Archive for May, 2007

WJF 2006 Championship DVD

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

A week or so ago I finally bought a copy of the WJF 2006 DVD. The WJF DVD’s have always been the most entertaining Juggling DVD’s I know of, and this one was fun to watch as well. Most juggling DVD’s get pretty repetitious pretty quickly, and end up seeming too long for the material presented. Not so with the 2006 Championship DVD. Despite being just over 2 hours long, it seemed over with too quickly.

Most juggling DVD’s focus simply on the tricks. The focus of the competition DVD’s is on the jugglers. You’ll see a lot of really difficult and sometimes original tricks, but the thing you’re really looking at is how well they are able to perform their routines when the pressure is on. Will Thomas screw up the courage to try nine this year? Can Vova control his nerves enough to let his skills dominate? Will Jason flub his connections? You never know for sure just exactly how things are going to turn out—unless, of course, you actually attended the event. I didn’t, so I found it quite engaging.

With that said, though, I have some criticisms for this latest DVD. First off, there is the editing. Yes, it was still better than most other juggling DVD’s, but the video editing for the 2006 competition DVD was worse than that of both the 2005 and 2004 shows. I think this is largely due to the fact that the first two were broadcast on ESPN, while the 2006 show was not. With the 2005 in particular, I know that the ESPN editors were constantly making Jason cut back on the over-the-top special effects he’s inclined to pile on. With the 2006 DVD, Jason had no one to tell him when he was getting carried away, and the DVD suffered for it. Most of the special effects seem to have been used because they were “cool”, rather than because they actually improved the presentation of the material.

There were also far more advertisements than I had expected in a DVD I paid for. It’s one thing to have a bunch of advertisements at the beginning. I have become used to tolerating this, since it is standard on nearly every movie. But to have advertisements sprinkled all throughout stuck me as cheap and unpleasant. When I buy a DVD, I’m looking for something with a little more class than some sleazy TV show. I doubt they even increase exposure for the WJF measurably. The people who are watching the advertisements have already bought from the WJF store. They already know what’s being sold. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

And the over-dramatic voice with the over-dramatic script was just about gag inducing.

Even with that said, I highly recommend you buy the DVD and watch it. The jugglers are all top-notch, the camera men did a great job, and the idea of a juggling competition remains a great one. You can get a pretty good taste of what it’s like by watching the trailer:

My other complaints center around the competition, rather than the DVD itself. I am constantly disappointed in the WJF’s handling of the scoring. They are obviously aware that it’s all screwed up, but they don’t seem to have any idea how to fix it. Many of the flaws are so glaringly obvious it’s unbelievable. Every year, the people who win are the people who do easy routines. Every year, the solution seems to be to increase the penalty for drops, as if that would fix anything.

According to the 2006 rules that were posted on the website prior to the competition:

“Connections will be scored as the average of the connected moves. No basic throws may exist in between connected moves to receive a connection bonus. Moves will continue to get connection bonus points as long as they continue to be connected to the moves that follow without repeating the same move more than once.”

That means if you connected a 1 point move to another 1 point move you’d get 3 points. To receive points for a move you must run the pattern twice—a transition need only be done once. That means, throw for throw, transitions are worth twice as much as a normal move, and are at least half as hard to learn or execute! They also take half as much time, and don’t count towards your 30 move limit, creating a gravy train of easy points. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this isn’t very balanced.

Already we are starting to see the effect it has on the competitors. People are trying and failing moves three times or more, when you’d think they ought to be moving on, because if they make the all-important connection, it really doesn’t matter if their drops cancel out the score they receive for doing the move correctly.

I think people will eventually learn that any move that is so difficult that you can’t do it in a long, continuous connection isn’t worth doing. That means doing tricks that are really easy. That’s not a good thing. A bunch of lame tricks done really fast are still just a bunch of lame tricks.

Change the rules.

Qian Brothers Performance Video

Friday, May 11th, 2007

The Qian Brothers are famous for doing extremely difficult technical juggling, both in practise and in performance. Until now, the only videos I had seen where of very poor quality. One was of the brothers passing 18 rings (6 each) and the other was of Jian Wan Qian flashing 8 badminton rackets. These videos can be found on Luke Burrage’s old site.

Recently, however, I stumbled across anther video of the Qian brothers on YouTube. It’s much better quality, and gives you a good feel for how technically demanding their act was. There are very, very few people who are capable of performing some of the tricks they did. 9-10 ring pulldowns, 7 badminton rackets—and they make it look easy.

Superconductor and a Magnet

Friday, May 11th, 2007

This is a cool video demonstrating how a superconductor can repel a magnet. It’s funny how so many people assume that this is fake, but it’s actually reproducible in a home setting. This link gives an explanation of how it works, and how you could try it yourself.

Cool way to Ski down a mountain

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

This guy took a video of himself skiing/paragliding down a mountain. Man, that’d be a fun way to go to work! I wonder how he keeps from being blown into the side of some of those cliffs?

Cool Physics Simulation Program

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

This guy is demonstrating his computerized physics drawing board. He can draw objects and they will behave realistically. It would be cool to be able to play around with something like that.

Hidden Underground Facility

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

I thought this article about a hidden underground facility was so cool! Granted, if I had an underground facility I wouldn’t waste it by growing marijuana in it, but I still have to admire the dedication and skill it must have taken to build it. It even has escape routes!