble Champions who don't speak English as a first language, but debatably they all 'speak English'. Some of them probably speak English no better than we educate children to at GCSE for foreign languages.

Thailand has produced two world champions as they teach children to play Scrabble in English as a way to learn English. Clearly whoever came up with this idea knows nothing about competitive Scrabble. It has literally nothing to do with meanings of words or sentence structure or syntax. That's precisely why Thailand has produced two world champions who can literally barely speak English. Mark Nyman commented on the recent documentary that one of the Thai players challenged 'legend' against him. Mostly I find this surprising because 'legends' is a reasonably high probability bonus.

Yes, Scrabble players learn words without meaning based on the probability of them occurring in a game.

So back to Nigel Richards. First of all, Thai Scrabble players don't play in Thai, or even if they do, they can't possibly confuse a Thai word and an English word as they don't use the same alphabet. Nigel has to keep all the English words and all the French words separate in his head.

Secondly I can't believe someone could start from scratch and memorise basically the whole dictionary in 9 weeks. I can imagine someone doing it in 9 years. Though it's not true that he learned to play in 9 weeks; he's got 22 years of experience he's just managed to learn the whole dictionary in 9 weeks and slot it in to his Scrabble brain that's already brought him 3 World Championships.

I would rate Nigel's achievement as easily the greatest achievement in the history of Scrabble, and it's not even close.

There are a few questions now. Will he ever play again in French or just do it for the one tournament. Or will he play more than one tournament a year. How will it effect his English game, if at all? Does he plan on tackling the Spanish or the Catalan World Championships?

Also since he didn't learn any French, what happens if there's a dispute over the rules? Are you allowed a translator or anything?

mglovesfun [userpic]

Sort my life out

May 15th, 2015 (12:49 am)

I've been trying to post this for about a week, but I've been ill. And now it's past midnight so I'm obviously not going to finish tonight either.

I do have some good news. I might be getting a job as a leaflet distributor. It's very odd, or it would seem very odd (I think) to an outside for someone who was the brightest kid in school to then be long-term not working (not unemployed the whole time, but not working) then working as a care assistant, then working.

I mean, someone I went to school with friend requested me on facebook. I was horrified! My feeling is, everyone I went to school with would be really surprised. Not me so much. I remember in school I never had any idea what I wanted to do. My feeling is also, had I not had such serious mental health problems I'd've tried something and I was so talented that I would've succeeded.

I think one of the hardest things is I blame myself in general, but if I try to think of specific things I've done wrong, I literally can't think of one thing. This might sound odd, but if I blame myself it's empowering. Rather than being a victim of fate, it was me, I had the power.

I've been thinking about it, and there are just so many things that could improve if I could get a job and keep it. I've been dabbling in a bit of online dating and I feel like women my age aren't gonna wanna date an unemployed guy. It's different being 31 to 21 in that respect. Money is another reason, self-esteem. Respect (perceived respect) from peers.

That I admit says nothing about how to get a job. That's the hard bit. I might have one; I can't confirm that yet. I think it will be a physically hard job so I'm not sure how many hours to do yet. I haven't even passed the interview yet.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Memory and hoop

January 17th, 2015 (01:01 am)

I'm feeling a bit better about what I previously referred to as 'memory problems'. I put it in inverted commas because being unable to remember something is not necessarily a 'problem'. Also it isn't 'remembering' I'm having trouble with, but recalling.

Remembering is a two part process, the storing and the retrieving. I'm having no problem storing the information, but some problems retrieving it.

I'm not sure how worried to be. I mean, for a while now I've been feeling like I will start to decline early, especially mentally. I mean, I was always very mature growing up and that wasn't really a good thing. I could easily pass for 18 when I was 16 and get served in pubs without getting IDed. So, I feel like for the same reasons I might start declining mentally earlier than most too. Not this early I admit.

It could easily just be a phase. That things could improve if I move out, maybe get a job and/or a girlfriend, that I could then feel better and thus perform better mentally. I've also been saying for a while that my mental peak was at about 14, so I'm 17 years past that now. I mean I know and I understand a Hell of a lot more than when I was 14, but I think for pure processing power that was my peak. In fact what was always my strength, my ability to concentrate, is now my biggest weakness. Perhaps second biggest behind the anxiety attacks.

Hoopwise, hooping has taken over from juggling right now. There's no circus society now until the 26th of January. No way. It's so hard for me to be motivated when it's cold outside and I'm not juggling with other jugglers. I've done like five hours hooping this week.

I'm doing a 'stress management' course, six weeks, about an hour per week (with a break, about 1hr 10). Of course I suffer with anxiety, not stress, but basically the idea is that stress causes anxiety, therefore it's relevant to me. It's going okay, I would say it doesn't suit me. It understandably seeks to combat common stress and anxiety problems. Mine are atypical, or at least they seem to be from what little I know. It's not about comparing myself to others, it's about treatment. Uncommon problem, harder to know how to treat it.

