Tiny Circus Big Top

NOW PRESENTING: Tiny Circus Big Top!

Tiny Circus is exploring new topics and themes that might not be appropriate for younger audiences. While we are interested in creating animations with more mature content, we acknowledge that our viewership and our pool of fellow collaborators is comprised of both children and adults. We recognize that our past animations are uniformly kid-friendly and that parents often let their kids view Tiny Circus videos on their own. Over the past few months, we have been trying to figure out how to post our new work without alienating any of our audience members or fellow collaborators. The solution we’ve reached is to post our less kid-friendly content under a new name: Tiny Circus Big Top.

Tiny Circus Big Top was created as a result of discussions among full-time collaborators, TC alum, and friends of TC, many of whom are teachers and parents with children. Here’s a quick rundown of those discussions:
  • We considered posting the new videos under the same Tiny Circus YouTube account as all of our other videos, but we imagined that kids viewing videos on their own could possibly come across content that their parents would rather them not see.
  • We also considered posting our new work under a new moniker that would be kept completely separate from the Tiny Circus web presence, but we realized that we still wanted to share our new animations with the current TC community.
  • The most logical choice in our minds, after months of discussion, was to create Tiny Circus Big Top. TC Big Top has its own YouTube channel, Vimeo channel, a new e-mail address, and a new Facebook page. Big Top viewers will be encouraged to check out Tiny Circus animations, but Tiny Circus YouTube viewers will not be linked directly to Big Top animations (this allows us to better manage the probability that kids or viewers who do not want to view animations with adult themes would come across such videos unintentionally).

Our goal as a collaborative organization is to create animations that are fun, hilarious, fascinating, and interesting to our group of animators. Since that group of animators so often changes form, so does the content of the animations that are created. Providing this new space for adult-themed animations is meant to allow us to expand our current body of work and grow as an organization. TC Big Top will be a place for animations with content that we imagine some parents might not want their children to see; it allows us to leave that decision up to parents. After all, some parents might see the TC Big Top animations as an educational opportunity or a way to spark conversation with their young ones. Either way, we are making the process of creating TC Big Top as transparent as possible, and the conversations about what this means for TC are by no means over.

All that said, it is our “pleasure” to share these new animations with you, TC family and friends. 

Check out our first Big Top animation here: Big Top - Pornucopia

Do You Have A Voting Strategy?

Some vote straight party line.  They choose their party row and shade in all the boxes from left to right.  In my opinion this is not really a strategy but more of a mindless approach to voting. Although it does have its merits when a candidate is running unopposed or 2 candidates for 2 seats.  I know of some that will leave a box blank as kind of a no vote for that person.  I have had opportunities in the past  to view the tallies of the votes in our community after the polls have closed  and I have noticed that this is done more often than some might realize.  Not sure if the difference between voter turn out and totaling the number of votes for each candidate are all no votes or voter indifference because they may not know anything about that person and just skipped them.

If you have ever intentionally skipped a candidate on a ballot.... Raise Your Hand! Good for you, this next strategy might just work for you.  How about the 3 way race for 2 seats? We have 2 of those races, one in the village for trustee and one in the town for councilperson.  Take a look at the sample ballot below....

Click to Enlarge

There are 3 candidates and the ballot tells you to vote for any 2.  In theory if you follow those directions your second choice will cancel out your first. It might be hard to understand at first but if you give it some thought over the weekend it just might make sense to you in time for Election Day. How about if you ignore the directions and just vote for 1 candidate, your absolute favorite one [and best choice]! This tactical strategy is called Bullet Voting and it is better explained HERE.  I hope you take the time to read this.....you might be very surprised at the results after the polls close.

Local Ballot [Sample]

Village of Alexandria Bay and Town Of Alexandria:
Set aside the politics of your party and vote for the "best" candidate on November 5th

Click For Larger Image

Art Educators of Iowa Fall Conference

Tiny Circus was in Cedar Rapids with the Art Educators of Iowa this past weekend. AEI's fall conference took place in the lovely Hotel at Kirkwood Center. We converted a conference room into our animating studio for the weekend, making use of the huge magnetic whiteboards, the rolly desks and desk chairs, and the gigantic flat screen monitor (used to show animators shots from Dragonframe in real time).

