Entries tagged with “rants”.

Maybe I’m just getting bitter, but I used to really enjoy flying. Admittedly I have flown a lot, and anything loses its luster when you do it too much, but I really think something has changed with the whole experience of getting on an airplane.

I recently took a trip to Denver for a two-day gig. Despite the fact that nothing really went wrong, the portions of the trip that involved airplanes and airports were incredibly unpleasant. I drove to the Cincinnati airport, and easily found the remote parking lot. In fact, the shuttle bus was waiting for me as I closed my trunk. The parking people did a great job and were very efficient, but I was a little worried that I was going to get hassled about my carry-on hat box not qualifying as a “personal item”. I was also a little preoccupied with dealing with my new fold-up mini luggage cart that I bought in order to avoid the $25 fee for a second piece of checked luggage. Neither thing was a big deal, but they added a little stress to my life.

Check-in went smoothly, and there was no line, but I had to futz with my new cart (that I only bought to avoid airline fees), and that took a little time and added a little stress. The flight out was uneventful, but I was feeling especially crammed-in for some reason this time. There was a small touch screen in the back of the seat in front of me that allowed me to watch movies for free, and that was awesome… the high point of the flying experience for sure.

Once I got into Denver I had to find my rental car. (more…)

My wife and I have moved a lot in the last few years for her job. In each new place we get a new phone number for the land line in our house that I use as a business line. Back in the early 90s, when I used to move every year in college, my roommates and I would get a new phone number at our new place, and almost no one would call unless we gave them the number. Of course there were wrong numbers and telemarketers, but they were pretty few and far between. Now every time Lenore and I get a new number the phone starts ringing as soon as we plug it in… and it’s usually collection agencies.

Back in the era before fax machines and cell phones there was less demand for phone numbers. Most people had one phone number that was shared with their whole family, and another one (or several) at work shared with all their colleagues. Now, not only do individuals often have multiple phone numbers, but they are getting them at an earlier age. Teenagers do love their cell phones.

Also, I have heard that when you disconnect a number, it used to sit idle for a while so that the new owner didn’t get the old number’s calls. But now due to intense demand for numbers, the idle time has been greatly reduced, and they are cycled back into service much sooner.

In our era of decreased personal responsibility and increased personal debt, combined with a rough economy, there are inevitably more people who are living so far above their means that they can’t pay their bills. Here come the collection agencies. Collection must be a huge industry now, so they are using technology to streamline their operations. They now use a recording to call my new house rather than a real person.

The result is an endless barrage of often early-morning calls that don’t even have a person on the other end when I answer. Sometimes it’s a recording asking for someone I’ve never heard of, asking me to “Press 1 if you are… Sylvaniar ******; press 2 if you’re not.” The problem here, is that there is no option for “You have the wrong number” and there is no one there to talk to so I can explain the situation. So if I press 2, they will just call back another time. I hang up.

The one that annoyed me the most so far was a recorded voice that said, “Please hold for an important phone call!”, then made me wait on the line until someone picked up and said,

“May I help you?”
“You called me!”
“May I speak to Sylvaniar?”
“You have the wrong number.”
“Do you know Sylvaniar?”
“I have never even heard of anyone with that name before you started calling me.”
“Ok, thank you.”

Today I was woken up by an early morning call that I didn’t answer because I was sure it was a collection agency. When I checked my voice mail there was a message from “Bob Isaac” with a toll-free number. I was fairly certain that “Bob” didn’t exist, but I called the number in the hopes that I could get them to stop calling me. The first thing that happened was a recording asked me to enter my Social Security number. That was scary. I didn’t do it. I bet a lot of people do though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if identity thieves use the same tactic. Of course it turned out that there was no Bob Isaac, and of course I didn’t know who Evan was, so maybe they will stop calling.

So far I have gotten calls for Sylvaniar, Evan, Linda, and Grace. I wouldn’t have thought that many people could have had this phone number recently enough, and gone into collection, for me to get this many calls… but they did… and that’s the world we now live in.

This afternoon I had a really fun gig in downtown Indianapolis. It was for a party at RATIO Architects. Every month they have their 4th Friday at 4 Party, where at four o’clock snacks and drinks appear, and for the first time they decided to hire professional entertainment… that’d be me. Being at a place that has a party for their employees every single month almost made me want to get a job.

