Sunday, July 29, 2012

In the Footsteps of the Greats...

Here it is! My performance of "First Date". Thank you Cary Trivanovich for the inspiration!

In the following scene, Jack, a nervous teenager, will go on his first date to the movie theaters.
-Background music is from DCI Blast.

Thus completes my August goal (giving a mime performance for an national audience). You, my viewers are making this goal a reality.

Thank you.

Let me know what you think of the performance!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's Mime Time

In the last week, I've made some serious tweaks to my osage orange wood bow, all for the better. Now my bow's handle is made from hemp cord wrapped in duct tape. Yup, duct tape. Not only does the tape offer more protection against splitting at the handle, but it's also more comfortable to hold than the cordage. Another change I made was I replaced the braided bow string with one strand of retractable dog leash. The dog leash cord is amazing stuff. Not only does it have a considerably higher breaking point than the cord I was using, but it also more comfortable for my shooting fingers, less blisters is good news!

But now, it is time to move on. Time to begin my mime training. Remember, there was a point in 7th grade where I wanted to become a professional mime. This passion for miming was inspired by one man: Cary Trivanovich. Holy crap. This guy was amazing. As soon as I got home, I tried copying some of his moves. I attempted to walk my invisible dog, I tried to walk in place, I even braved falling to the floor in slow motion. I was going to be a mime, gosh darn-it. I convinced my parents that night to buy a few mime technique books from Amazon.

In a few days, I got the books and continued my adolescent training. But, like all of these life passions I'm redoing, my passion for miming fizzled out within a few short weeks. The mime books were put on a bookshelf, never to be looked at again. The miming techniques forgotten...

Until today. Starting today, I'm bringing back out my mime persona for one final performance. One last performance to bring closure to my miming attempt.

You may be asking, "Why miming? Aren't mimes those people with white painted faces who always get picked on in music and film?" My answer to you is that miming as an art form exists in every form of public performance. Miming, in its essence, is telling a story only through the use of body movements and facial expressions. With that definition, basically every public performance uses elements of miming. And, if you were wondering, no, I'm not going to paint my face white. No need. The mimes I will be emulating don't have painted faces.

The mimes I will be studying are both inspirations, each in their own unique way.
Mime number one: Charlie Chaplin
 Arguably the first famous mime, Charlie Chaplin created and subsequently revolutionized what it meant to be a silent performer. With his quirky body movements and facial expressions, Charlie Chaplin commanded the rapt attention of his audiences, young and old. Haven't seen Charlie in action? You're in luck! I've posted one of his funniest movies below:

Mime number two: Cary Trivanovich
 The mime who inspired me. Cary now does public performances at schools all over the United States, inspiring students, just as he inspired me more than ten years ago. Check him out!

And so the miming training begins again!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Action Shot!

Homemade osage orange bow in use!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July Goal Reached, Life Lessons Learned

I did it! I shot a bulls-eye from 15 yards away, using my homemade osage orange archery bow, but more than this, I have learned a few valuable life lessons.

However, before I get into what I learned, let me show you the process of shooting that wonderful bulls-eye. First, I had to repair my broken bow. To be perfectly honest, when my bow broke a few days ago, I was ready to throw in the towel. I couldn't see a way around the two pieces of fractured osage orange wood staves staring back up at me. Fortunately, my new archery colleague and friend, Guy, wasn't ready to let me give up so easily. He wrote me a long e-mail (which I posted in the last post). This e-mail gave me the motivation and encouragement I needed to get myself up, wipe off my bruised ego, and get going again.

So yesterday, I set a challenging goal. Not only was I going to fix my bow, I was also going to shoot my bulls-eye. Some people have asked me, "Why the rush to shoot your bulls-eye? After all, aren't there two more weeks left in July?" And to these people I reply, "I have to reach my goal early this month because my job as an English teacher will be starting back up in a month. I have to start rededicating my time to teaching preparations." Maybe once I retire in 40 years or so, I can dedicate four wonderful weeks to days of peaceful archery shooting...

But back to yesterday. To fix my bow, I had to address two major problems; the first being the stiffness of my bow limbs. To give the bow more flexibility (which it needed in order to prevent my bow cord from snapping), I whittled out both bow limbs more. This took about an hour, but when I was finished, I was pleased with the results. Second hurdle to fix: attaching the two separate bow limbs together. Previously, I had tried using a whole syringe full of Gorilla Glue epoxy. And while this epoxy had added strength, the smell of it had been difficult to deal with. Because of this, I decided to just use my extra bow string to wrap the two bow limbs together. This is all my bow needed. After wrapping the bow into one complete unit, it was finished. I added my braided bow string and was ready to begin my July challenge.

In my backyard, I measured out 15 yards from my back fence and set up my target. At first, my target was the large cardboard box all of my archery supplies had come in from Amazon. My bulls-eye was the tape in between the large "U" on the right and the fine print on the left. I walked to my firing location and cocked my first arrow. The bow string snapped. Quickly, I reattached the string. I pulled the bow to full draw length, my fingers touching my chin. When, whap! The string snapped again, causing me to basically punch myself in the cheek. Oww. It was beginning to look like I would never get a shot off. Rubbing my cheek, I had an idea. I decided to restring the bow, but very loosely. Most of the time, archers loosely string a bow only during a process called tillering, in which they measure and check the curvature of their bow. Very unconventional of me to string my completed bow so loosely.

