Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How Calvin & Hobbes Changed My Life

The title alone will get mixed reactions from some. For more than a few, they will share in my feelings. Others will think I have something more wrong with me than usual. Others will say "Wasn't That a Comic Strip in the 90s?" (Just kidding... almost everyone will know what I'm talking about).

This decade-long monument to thinking outside the box was quite profound to me as a child. I was born the year it premiered in newspapers and I started reading the comic strip at 6 years old. Immediately it took effect. Aside from the amazing visuals that held me captivated with "static pictures" in a way no movie or television show ever could, it also started to change my way of thinking.

If I ever came across a word I didn't understand (quite often in such a verbose work) I would quickly run to my family's dictionary to find out what it meant. So, unwittingly, it helped me improve my reading and comprehension skills. I was always in advanced reading classes in Elementary school and even now I read very quickly and comprehend with the same level of speed... and I owe it to Calvin & Hobbes.

It also opened my eyes to the wonder of Comic Books. Many have stated that comic strips are a gateway drug to comic books and graphic novels and when you have such an unbelievable jumping off point, it's far easier. Having older brothers who were, in the case of my eldest bro, obsessed with comics also helped.... but Calvin & Hobbes allowed me to make that leap.

Even my imagination was helped by this "simple" comic strip. The story about a 6 year old boy who creates entire worlds in his mind showed me that it was okay to let my imagination run wild, but in every story, they showed there is a real world side to Calvin's life as well. And even though I wouldn't always understand some of the theoretical discussions unfolding in front of my eyes until many years later, it did make me want to understand the real world more. So I always had one foot in the fantastic and one foot in the everyday, and I have to thank Calvin & Hobbes for that.

Finally, Calvin & Hobbes affected my sense of humor. At 6 years old, I laughed at the visual jokes and the easily understood humor (The Word "Booger" is still funny to me to this day) and as I reached 12 and 13 (reading the collections in book form after the strip ended its run) I started finding all of the other jokes funny. It showed me that "juvenile" humor can be intelligent and that, if you can walk that fine line, you can create something that connects to everyone. And the show that I perform today is one that I can play for audiences of all ages because I learned that no audience should be treated like idiots. Bill Watterson refused to insult my intelligence at 6, at 16, and even now... so I pass that courtesy on to my audiences (at least, I hope I'm not insulting their intelligence).

The collected, hardcover-bound edition of Calvin & Hobbes graces my shelf (in its weight-belt-required-to-lift glory) which I received as a gift from my brothers the year it came out. And I will often look through it to laugh, to enjoy, and to even be inspired. I recently heard about a movie trying to be made on Bill Watterson's life and the effect his work had on the world called Dear Mr. Watterson and I am greatly looking forward to it.

If you haven't experienced Calvin & Hobbes, you can read strips online here:

Does this seem like a love letter to a comic strip? You bet your ass it is. And it truly is the least I could do.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Creating Magic (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

Amongst the act of banging my head repeatedly against the wall while I try to figure out new ways to sell my show, keep my business afloat, and keep myself in a healthy state of insanity (Not sane enough to come to my senses about my life choices, but not insane enough to walk down the street wearing nothing but a coffee pot on my head singing Folsom Prison Blues), I do spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out new routines to put into my show.

Inspiration comes in so many forms, there isn't any one method that's worked above the others. There's a couple of things I'm currently working on that I hope to have ready for the Summer and they're coming from different places creatively. Maybe by showing how I get my material, maybe someone will find a way to be inspired with whatever they're doing (or maybe it'll just be an interesting read).

One of my effects is growing from a prop I used years ago. The official name of the effect is "20th Century Silks" and the general idea is that two blue silks are tied together, placed in a glass or the pocket of an audience member. Then a red silk is brought across the room, it disappears, and then reappears tied between the two blue silks. It's a pretty cool trick, and I did it in my shows a loooong time ago. But it didn't really have as much of my style and personality as my effects do now, so I'm trying to rework it to make it fit the show? Will it? I have no clue.

Another is coming from a few different poems from The Book of Irish Verse which is put together by John Montague. It's one of those books that you'd find for $6.98 in the Bargain-Priced area of Barnes & Noble (One of my favorite sections) but it's full of great poetry spanning many centuries. I'll often find myself drawn to these books (I have a few on Irish Horror in such a way) in hopes that they will spark something in my brain.

Bobby McFerrin is also sparking some serious creativity lately (Yes the Don't Worry, Be Happy guy. But has also 10 Grammys to his name and is the most amazing vocalist and vocal improvisationalist in the world). I love the idea of mixing music & magic and McFerrin's style really inspires me to find new ways to inject vocal music into magic. I have sung in my live shows in the past, but any time I've attempted to combine vocals and magic, it hasn't turned out the way I wanted. Darren Romeo is a magician who is notably fantastic at doing this (and a past counselor at Tannen's Magic Camp which is where I first met him), but it's certainly not the style I'm going for. Also I'm only looking to highlight this in one piece of magic, as opposed to a whole show.

Finally, an idea that is maybe 1 to 2 years from coming to form is adding a grand illusion to my show. The best way I can describe this is a piece of magic that usually involves another person such as sawing in half, production, suspension, levitation, etc. Unfortunately, due to the cost and the amount of effort it will take to put this into a show, it is quite a bit down the line. Especially since I usually refuse to use an illusion "as is bought" and will have to remake it to fit a theme which means rebuilding, repainting, and hoping I didn't destroy it in the process. This is on top of creating a story for the illusion, choreography, figuring out music, practicing it until perfect... all of the stuff that SHOULD be going into a magician's creation process with ANY routine (Unfortunately, as I have seen time and time again, this is nowhere near the case).

There's a little glimpse into my current creative process. My brain is a squishy place. But it's okay... they know me here.

-Much love,