As the "animation troupe in residence" at the (coincidentally) circus-themed conference, we spent three long days in our animating studio. Teachers attending the conference jumped in both to observe the process and to get hands-on by making characters and animating. Some conference attendees spent a few minutes with us; others spent hours and returned day after day.

The storyboard for the visuals involves shots of clay, paper cut-outs, and dry erase marker drawings as well as time lapse and stop motion sequences. The fanciful and imaginative visuals will be paired with an audio document crafted from interviews with art educators at the conference. Exploring questions related to the importance of art education, what actually happens in the art classroom, and what larger lessons art educators hope to give their students through art education, the audio document takes a closer look at what art class really does for students at any grade level.

The weekend with AEI was packed full of animating and interviewing, but we also had the opportunity  to give a lecture to the entire crowd, do a screening the last night of the event, and make some new friends from all over the state!

After packing up and saying goodbye to our converted conference room turned animating studio, we returned to our Grinnell home base to edit the animation and prepare to head south for the winter. Stay tuned for the animation.

Trading In The Beast

Ten years ago I purchased a 2003 VW Jetta Wagon.  165K miles later it seemed that it was time to trade the loyal beast for a newer version.  The beast performed very well over the years and aged gracefully just recently showing signs of surface rust.

I called my friend Walt Young at FX Caprara VW and he found a perfect replacement for the beast.  Walt and I are both into making videos.  At the closing of the sales transaction, Walt pulled his video camera out and said, we are going to make a funny commercial.  So I played along.....  The following video is a collaborative piece.  I added the spooky intro, and inserted the zombie over Walt's portion of the video, and then added the cute clip of our dog Luna at the end.

Circus at Citizen Jane

Two weeks later, Tiny Circus is still feeling the buzz from this year's Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia, MO. Having been too busy animating during our last several years at Citizen Jane to actually experience much of the festival, we were grateful this year for the opportunity to kick back and enjoy some great films. We also got to know some awesome filmmakers as we interviewed them for next year's film festival bumpers. We asked them about the first films they ever made, and what kind of film they'd make now if they had unlimited time and budget.

We spent our weekend discussing what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated industry, and strategizing about alternative structures to the current model.

Katie and Sally spoke on a panel about collaboration. We collected lots of Citizen Jane gear. 

And we danced. And ate 2 a.m. biscuits, and explored a cave. Ken, our cave tour guide, came to see The History of War, The History of Curiosity, Ghost Trap, Age, and Creativity as they were screened in the Animated Shorts! program. 

This short film made by Stephens College student volunteers at the fest really captures the magic of the weekend. Thank you, Citizen Jane! We can't wait until next time. 

Autumn Laker

Alexandria Bay:

I shot this video last night while sipping on a beer at The Pointe, Bonnie Castle Resort.  Tons of videos out there with ships passing in front of Boldt Castle.  So I tried to make this one just a little different.....

Compassion defect

I write all these nice things here. Here's one that's less nice.


Overnight call on our labor floor starts at 5 pm. It's actually technically impossible for me to finish up at clinic and drive 25 minutes (traffic permitting) by 5 pm, so I'm always late, and I always arrive stressed, and feeling bad for the doctors who have already been there for 10 hours*. I usually start getting paged while negotiating the trafficor the parking - not by the MDs on L&D, who know I'm already rushing, but by patients, because their offices have closed.

 I finally get to Labor and Delivery, and I'm getting sign out on what is, of course (of course!) a very full board** of complicated patients with dysfunctional labors. I ask the day doctor to stay for five minutes more so I can run upstairs, and change into scrubs.

Except that there's construction upstairs, so there's no call room, and no scrub machine where they used to be. I find the other nighttime attending, and she shows me the scrub machine (relocated, but fine) and the new call room (relocated, and fetid).