Slowly, carefully, I shot my first arrow of the day. It flew a whooping five yards before skiddering across the dead grass. I picked the arrow up and tried again. And again. And again. The arrow shot 5 yards, 6 yards, 7 yards, less than half of the distance to my target. But with each shot, I grew more and more confident in my bow. I began aiming higher and higher, pulling back further and further on the bow string each time. 11 yards. 14 yards. 16 yards. 15 yards. Finally, I was consistently within a yard of my target. And, after a particularly well-aimed shot, I struck the target. I nearly cried with joy. Just hitting my target, after the hours and hours put into this bow, was amazing. I considered stopping my challenge there and just declare hitting the cardboard anywhere as a bulls-eye. But, I knew doing this would just be a diservice to myself.

So, I kept shooting. Slowly, blisters began forming on my right hand, specifically on my index finger and middle finger. The fingers that had the dual job of pulling back the bow string while keeping the arrow notched on the string. Eventually, these blisters popped. My fingers were on fire, every time I pulled back that bow string. But I kept going. Eventually, the pain became numbness. With my numb fingers, I kept shooting, slowly improving on my accuracy. About this time, I decided to remove the cardboard and shoot directly into the dog cage where the bulls-eye had been. I decided this would be a more rewarding bulls-eye to shoot into.
As the second hour of shooting crept by, I started believing I wouldn't be able to reach my goal. It was getting harder and harder for me to pull back on the bow string with my numb fingers. My arms were getting more sunburned with every minute. My time was running out. I'll be honest, it was at this point I started closing my eyes right after releasing a shot. I couldn't bare to see the arrow miss the target anymore. One shot landed very close to the front of the cage. I got excited. If I just aim a bit higher...I raised my bow, aiming just an inch higher. I loosed my arrow and shut my eyes tight. A split-second later, I heard a wonderful sound. The sound of rattling metal. I opened my eyes and was dumbfounded. Perfect bulls-eye. Amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. The arrow had shot dead bulls-eye, six squares from the left, right, and top of the cage. Exactly where my previous bulls-eye had been. I probably stared at this arrow for a full five minutes before I snapped this picture. I can't do justice to the overwhelming feeling of relief that continued to flood over me. I had done it. I could stop shooting now. I packed up my bow, arrow, and target cage, went inside, and crashed on my couch, completely drained.

And so ends my July goal. Complete. This is not to say that I will stop shooting. Indeed, I plan to loose a few arrows today. But, there won't be the insane monomaniac drive to nail a bulls-eye in order to feel success. Which brings my train-of-thought around to the life lessons I learned yesterday. I hope they make sense when I type them here, as they were so clear in my mind as I loosed shot after shot.

Life lesson #1: Using inadequate tools and knowledge will never lead to consistant success. Sure, I shot a bulls-eye yesterday, but I'm not fooling myself. I will probably never be able to repeat that success, ever, with the bow and arrow I am using now. My bulls-eye was just as much of a fluke as it was precision and power. If I repeated that same shot, with the same aim and power, I would bet money I could never get a bulls-eye again. This may sound pessimistic, but it is the truth. My homemade bow works, but just barely. It does the job, but not very well. And what it lacks in precision, I have to make up with repetition, repetition, repetition. This truth, that inadequate tools and knowledge lead to inadequate success holds true in other areas of life. Without the right equipment in cooking, welding, auto mechanics, fishing, sports, etc., true success is barely attainable. If it is attained, pure luck played a hand in it. This realization changes my outlook on life. It explains one reason why I never had success in my childhood pursuits. I never used the correct tools, I never had enough knowledge, to bring the success that so evaded me.

Life lesson #2: Success is determined by effort, not goals. I finally understand why some of my students beam with pride when get a C minus on their math test. They worked dang hard for this grade, probably more hard than the student who consistently earns A pluses on his math tests. For them, a C minus feels so amazing. The work that went into that grade makes everything worth it. Success is determined by effort. I would rather have a student feel good about their work than a student who got an A without even trying. I can relate through my archery. I will never be able to compete with professional archers. Indeed, I have a few friends here in Nebraska who go archery hunting. I haven't shown my bow to them. Compared to their $500 dollar hunting compound bows, my loose stringed longbow is a joke. But, the amazing feeling of pride, relief, and pure excitement they feel when they take down a huge buck from 40 yards away I can now relate to, for I felt the same when I nailed my bulls-eye from only 15 yards away. This explains why people not as good in a hobby, sport, activity, job, or performance keep playing, working, building, and performing, even if they are not the best. Their goals, their successes are different. Yes, the goals are on a lower caliber, but they work just as hard to achieve them.

Does this make sense to you? Do you agree with my life lessons? I'd love to hear what you have to say about success and dedication. What are your goals in your work, hobbies, or your life in general? If you don't have any goals, create some and share them below in a comment to this post.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Comprehensive Guide to Bow Making

Here it is folks, Guy Taylor, the man behind Greenman Archery has provided me an excellent, comprehensive guide to bow making. He has generously allowed me to post his advice to me here. Happy reading! 

