Category Archives: Athletics

The Circus Comes to Town

Every year, the Smithsonian holds a Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington during the last week in June and the first week in July. This year was special, because 2017 marks the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 50th anniversary.

Most of the recent festivals have followed a similar format, celebrating a US state or region, a foreign culture or area, and/or a traditional occupation. In 2016, for instance, the two main themes were “Basque: Innovation by Culture” and “Sounds of California.”

This year’s festival was easily the most fascinating and entertaining I’ve ever visited, because the main attraction was a tribute to…Circus Arts!

And it was wonderful!


One of the displays was this classic Circus Wagon.

You could watch close-up performances by clowns and jugglers…

…and not-so-close-up performances by acrobats and trapeze artists.

In addition to the open-air displays, the festival included full performances in its own Big Top, and in one of the Smithsonian buildings. But for me, the best part was the panel discussions featuring circus people talking about their careers and training and lives in the circus. Heard some awesome stories during my two visits to the festival.

Better Than a Hoverboard!

Remember those hoverboards that Back to the Future promised we’d have by 21 October 2015?

Were you as exasperated as I was when 21 October 2015 came and went, without the slightest need for public service announcements warning kids to always wear a helmet when hovering? Once again, we’d been deceived by the powerful and secretive Media/Flying-Transportation Complex, just as earlier generations had been deceived when they were promised jet packs and flying cars, and taken in by those fake “1969 Moon Landing” movies that were filmed in a North Carolina studio.

We won’t get fooled again.

Because this time, it’s for real. Our wait is over.

Here’s how the game ball was delivered at Portugal’s Cup Final on Sunday:

When Amazon offers a pre-order option, I’ll be the first to sign up.

The Naked Man at the Met Gala (Mildly NSFW — Brief Nudity)

“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”

That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.

Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not.  Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.

Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.


That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.

The goal?

“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”

Ah! That explains it!

And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.

This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The Background

The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.

It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.


Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich

Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.

Foundling is easy to describe:  Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.

Here’s how it went down in New York:


The Aftermath

Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including  public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.

The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.

Free Fyodor!  And free the box, too!  

Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!


All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.

Samurai, and the Beauty of Japan (But with a Footnote)

This stunning video is a promotion piece for the “Diamond Route Japan”, which seems to be a railway line serving the Fukushima, Tochigi, and Ibaraki prefectures. It has the rather clumsy title Diamond Route Japan: History. Discover the Living Samurai Spirit, but, with no spoken narration, only texts and images, it succeeds brilliantly in making the viewer want to Be There Now.

Here’s another video from the campaign called The Ultimate Japan Experience. It uses some of the same drone shots, but there’s a lot more to see.

The downside, of course, is that Fukushima is the site of the nuclear meltdown that followed the 2011 tsunami, and even six years later, the clean-up has no end in sight. Not a great inducement for tourism.

Ghost in the Shell — New Trailer

This is getting more and more exciting. Loving these trailers!

I’ve never had any great interest in superhero movies based on comic books “graphic novels”. Never read Marvel comics as a kid, and have absolutely no interest in exploring “the Marvel Universe” or catching up on 50 years of Marvel mythology. I’ve tried to watch a few of the films, but I’ve always gotten bored and bailed by the 15 minute mark. They’re just not my thing.

But if you think of manga as comic books/graphic novels, which they are, that may be about to change. Ghost in the Shell, which has provided the source material for five animated movies and three TV series, was originally published as a manga series. I posted a bit about the new, live-action film version a few months ago, when the first trailer was released.

The movie will be released in the US and the UK on 31 March 2017.

Warning: Extreme (But Very Funny) Grossness

Oh, Yuck!

A 10-second video which might be titled “Hubris”, or “Just Hanging Out around the Pool, Thinking of Cool Things to Do.”

Filed under “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

Is there any way this is not going to end up in a “Web Redemption” segment on Tosh.0?

I swear that thing came to life and jumped at him.

Ghost in the Shell — Official Trailer

Someone—I think he was the head of an advertising agency—once pointed out that the best things on television were the commercials, because they were what really mattered. The only reason EvilCorp was “proud to sponsor this week’s episode of Law and Order: SUX” was to sell a product. That meant that far more thought and creativity went into the ads than into the show itself.

I think the same thing applies to movie trailers. They’re often better than the movie they’re trying to sell.

This trailer for Ghost in the Shell is certainly a gorgeous stunner, in any number of ways. It leaves you—at least, it leaves meneeding to see the movie, in a theatre, in IMAX 3D.

Maybe it will be really good. It stars fanboy favourite Scarlett Johansson, fresh from the clever and enjoyable, Lucy, and Michael Pitt plays the Bad Guy. Ghost in the Shell also comes with a huge fan base: Wikipedia lists five films, three books, three TV series, and four video games based on Ghost in the Shell since the original manga was serialized in 1989. This is the first full live-action version.

And how can you go wrong with Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” on the soundtrack?

Ghost in the Shell opens in the US on 31 March 31 2017.

And, in line with that, another echo from the 80s: