Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Trip report: Berkeley 2010 Juggling and Unicycling Festival

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

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When @johnnyfuncheap tweeted that there was going to be a free juggling and unicycle show in Berkeley this weekend, we were torn, torn, torn.

We don’t much enjoy driving to Berkeley and we always dread the drive back. It’s a long drive for us, we who have a very painful personal history with bridges letting us down hard (literally), and the Bay Bridge has not been retrofitted, etc., etc. But we nearly always have a great time when we get to Berkeley.

The fire juggling show at ten was what compelled us, and so we dragged ourselves to the Berkeley High School Jacket Gym to see what it would be like.

Our festival experience did not start all that auspiciously. We have never SEEN a high school that big. But beautiful, very, very clean. Nicely laid out. Big though. We drove around, drove around looking for parking. Eventually, we DID find a legal parking space very close by.

We arrived at the huge, huge gym and found it absolutely PACKED with incredible jugglers. There was a guy juggling miniature toilet plungers. There were large groups hurling pins at each other. There were folks with rhinestone-encrusted hula hoops. There was a guy spinning balls on his fingers. There was a woman in a purple t-shirt who kept doing incredible juggling things while the expression on her face implied that nothing whatsoever was going on. We kept having to dodge out of the way of stray pins and lurching unicycles.

I said the gym was PACKED with incredible jugglers, but that was a lie. About a third of the gym was dedicated to a ferocious game of unicycle basketball. Some of the players were on normal unicycles, some were on taller ones. Each rode with a unique style. It was simply amazing that in all the time we watched, no horrendous crashes occurred. We noticed that traveling with the ball seemed to be legal, as did handling the other players pretty roughly, and we also noticed that players fell off and go back onto their unicycles as if rolling out of and then back into bed.

Well, we talked with a bunch of the talented jugglers around us, watched jealously as a tiny, tiny boy getting his first unicycle lesson on a tiny, tiny unicycle, and gawked at the wide array of missiles soaring from hand to hand and at the apparently never-ending basketball game. After about 45 minutes or so, my daughter said, “We don’t know how to do these things. We don’t belong here.” It was still an hour until the fire show.

And then, who should take us over? Dan Chan, Magic Man. He asked my daughter if she knew how to juggle. She answered, “A little.” He offered her a lesson. She shyly refused. Dan did not give up. He asked ME if I knew how to juggle. I said, “Not a bit.” He said, “Are you willing to learn? Come over here.” So I went. And my daughter followed.

Dan handed me the most enchanting juggling balls you’ve ever felt. They are called GBallz and they are made of buttery leather and stuffed with millet. They seem to be the perfect size for any hand. They have a very reassuring weight as they drop into your palm. When they fall, they make a very, very quiet, non-embarrassing splat and THEY DO NOT ROLL AWAY.

So poor Dan started to teach me to juggle. I was an attentive but inept student. And by then Dan could see that my daughter was begging to just hold the GBallz, let alone learn from Dan. He looked at my daughter and said, “She’ll be juggling in 20 minutes.” He gave her three GBallz. (We later learned that this was very kind, since they are very expensive and we were sorely tempted to take them home so we could keep juggling them all night and for the rest of our lives ….)

Dan is just a fantastic teacher. He shows you something, and then he lets you try it and gives you feedback. Then he says something like, “Do that ten times and then you’ll learn something else.” Then he walks away and shows back up a little later when you’re ready to learn more.

I learned to juggle two balls fairly well considering I have no talent in this area. My daughter was juggling three pretty nicely before an hour or so had passed. People whose juggling we admired kept walking up to us and giving us helpful tips.

In no time at all, the incredible, wonderful, exceptional fire show was on. At fire show, there was a guy on a unicycle making origami from burning paper, shouting in Spanish and English for us to cheer him on. There was a guy with a burning whip. There were several flaming unicycle-riders juggling fire. There was a fire-eater and a fire-dancer and the music was great and the space in which we watched was comfortable and beautiful.

The Berkeley 2010 Juggling and Unicycling Festival runs through tomorrow, Sunday, July 11. If you can go tomorrow, go. If you can’t, look for it next year and go to their workshops. (Everything except a show on Saturday night was free, far as I know.)

My photos are here:

Book review: The Hunger Games

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

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Author:Suzanne Collins
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Year of publication:2008

This sounds kinda negative, and I did enjoy it, but I do have a bit of a sour aftertaste after reading this:

I'm not sure how to rate this book. It was very disturbing: The whole point is that 24 teenagers all fight to the death. Yay. But it was also very gripping and exciting, and talked about the price of freedom. It definitely kept me up with vivid images in my head...

My biggest problem, though was the cliff-hanger ending. I ordered the second book before I had finished the first one because you can't just stop the story where the author does. A word of advice: the third one is not out yet, and the second one DOES NOT have a satisfying ending. If you like excitement, a bit of gore, and a little bit of mushy romance, this book is great.

-- Fizzy

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Hunger Games, The

Book review: The Chosen

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

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Author:Chaim Potok
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Year of publication:1967

WAS:Orthodox Jewish boy trying to decide what to be when he grows up.

Flippant. Flippant. And, entirely unfair to this book.

It is the middle of World War II and most citizens of the US are still unaware of what is happening to the Jews of Europe. Reuven Malther, an Orthodox Jew, is severely injured in a baseball game by a ball pitched by Danny Saunders, a Hasidic (much more fundamentalist) Jew. They become friends and as a result they, and we, learn a great deal about the different styles of parenting, religious observation, and reactions to the formation of the state of Israel, among believers in different branches of Judaism.

More generally, this is a story about parents struggling to figure out how to raise their gifted sons to honor their religious heritage and to reach their potential.

And it is about gifted boys realizing that they may not be called to follow in their fathers' footsteps.

"A very sad book," my 12 yr. old says. "But well worth reading." My other daughter called me from college to recommend the "sequel" (It's not about the same characters, but the themes are similar): My Name is Ascher Lev.

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Chosen, The

Book review: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

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Author:Ann Brashares
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:2001

A magical pair of pants, pants that are equally flattering on each in the Sisterhood, remind a group of four young women of their bond. And the pants also very creatively tether the four separate plot lines together.

Very well written chic lit.

I found the four stories -- about: staying brave as a friend dies, being honest about one's feelings, dealing with a divorced parent's new family, and the dangers of manic/depression -- pretty realistic and interesting. But I do have some reservations about the book:
  • Are there really strongly cohesive groups of four girls this different? Perhaps because the book rarely discusses what they do when together, I was not persuaded.
  • Money and distance and parents seem to be insignificant obstacles to these young women. Adults in the book are there in a way similar to the authority figures in Peanuts. You see/hear rumors of them, but even at a summer camp, they seem to be mostly, frightentingly absent. Perhaps this is the way that teenage girls perceive them. Perhaps they are mostly absent in many teenagers' lives. The girls know they need to be there for eachother, because their parents -- aren't.
Well, anyway, I enjoyed getting to know Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby, who shine because of their inner goodness, although the magical pants, might add to the luminance.

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The

Book review: Maniac Magee

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

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Author:Jerry Spinelli
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:1990

Modern day tall tale, beautifully written by Jerry Spinelli, whose Stargirl we also loved.

Maniac's athletic gifts and personal fortitude give him entree behind the window curtains of many homes in his small Pennsylvania town, where he is privileged to share meals and experiences with old and young, black and white, humans and zoo animals.

Maniac re-pays the kindness of strangers by helping to bridge, although not heal, the town's racial divide.

Winner, 1991 Newbery Medal

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Maniac Magee

Book review: Summerland

Monday, June 5th, 2006

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Author:Michael Chabon
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 5 and under
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:2002

Very long tribute to the magical powers of baseball to heal divisions between people and damage to the Earth. Intense enough so that my daughter who is not exceptionally interested in baseball kept having to check back with me to reassure herself that the story really would end in a satisfactory way (happily, that is).
It also kept her intensely interested, and it gave her a new -- awe for -- the concept of the "Coyote".  
Similar books

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Summerland