TT with HD: Bruce Fields
[Ed. note: Bruce can juggle round objects (up to 7 briefly) and clubs (5 for a while). He is also skilled with rings of various kinds. The Ann Arbor Juggling Arts Club meets on a regular basis (Saturdays 2-4pm on the UM Diag), and welcomes folks who just want to give it a go. Sign up for updates on rain locations and regular meetings using juggling-requests AT umich dot edu. Bruce is familiar in the local online community for his service as a core contributor to ArborUpdate.]
HD: Don't panic, I'm just going to scoot back because--you know, to get the full effect of the clubs. Can you juggle lower [so that the clubs will be visible in the camera frame]?
BF: It's a little tricky because every now and then I am hitting the board. It's hard to account for ...
HD: ... okay, but you're supposed to be like a really good juggler, or? So that should not be a problem!
BF: Oh, yeah, right. So, no whining.
HD: [Ed. note: photography concludes] So you want to try--is passing three round objects back and forth the same as what we were doing before [passing clubs]?
BF: Uh huh, yeah. The distance might be a little tricky.
HD: Why would the distance be tricky?
BF: I think they will end up with a lot more horizontal momentum. And it's a little bit harder to catch a ball that's coming in at that ...
HD: ... but that's just a matter of tossing it in a nice gentle arc, right?
BF: Yeah. It's good to go. Same pattern as before, every other right hand?
HD: Every other right hand, okay. [Ed. note: The first attempt results in a drop by HD that rolls out of reach from his seat on the totter.] Oh, this is going to suck, you know why? We need like a spotter.
HD: We need ball boys--oh wait, who is that? Dave is helping us out here! Okay, alright. We should pause the motion of the teeter totter, and if we are going really well, then we'll start tottering up and down. [Ed. note: The 'up, down' verbalized by BF and HD subsequently is not descriptive of their teeter tottering. Rather it coordinates the commencement of their passing.]
BF: Up, down.
HD: Okay, up, down. [Ed. note: HD and BF achieve some number of passes.]
BF: Okay, I think we can declare success with that.
HD: Oh yeah. We are brilliant, we are awesome.
BF: Oh, you know, there's a good trick you can do, too.
HD: What's that?
BF: Let's see if we can get it timed right, actually. Let's try this one more time. [Ed. noe: They have a try.] Nah, it's too slow.
HD: What were you doing? Oh, you are trying to roll one to me.
BF: Yeah, it's a little slower, but if you start on an earlier earlier beat you might be able to get it just at the right time.
HD: Oh, Okay. So teeter totters aren't a standard part of juggling, so is that a variation of some standard trick? Where you like roll it along the ground, or?
BF: I'm trying to think if I have seen people do that before. I'm not sure. Could be. It's pretty standard to play with the timing that way, though. By doing a trick that takes a little bit longer, and starting it earlier, so that it still arrives in the same place.
HD: So let me ask you before I forget, a standard question that I encountered having mastered three round objects in my youth--and I thought I was pretty cool ...
BF: ... I know the question!
HD: I thought was going to be a total chick magnet, you know, and it didn't really work out for me. The standard question: How many can you do?
BF: [laugh] That is the question. Yeah, I knew that was the question.
HD: So how many can you do, Bruce?
BF: It gets a little bit like measuring elements with high periodic numbers ...
HD: ... you are already dodging the question!
BF: Yeah, I can do seven, but only for a brief time.
HD: So, seven round objects. Like these bean bags?
HD: Can you also do seven clubs briefly, or?
BF: No. It's much, much harder. I can do five clubs for a while.
HD: So is that something that you do often, just to stay in practice?
BF: I used to. When I was in high school I would practice practically every day. I was kind of a possessed. But lately, no, it's something I do once a week with my friends.
HD: And you pretty much have to have a venue like this, which has super-high ceilings, or else just do it outside, right? For five clubs, I would think?
BF: Yeah, for something like five clubs.
