Thursday, 27 August 2015

Animation Assistant

A temporary position will be available for an eight to twelve week period early next year for ‘inbetweener’ work.
Candidates must be experienced with traditional pencil and paper animation.
Rate of pay to be negotiated based on experience.
Send a CV to apply@johnhelvin.net
This is a temporary email address and will cease to function after the 4th of September.

Unsuccessful applications will not receive a reply. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Martial's Juggler

Marital was a Roman author of the first through to second century AD. He wrote  a considerable number of epigrams, covering a wide range of subjects. In this epigram he describes a young juggler juggling a small shield. While I have never seen anyone juggling a shield, I have seen a juggler juggle a tea tray in the way described. Unfortunately, YouTube does not have an example specifically of that so I chose an example of non-ball type juggling by Mat Ricardo, juggling a cane and then a hat. 

From the Loeb edition of 1920.
Martial, volume II
Book 9, epigram 38.

Summa licet velox, Agathine, pericula ludus,
non tamen efficies ut tibi parma cadat.
nolentem sequitur tenuisque reversa per auras
vel pede vel tergo, crine vel ungue sedet;
lubrica Corycio quamvis sint pulpita nimbo
et rapiant celeres vela negata Noti,
secures pueri neglecta perambulat artus,
et nocet artifici ventus et unda nihil.
ut peccare velis, cum feceris omnia, falli
non potes: arte opus est ut tibi parma cadat.


Although, Agathinus, you deftly play a game of highest risk, yet you will not achieve the falling of your shield. Though you avoid it, it follows you, and, returning through the yielding air, settles on foot or back, on hair or finger-tip. However slippery is the stage with a Corycian saffron-shower, and although rushing winds tear at the awning that cannot be spread, the shield though disregarded, pervades the boy's careless limbs, and wind and shower baffle the artist no whit. Although you try to miss, do what you will, you cannot be foiled: art is needed to make your shield fall.


Friday, 29 May 2015

The Old Napkin Trick in Compendium Maleficarum

Below is an extract from the Compendium Maleficarum. The tricks described are now a bit old hat, except when performed truly well. The napkin trick can sometimes be found in children's books of magic. Eschelles confession was very likely under torture. 

COMPENDIVM MALEFICARVM, F. FRANCISCVS MARIA GVACCIVS, 1626, page 14.

Coloniæ citabatur uirgo quædam, quæ mira in conspectu nobilium fecisset, quæ arte magica videbantur fieri: mappam enim quandam dicebatur lacerasse, et subito in omnium oculis re dintegrasse. Vitrum quoddam ad parietem a se iactatum, et confractum, in momento reparasse, et similia: manus Inquisitoris euasit excommunicata.

Narrat supra citatus quidam, quòd in Francia Triscalinus Circulator coram Carolo nono, aliàs laudato Rege, à quodam Nobili ab eo remoto pelliciebat cunctis videntibus torque annellos ad se sigillatim, eosque manu recipiebat aduolantes, vt videbatur, nihilominus mox torquis integer, et illæsus repertus fuit. Hic conuictus multorum, quæ, nec arte, nec artificio humano, nec natura fieri poterant, confessus est, opera Diabolica cuncta perfecisse, quòd ante obstinatua negauerat.


English translation by E. A. Ashton:

“A certain virgin of Cologne was said to have performed in the presence of the nobles wonders which seemed to be due to magic: for she was said to have torn up a napkin, and suddenly to have pieced it together again before the eyes of all; she threw a glass vessel against the wall and broke it, and in a moment mended it again; and other like things she did. She escaped from the hands of the Inquisition with a sentence of excommunication.

From the same source we hear of a conjurer in France named Trois Eschelles, who in the sight of all and in the presence of Charles IX, called the Praiseworthy King, charmed from a certain nobleman standing at a distance from him the rings of his necklace, so that they flew one by one into his hand, as it seemed; and yet the necklace was soon found to be whole an uninjured. This man was convicted of many actions which could not have been due to human art or skill or any natural cause, and confessed that they were the devil’s work, although he had obstinately denied this before.”


Friday, 1 May 2015

Juliette Binoche: Antigone at the Barbican

No two productions of Sophocles' Antigone are the same - even when the same translation has been used. There is something about the play and the issues it explores that make it a constantly ripe fruit to be repeatedly squeezed of yet another different flavour juice by directors and actors. So much so that George Steiner wrote a book called Antigones which included a critical gaze on the great range of productions and interpretations.

This year, Juliutte Binoche starred as Antigone at the Barbican; the director was Ivo van Hove and the translation was by Anne Carson.  

Newspaper reviews of the production were lukewarm and sometimes passive aggressive towards Binoche in their strangely equivocal praising put downs. Most of these articles suffer a bad case of Cleverdickitus where the journalist must appear more superior than any production that he or she reviews. A more informative review can be found at 

The BBC have broadcast the play and for another twenty-five days it can be viewed on BBC iPlayer (UK only) at 

If you are interested, watch the play and form your own judgement. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Well, There's A Surprise...