I'll review the course when I've done all of it. Two weeks to go, I missed the first week but I have the handout from it.


mglovesfun [userpic]

Happy New Year

January 2nd, 2015 (12:33 am)

I'll initially repost what I said on facebook:

"New Year's resolutions.
Take more risks! I've become incredibly risk averse! I think as someone who suffers from pretty serious anxiety problems, if you find something you enjoy and doesn't make you anxious, keep doing it! So I do the same things a lot! But it does get quite boring. It's driving me nuts.
To move out, again, I've been living with my mum since 2010 now and while at first as in the first couple of years I think I definitely needed the support, I think I don't now. I mean not the same type of support, I'm not saying I don't want support from my family because I do. Subsection of this, get a cat.
Get fitter. It seems to matter more for hooping than juggling. I'll only be able to get so good without getting fitter.
That's about it, really. #1 and #3 seem extremely achievable, #2 is gonna be a lot harder."

mglovesfun [userpic]

Merry Christmas 2014

December 25th, 2014 (12:49 am)

Like I've said before this blog is kinda dead (or not far off it) because I'm finding I can't concentrate for long enough to write a whole entry in one go. My entries in recent months. Say, since September, are all really short or written in more than one go.

Normally I'd say on the 25th of December it's too early to do a review of the year, but really nothing's happened at all! I've never seen a year go past so quickly. It's frightening. It really feels like a few weeks or maybe a few months, but not 12 months! When you start thinking like that, hey I'm 31 and pretty soon I'll be 40. 9 more years that fly past in a blink of an eye. That's pretty scary.

So I kissed one girl on the 1st of January at a party and that's been it. Though the year before that I think it was zero. I think I even blogged it was zero and I haven't made that many entries in the last year so it would be easy to look up.

I don't think I've met a potential girlfriend this year. That excludes people I already knew, of which two come to mind who I think would be good girlfriends. I can think of a third woman who I had a crazy mad crush on but that was hormonal rather than logic.

But I know what's going wrong, and that's a massive first step. I've become incredibly risk averse. That I can think of, I've asked out one girl this year. And that was on facebook because I didn't have the courage to do it in person.

It's kind of a natural defence mechanism for someone who suffers from anxiety to do the same things over and over. It's not that new things scare me so much as failure scares me. I now do things that I don't fail at. I know when I fail, it takes me like months rather than weeks or days to recover from it.

Yet I'm committed to try and move out again in 2015 though I don't really know how. I feel like I have to try. Possibly not live on my own, perhaps I couldn't afford it. A job would be good obviously but I don't consider that a realistic goal in the near future so it's in the long-term projects pile.

But really, I think just mentally, I need to take more risks! Go on more nights out, go to circus conventions that are miles away. I used to be so unafraid, now it's the opposite!


mglovesfun [userpic]

Scrabble: A Night on the Tiles

December 11th, 2014 (07:32 pm)


I very much enjoyed this documentary about the origins of Scrabble and how it's played now. It's so right about a lot of things. There was quite a lot in there I didn't know. I knew that Alfred Mosher Butts invented Scrabble, but I didn't know there was a middle phase to the story. The way I knew it, he invented it and then it was discovered by Macy's. But there was more than a ten year gap! And in fact Lexico was not a former name of the board game Scrabble, but a predecessor with similar equipment and rules.

I very rarely think about it now, but I was a player for about 5 years. I did enter a few tournaments but relatively not that many. I was primarily an online player but felt the need to prove myself by playing live tournaments, because Internet Scrabble in particular is a cheat's paradise and there aren't any reliable ways to tell a good player apart from a cheat.

I think it would be very different if I started again today.

Firstly my concentration span is so bad I don't know if I could play. I mean, you can switch off during your opponent's turn which I highly recommend. In a tournament you might play 6 games in a day, or even in one particular tournament 16 games in two days. Each game you get 25 minutes thinking time each, so a theoretical maximum of 50 minutes per game (I say theoretical, it is possible to neutralize the clock so you can go over 50 minutes).

Ignoring that, I remember joining the UK Scrabble forum. Um, total shambles I'm afraid. People at each other's throats constantly, people who knew each other in real life too! Plus now, I wouldn't be so keen to prove myself. I mean I like to record my juggling achievements on camera but not to prove myself to anyone, not even myself. It's nice to have a record of good things that you can watch whenever I want to. Furthermore with counting catches, sometimes you don't know how many catches you have, but if you film it you can replay it and do slow-motions and count catches as many times as you like. Finally you can see what it looks like to others and spot flaws in your own technique. So basically recording your own juggling is an all-round win.

I think I found out that playing Scrabble in person is expensive and quite boring. I remember thinking after 4 games of a 6 game tournament that I was both tired and bored and basically had to try hard to concentrate to not quit in the last two games. Plus with travel and staying overnight (the last one is optional of course) you're paying at least £50 which is as much as the first prize is. In fact, you can win the tournament and operate at an overall loss. Not only 'can' but even the world's best players aren't professionals because there isn't enough money in it; they're winning thousands and spending more than that on travel and accommodation.

So I was really an Internet player. Playing socially in person was cool too but I was a bit too good for the people around me. I had one person come to my house called Mark who was really good but also really sort of weird and boring and I never invited him round again.


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