During this lap of exploration around the upstairs hospital floor, my pager goes off. I call the page operator back, and get connected to the patient while struggling with the combination lock to get into the call room. She's five weeks pregnant,and has started spotting, and her doctor told her to call back later if it continued. I talk to her while I change out of my shirt: it's light bleeding, she doesn't know if she's Rh negative. I start telling her that her bleeding sounds pretty minor; that it's hard to tell what's going on without an ultrasound, and that regardless, there's not much we can do at this time. Inwardly, I'm cursing the doctor who told her to call back, because WHY? when I can do nothing for her, so THANKS BUDDY for not making a good plan for your patient. I tell the patient to sit tight, because although she can come in to the emergency room, she thankfully doesn't qualify as an emergency right now.

During this part of the discussion, I am having trouble maneuvering my shirt around my head, and I drop the phone. CLUNK. She's still there. I pick the phone up to to tell her not to worry too much, and how to know if she's bleeding too much, and when to come into the ED.

Someone starts opening my call room door. I...am not dressed. I panic, and yell at the door: "I"m in here, don't come in, I'm not dressed". I blurt at the phone: "OK, so come in if you're bleeding-more-than-one-pad-an-hour-and-call-your-office-in-the-morning-for-an-ultrasound", then accidentally drop the phone again while trying to pull my pants on, which hangs up on her.

I open the door while tying my scrub pants and picking up my phone. It's my daytime colleague. One of the patients downstairs needs an urgent section, and she really shouldn't start it, or she'll never leave. I run downstairs, now dressed. I don't even remember about this 5-weeks-pregnant-with-spotting-lady until a week later. I think she might just hate me; that is understandable. I really hope she's ok.

 *Systems issue, I know. I'm not gonna fix it today. **The white board that we put patients on, and use to run L&D, and is generally the nerve center for the whole floor.

The Video Guy

Alexandria Bay:

During the last Blues In The Bay, I grabbed a few seemingly random video shots. I had them on my camera for a month before I uploaded them and then realized what I had.  Incriminating evidence!  I will admit that I am guilty of this same ruse. Pretending to video tape the cute dog or kid while secretly video taping a rather hot looking momma! It is a secret that us video guys have and it is one that I am willing to share with the world.  As a result, Walt Young has kicked me out of the Video Guy Club!  My only redemption.... buying Walt a nice bottle of Scotch... or you can go visit him at FX Caprara and buy a car from him..... tell him I sent you.......and maybe he will let me back into the Video Guy Club.....Please watch the video

Magical Life

I recently did a speaking engagement at an art retreat and several of the attendees asked that I post it on my blog.  So here it is.

Tips for a magical Life

First of all, find your joyful process.  Mine happens to be journaling.  But you may have more.  Recently, my joyful process has been focused on the process of transforming our living space.  More about this later (in another post).

So, if you can connect to your joyful process, you will connect with your passions which in turn will cause people to notice and then they will connect with that.  They will notice and connect whether it's through viewing your artwork, reading your blog, talking to you at the coffeeshop, etc.  Your passions will make you and what you do much more intoxicating and interesting.

The best artists are the ones who are constantly on the lookout for what makes the heart beat faster.  Be sure to sketch it, take a photo, make a note of it, or even post it (pinterest, Facebook, a blog).  This gives you vibrant inspiration which in turn will be seen in your work.

Put your art first.  Stay open.  Put in a TON of hard work.  Regard work as a fulfilling opportunity to be the person you want to be and have the life you want to live.  I love to work and lose my vitality when something gets in the way of it.  It's always been that way.  If work is a negative word for you, find a way to make it positive.  Magic will happen.

Rituals can help.  They help bring focus and energy to your day.  Some of mine include:

  • Coffee and journaling every morning.  This can be done at a coffee shop or at home (these days it's been at home).  I have a journaling desk that always has my open journal on it with some pens.
  • I prepare vegetables in the morning for the day.  I try to be in the moment while I am cutting them and washing them.  I notice their brilliant colors, textures, smells.  I try not to think about the day while I am doing this.  This makes meals so much easier and greatly reduces the amount of time to cook.  When I am barreling through the day, the last thing I want to do is bring my creating to a halt and spend an hour cooking.  It allows flow throughout the day.
  • I take a break about 3pm for a snack and read through my books and magazines for 15 minutes.  If I am tired, I take a nap instead.  This helps me to not get too obsessive with my work and projects and reminds me to stop and breathe.
Organization is the key to success.  Make your organizing time enjoyable by listening to music.  Be in the moment and enjoy the process.  I cannot stress enough the value of being organized.
  • Tidy when your studio is tidy (this would apply to your whole house too).  Don't let it get really bad.  Slow down and take that extra 5 minutes to put away your mess.
  • Get rid of stuff!  Clear out every cupboard, drawer, closet, room.  This is so simple to do and makes your life so much more magical.  LESS THINGS = CLEAR HEAD = BETTER CREATIVE FLOW.  Fill up large trash bags, take them to a charity center and smile all the way home.  As you are unloading clutter from your house, you are feeling lighter with every trip to the Goodwill.  Don't consider for a moment how much something is worth that you are getting rid of.  Instead focus on the fact that it's just the price you are paying for living a creative, flowing, magical life....one that flows and allows you to breathe and be at peace.
It's all about the Flow.  You need flow in your body.  Your environment needs to flow.  Your artwork needs flow.  And of course your passions rely on flow.  Flow happens when stagnant energy is removed.  Clutter does not equal flow.  Cupboards that are packed with stuff is not flow.  Eating foods that aren't good for you is not flow.  Having too much in your home so you can't walk around freely is not flow.  You get the picture here.  Strive for flow in ALL areas of your life.

Goal setting is SO important too.  Write goals and "wants" down.  Say them out loud.  Know in your heart that they will happen.  Your list of goals is telling the Universe where to focus their energy.  So, think BIG!

It is hard for artists to have schedules.  I struggle with this.  But a rough outline can really help.  If you don't have a schedule, you can flutter away hours on the internet.  It also allows the time and space to work on everything in your life you want to make time for.  I would encourage you to sit down and write something out that includes everything you want to have time to do.  Change it as needed as you go, adding and deleting activities to make your ideal life.

Lastly, work really hard.  Don't wait for inspiration.  Be wary of other people telling you what to do or what you should do (even as I am sitting here doing just that by writing this manifesto).  ;)  We all intuitively know what we need to do.  Muster the energy within yourself to just make it happen.

When I had a real passion for something, it made me focus DEAD-ON!  And I worked really hard at that regardless of other interesting intrusions.  So, to summarize:
  • Find your Joyful Process
  • Connect with your Passions
  • Shoot for a state of Flow
  • Rituals are good to have
  • Organization is Key
  • Make a list of what you want in Life
  • Believe in the fact that you will get it
  • Work really hard
  • Stay Focused
  • Try to maintain a schedule

Newly Ordained: Deacon Joel

The Catholic Community Of Alexandria:

Yesterday at St. Mary's Cathedral in Ogdensburg, my brother-in-law Joel Walentuk along with 12 others from North Country Parishes , were ordained as Deacons by Bishop Terry R. LaValley.  Today these 13 men begin their ministries of The Word, Alter, and Charity. Many years of hard work and sacrifice by them and their families have led up to assisting in their first Mass today, and many more to come.  Congratulations to ALL... Please watch the video and Meet Deacon Joel


Town Of Alexandria:

I am unpredictable.  It is one of my many quirky behaviors that I like to use..... regularly. Just because I can, and I know it annoys some people [hopefully a lot of people].  I had a visit today from 3 town workers who support Andrew Davis.  They made a special effort to come talk to me, the mad blogger.  I am not really mad, just unpredictable and crazy with no ties to anyone or any group.... Some call it being Rogue.... I like that word.......R=O=G=U=E

I had already read the political pamphlet, which caused me to think and read it more closely a second time.  I listened to what the 3 town workers had to say, but more importantly, I took notice of what was not said.  I am not going to share either with you, I am just going to say, if they come knocking on your door, take some time and listen...... closely.......

Town Of Alexandria Highway Superintendent is going to be a hard seat to win.....  Most political races on this level are won based on family name and notoriety..... which is ok, as long as they possess the credentials and the finesse to get the job done with out the drama.....

I am not endorsing one over the other..... not that anyone really cares or hangs on my opinion.  All I am encouraging you to do is to make an educated vote........

Till election day..... my door is open, and so is my choice....

Update: after posing this story, I had a visit from Andy and his wife Holly..... we had a nice visit......