This week I watched a thriller called Key Witness (1960). It was a random choice based on discovering that Jeffrey Hunter was the lead. Apart from the original series of Star Trek and the film King of Kings, I hadn't seen him in anything else. And so curiosity called and I watched the film. 

While not a great film, it is nevertheless a thriller worth seeing once. However, while watching the movie I noticed something that I definitely had to check afterwards.  One of the villains was nicknamed Magician. Another villain was nicknamed something that sounded like Muggles. Were my ears deceiving me, I wondered. 

As it turns out, no they weren't; the character is indeed named Muggles.



I had only ever heard of the word in connection with the Harry Potter novels/films. A little research made my jaw drop. 

In the movie Key Witness, Muggles gets very upset about Magician having stolen his 'ciggiepoos' as he calls them, more upset than would be expected regarding ordinary cigarettes - are you seeing where this is going? From about the 1920s onwards, Muggles was a nicknames for pot-smokers. 

I shall leave it to you to make up your own Harry Potter jokes about Wizards and Muggles.

Meanwhile, here is the less than enthralling trailer for the film Key Witness:



   

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Beckmann on Jugglers

John Beckmann's book, The History of Inventions and Discoveries, has a chapter on jugglers (magicians).  For those who are interested, there is a PDF of an 18th century English translation of that chapter which can be downloaded HERE.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Consider This...

Here is a short animation I made using Videoscribe. On Twitter today the RSPCA (@RSPCA_official) were kind enough to tweet that it is a "great video with an important message." 


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Help Buy The William Blake Cottage

[Photo copyright (c) The Blake Society]

As I write this, there are only eight days left in which to raise enough to money for The Blake Society to buy the cottage once owned by William Blake. To read the full details of this and their plans for the cottage should they succeed, click this link


You can donate as little as £1 (or more if you want) by simply sending a text to the number they provide on the page at the above link. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Malthus, Hazlitt and Now

In the late 18th century, and then through a number of revised versions in the early 19th century, Thomas Malthus presented to the world his book An Essay On The Principle of Population. The book was less than kind towards the poor and criticised the Poor Laws that helped them survive. The book became and remained popular with some, such as politicians (in particular, the Tories), and unpopular with others, such as humanitarians. While some immediately welcomed Malthus’s book as an excuse to take a hard line on the poor, there was also a public degree of criticism against the book. In 1807 William Hazlitt published an objection to Malthus’s book called A Reply to the Essay on Population, by the Rev. T. R. Malthus. On pages 4 and 5 I found something remarkably relevant to Britain today and its present government:   

It is always easier to quote an authority than to carry on a chain of reasoning. Mr. Malthus's reputation may, I fear, prove fatal to the poor of this country. His name hangs suspended over their heads, in terrorem, like some baleful meteor. It is the shield behind which the archers may take their stand, and gall them at their leisure. He has set them up as a defenceless mark, on which both friends and foes may exercise their malice, or their wantonness, as they think proper. He has fairly hunted them down, he has driven them into his toils, he has thrown his net over them, and they remain as a prey to the first invader, either to be sacrificed without mercy at the shrine of cold unfeeling avarice, or to linger out a miserable existence under the hands of ingenious and scientific tormentors. — There is a vulgar saying, "Give a dog a bad name, and hang him." The poor seem to me to be pretty much in this situation at present. The poor, Sir, labour under a natural stigma; they are naturally despised. Their interests are at best but coldly and remotely felt by the other classes of society. Mr. Malthus's book has done all that was wanting to increase this indifference and apathy. But it is neither generous nor just, to come in aid of the narrow prejudices and hardheartedness of mankind, with metaphysical distinctions and the cobwebs of philosophy. The balance inclines too much on that side already, without the addition of false weights. I confess I do feel some degree of disgust and indignation rising within me, when I see a man of Mr. Malthus's character and calling standing forward as the accuser of those "who have none to help them," as the high-priest of "pride and covetousness," forming selfishness into a regular code; with its codicils, institutes and glosses annexed, trying to muffle up the hand of charity in the fetters of the law, to suppress "the compunctious visitings of nature," to make men ashamed of compassion and good-nature as folly and weakness... 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Toby The Learned Pig

Just a quick titbit for those with an interest in the history of magic. Anyone who had read The Great Illusionists by Edwin Dawes or Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women by Ricky Jay will already know about Toby. 

Here are the bibliographic details for this reference:

The Comic Latin Grammar, A New and Facetious Introduction to the Latin Tongue, with numerous illustrations, second edition, by Percival Leigh, 1840, Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, London.

On page 17:



And as a footnote on coincidence does this character, who appears on the frontispiece of Leigh's book, look familiar? He reminds me of a character created by magician Norman Hunter.