HD: I remember learning to do three clubs at home in my living room, basically I destroyed the living room ceiling.
BF: Yeah, that can be annoying. So our group, lately we have been meeting in the atrium of the [University of Michigan] Chemistry Building. It has unbelievably high ceilings. So it's good for that.
HD: I imagine there is some echo when you guys drop--not that you would drop all that frequently--but the sound in that space of juggling clubs dropping, is that an issue? Like, bugging the rest of the people in the building?
BF: We meet on Saturdays, and we hope we just hope there aren't too many people there then.
HD: Huh. Have you ever been asked to keep it down?
BF: No. Not since we've been there.
HD: Nobody's asked, say, Who told you guys you could do this?
HD: Nothing like that?
BF: No. Hasn't been a problem.
HD: So, no guff from the University community?
BF: It could be that people just don't know who to complain to.
HD: Or it could be that they are just too shy to complain to you guys directly. You know, maybe they are annoyed and they grumble about it to their co-workers and their neighbors, but they don't have the guts to say, Hey, you guys really shouldn't be here!
BF: Yep. But we try to not make too much noise. We do usually have music.
HD: The music that was on before here was something very non-juggling, I thought. It was some sort of classical piece, that was more designed sort of put you to sleep or relax you, not the sort of YAH dah dah dah dah dah DAH dah DAH da, that you would associate with juggling, right?
BF: Well, you can talk to Ajit about that--I think he is our DJ today.
HD: So looking around here how many of these people have you seen before and you recognize as part of the regular group--they haven't shown up just because they like juggling?
BF: Right now, I would say at least half are people that I know.
HD: So is there anybody who is kind of like an obviously best juggler amongst the Juggling Club? Somebody who you would say, Yeah that guy is like head and shoulders above the rest?
BF: No. But Fred is very good. If you're interested in number stuff, he also does seven, but he can keep it going for longer than me.
HD: I know it has to do with physics and the formula for gravity and acceleration and stuff that accounts for the fact that three is basically so easy that if you are reasonably coordinated you can be expected to be able to do three with practice. But if you go from three to five, which is the next cascading number, suddenly it's a huge quantum leap. And the distance in difficulty between three and five, and then between five and seven is not the same, it's even worse, right?
BF: I seem to remember that five took me a few months to learn. Which is already a lot more than three, which you can sort of pick up ...
HD: ... in an afternoon, almost.
BF: Yeah. And seven, I have been working on off-and-on for the last 20 years. And I've never really been comfortable with it.
HD: Are you at a point where you kind of say, Well, if I never really get to seven and I die, I'll still die happy? Or is it something that you really want to perfect before you leave this planet?
BF: No, no, I am quite fine with it! Every now and then the obsession bites me, but for the most part I'm quite happy.
HD: So these beanbags, these are like top of the line bean bags, aren't they?
BF: They're pretty good.
HD: Are they like doeskin or something? Or are they synthetic leather?
BF: You know, I don't remember. If we asked somebody else, I bet they can tell us, because they are pretty standard. There's a guy in Michigan named Michael Ferguson.
HD: And he sews them?
BF: He might be here. What's that?
HD: Does he make them?
BF: Yeah, used to make them. He doesn't anymore.
HD: So are these your personal beanbags?
BF: Mm hm.
HD: Because I noticed that it has a repair here.
BF: Oh, yeah, I don't remember what happened. I think that maybe Sara, my wife might have ...
HD: ... she might have ripped it?
BF: She might have repaired it.
HD: Oh, I was going to say you are handy with a needle and thread, too!
BF: No, alas!
HD: So, you think we could talk to--where is that guy, Dave?
BF: Hey, Dave!
HD: Maybe we could talk Dave into coming over and taking a turn.
BF: How do we stop?
HD: Well, I have to stop pushing up and down, yeah.
BF: Shall I just get off?
HD: Yeah, that was good, that was very graceful.
HD: Thanks for the ride.