When I was hired they told me that the president had done a few yo-yo tricks at one of the parties in the past, and after my show today he came up to chat. His name is Bill Browne, and he told me that 30 years ago he and a friend set the world record for the longest session of continuous yo-yoing. They went to a radio station and yo-yoed for something like 30 hours straight! I didn’t get as much information about the event as I would have liked so I went home, got online, and checked out the Guinness Book of World Records site. I didn’t link to it because it is not worth your time. There are almost no records to be found on the site despite the fact that they have a search box, so don’t even bother. I can list more world records from memory than I was able to find in my searches of their site. I KNOW that there are more than 6 records in the category of “food” for example.

Anyway, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m intrigued by this “longest continuous yo-yoing” record. I may just have to contact Bill again and see if I can get more information.

Having just finished another great MadFest juggling convention I have come to a better understanding of why there was such a controversy over the popularity of the Chris Bliss video that swept the internet a while back. (If you haven’t already seen it, check it out here before you read the rest of this article.)

MadFest is the annual regional juggler’s convention that is held each January in Madison Wisconsin. I have helped organize it to one degree or another since it started. For the last six years I have been in charge of the Public Show.

This year, as usual, we had a fantastic show. We had great jugglers like Luke Wilson (Brittish, living in Germany) and the Dew Drop Jugglers (Minneapolis/St. Paul MN) and we had great variety acts like The Rope Warrior (Chicago) and the Flybar Pogo Stick Demo Team (Chicago/Ohio), and sold out our 1300 seat theater once again. It’s always a challenge convincing people to go to the show, but once they go they are usually astonished at how great it was. For the most part, once people have seen the show they make it a family tradition to go every year. Initially it was frustrating to me that people didn’t seem to believe me that the show was going to be good enough to be worth seeing. I eventually got over the fact that not everyone thinks juggling is as cool as I do, although that never seemed like the whole story. This year I think I have seen the light, and my frustration has changed to a slightly different form: I think that American society no longer believes that live entertainment is worth the trouble.


As a kid, the way I remember it, was that on the day after Thanksgiving all of a sudden you would see the Christmas stuff appear in the stores. Then, as I got older, I remember being offended when the Christmas stuff started appearing before Thanksgiving. Recently, Christmas stuff has made its debut just after Halloween, but THIS IS THE LAST STRAW! Just LAST WEEK I saw an entire area of red and white, and ornaments and little Santas at Macy’s! Not only is it not Thanksgiving OR Halloween yet, but IT’S NOT EVEN OCTOBER!!!

What’s going on here?!? Are retailers really that desperate, or is this a sign of the disintegration of modern society and the onset of Armageddon? I mean really… September is the start of Christmas? Come on! We’re not even in the same financial quarter as Christmas yet. Maybe I’m getting cranky at an early age, but I think this is SICK and WRONG.

For those of you who are in an accelerated holiday state, you may have already started thinking about pumpkin carving. If so, I can be of service. I have amassed some pumpkin carving tricks and tips for the betterment of mankind. And please… let’s all try to remember that there are still two major holidays BEFORE we get to Christmas.

I just finished watching the final episode of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. If you don’t want to know who won you should stop reading right now.

First of all, I should say that I am really glad that this show is on the air. Even with all of my complaining, America’s Got Talent showcases variety arts and is good for all of us in the live entertainment industry. But there are a lot of serious problems. Click here to see my original rant on this subject.

Of course this show has been the subject of a lot of conversations in the juggling, yo-yoing, and performance communities, and one thing we were all in agreement on before tonight’s episode aired was that there was no way that a non-musical group could EVER win. Obviously the producers knew that too because they waited to give the judges picks on some of the semi-finalist shows until they had seen who the audience picked. With lay-people as judges you can never have a level playing field between music and variety acts. No one understands what is involved in putting together a good variety routine, and that’s fine, but the problem is that almost everyone knows how hard it is to be a good singer, and music has an emotional connection that nothing else can match. I realize that American Idol is not open to some of the acts that were on America’s Got Talent, but the fact that a variety act could NEVER win makes it look as thought the show producers think all variety artists are just really good filler. As long as music is a part of the competition no variety artist should ever enter if they actually want to win. They may get some great promo, but they will never win. (more…)

There is a new show on NBC called America’s Got Talent. I am very happy to have variety arts on TV, but there are some real problems with America’s Got Talent.

I’ll warn you now… this is a pretty massive rant.