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September 26th, 2012 JOHN LOCANTHI | Headout
 

Headout: Juggling Numbers

A sabermetric approach to tossing balls in the air.

headout_3847IMAGE: Nate Miller

Invented to entertain ancient Egyptians, juggling is one of the oldest sports known to man. “Juggling” is an umbrella term covering many forms of object manipulation and requiring immense dexterity, coordination and practice. All of this according to Stuart Celarier, an instructor of juggling at Reed College, where the sport fulfills PE requirements.

Juggling is in the midst of a renaissance, Celarier says, with today’s best jugglers tossing cigar boxes and burning staves along with ancient implements like the diabolo, a device juggled in China 2,500 years ago.

But the most interesting thing going is something called siteswap.

“It’s a way of recognizing patterns by attaching numbers to types of throws,” Celarier says.

The product of research done at Caltech and Cambridge, siteswap, or quantum juggling, involves making space-time diagrams using a coded system that covers height and the hand involved in tossing each object. A throw that crosses from one hand to another is given an odd number. Even numbers are for throws that land in the same hand. The higher the number, the higher the throw. To see if a particular pattern is possible, you divide the sum of those numbers by the number of throws. If the answer is a whole number, it’s possible.

So, the simple pleasure of tossing something in the air and trying really hard to catch it and throw it again quickly is gone. Rhys Thomas, an internationally known Portland juggler who answered my phone call while standing on 9-foot stilts, is philosophical about this.

“It’s really amazing,” Thomas says. “We have records of people who have been juggling for over 4,000 years, and it wasn’t until siteswap that we knew simple tricks like 441 were even possible. After siteswap, we learned more new tricks than we ever figured out just goofing off.

“It raises the question, ‘What is juggling, really?’ People just think it’s people tossing things back and forth but...it’s just working with physical things in the same way as people talk about juggling their jobs, families and lives.”


GO: Reed College, which has taught juggling since 1979, hosts the 20th annual Portland Juggling Festival Sept. 28-30, featuring world-class performers and 31 workshops. Celarier will teach an introductory course in five-ball juggling, and Thomas will teach a class with a box of dinner plates, a dustpan and a broom. Visit portlandjugglers.org for more info.


Headout Picks

WEDNESDAY SEPT. 26

TRASH TALK
[MUSIC] Skip Odd Future at Roseland and head straight to Branx’s after-party, where OFWGKTA associate Trash Talk will put on an angry display worth getting worked up about. The band pursues a balance of power, violence and muscular punk, and seven years in, still sounds like a gang of kids hooked on Cry Now, Cry Later, comps and shitty beer. Branx, 315 SE 3rd Ave., 234-5683. 11 pm. $10. 21+.


FRIDAY SEPT. 28

LEBOWSKI BASH
[FUCK IT, LET’S GO BOWLING] Hey, man, so it’s not an official Lebowskifest—the intellectual property is the issue, dude—but Grand Central Bowling is showing the Big movie while pouring White Russians and oat sodas. Oh, and staging a performance of the Gutter Balls interlude. Grand Central Bowling, 808 SE Morrison St., 236-2695. 7 pm. Free. 21+.


SATURDAY SEPT. 29

OREGON TRAIL LIVE
[INSERT DYSENTERY JOKE HERE] Finally, a reason to visit Salem: the Willamette Heritage Center is putting on a live-action version of classic edutainment video game The Oregon Trail. Teams will compete by hunting, grave digging, floating wagons, and carrying meat. Registration is closed, but you can still watch. Willamette Heritage Center, 1313 Mill St., Salem, 585-7012. 1 pm. $5. oregontraillive.com.

ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI, DAM-FUNK
[MUSIC] Strange touring partners on the surface—Ariel Pink is a bedroom-pop savant; Dam-Funk plays the kind of squiggly, candy-painted electro-funk that billowed from El Camino stereo systems in the mid-’80s—both thirtysomething Californians built careers grasping at memories of their respective childhoods. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., 284-8686. 9 pm. $15 advance, $17 day of show. 21+.

PERVERT THE CIRQUE
[GAY CIRCUS] Step right up to this “queer and kinky” circus to see aerial stunts, contortions, clowns and the one, the only Sossity Chiricuzio as Ring Mistress. The Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave, 231-1232. 7:30 pm. $15-$40.


TUESDAY OCT. 2

THE BODY OF AN AMERICAN
[THEATER] The title of Dan O’Brien’s play references a photograph of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. War journalist Paul Watson won a Pulitzer for that 1993 shot, but it haunted him long after. O’Brien’s play receives its world premiere at Portland Center Stage. Gerding Theater, 128 NW 11th Ave., 445-3700, pcs.org. Times vary. $39-$54, students $25.
 
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