"Tim Baker is a leader in the art of wood bowyery (is that a word?). Way back not that many years ago when everyone was using compounds and only a few people were using fiberglass laminated traditional bows, Tim was beginning to learn how to make wood bows.

Wood bows used to be all there were. Then fiberglass came along and it changed the archery world. But now a lot of people like you and I are becoming interested in the wood bow again. Forward, into the past!

Tim Baker is one of the principal authors of the Traditional Bowyers Bible series of books. One of the things he really loves to do is to introduce new people into making their own wood bows. To do this he likes to use an easily available piece of wood: a red oak board from Home Depot, or Lowe's. He's written a couple sheets on how to make the bow. Here are links to them:;f=2;t=000043and

I am including both of these links in the chance that there may be slight differences that could help explain some point or another.The most important thing for making this bow is to get a good board. Follow Tim's instructions for choosing a board with the right grain. If the grain isn't good, the bow stands a very low chance for success.

Second most important is good tiller. Tiller is getting the two limbs to bend evenly along their length and evenly to one another.

Your trimming plane will work for making this bow but it will take a while longer due to the small amounts of wood that it will remove with each pass. If you can get ahold of a spoke shave you may find it more useful. I've seen Tim make a bow in 30 minutes using a spoke shave on a red oak board. He's a professional, don't try to go that fast yourself. Take your time. It's easy to take wood off but it's develish difficult to put it back on.

The osage billets you got could probably have made a good bow but they would have been for someone far more advanced than where you are at now. They should have been glued together with a Z-splice and appropriate glue. This older thread on PaleoPlanet shows the complete process. He began with billets just like you did:

Reading that thread you'll also see how he chases the back of the bow so there is one single growth ring along the whole back from one end to the other. This is absolutely critical with osage orange, if it's not done the bow is guaranteed to fail. I'm guessing here but I think you may not have known about that. No shame in not knowing, you are starting in a virtual bowmaking knowledge vaccum.

If you go through with this red oak bow you'll eventually need a bowstring so you can begin bending the limbs and ultimately shoot the bow. Let me know when you need it and I'll be happy to make one and send it to you. I'll make one with a loop on one end and a bowyer's knot on the other. Using the bowyer's knot allows you to adjust the length of the string as the bow progresses and then use the string for everyday use when the bow is finished".  

Thanks again, Guy!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Broken Bow = Unsure Future

Quick Warning- This will be a short blog post.

I have the unfortunate job of typing here that my archery bow, only three days old, died today. Here is a picture of the bow in its broken state. *Cue funeral music

Mr. Archery Bow only got off one great shot before meeting its end. After having continued troubles with its main cord, the bow re-split into its two separate wood parts. It is very unlikely that I'll be able to salvage these wood parts for another archery bow.

So, I'm looking at a solid brick wall right now. A serious impasse. I don't know how I will achieve my goal for this month of shooting a bulls-eye from 15 yards.

I'd love some suggestions for what I should do at this point. Here are the requirements:

Goal: Shoot an arrow into a target's bulls-eye from 15 yards away.
Supplies: Two 35" osage orange wood planks
Money: Very little, I spend most of my money set aside for this project on the supplies needed to build this bow

How can I reach my archery goal?

Three Day Free Sale- Poked and Prodded

Hey everyone! It's been a few days, but in this time I have been entertaining lots of different family members. I haven't had too much time to shoot off very many practice arrows. So my goal of hitting a bulls-eye from 15 yards away has been put on hold momentarily.

However, in other news, my medical memoir, Poked and Prodded, is entering a special marketing discount starting on Saturday. For Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, you'll be able to download Poked and Prodded for your Kindle or any other electronic reader (including your computer), for free! That's right, for free! I'm very excited about this (if you can't already tell).

If you don't know anything about my book, here is its official blurb:
Poked and Prodded- A Humorous Medical Memoir

When Brian Fleming, an introverted husband and high school English teacher with chest pains, goes to his family doctor, he unknowingly begins a long, embarrassing, and painful medical journey. After recovery, the tables are turned. Brian's wife and high school sweetheart, Nina Fleming, requires life-altering surgery, forcing Brian to work through his narcissism and self-deprecation to find pride in his family and himself.
In Poked and Prodded- A Humorous Medical Memoir, Brian battles with pain, fevers, introversion, and doubt through self-deprecating humor. He tries desperately to get the answer to the age old question, "What's wrong with me, Doc?" Through test after test, Brian comes closer to finding his answer. Throughout his ordeal, his faithful wife, Nina is by his side as cheerleader, therapist, and soul mate. Upon recovery, Brian is required to try his hand at being a supportive spouse as Nina goes under the knife. At times, Brian is successful. At times he's not. But by the end of Poked and Prodded- A Medical Memoir, Brian achieves perfection, at least, in his eyes.

Try it out, there's nothing to lose! =]

Just use the following Amazon link to download your copy today! Poked and Prodded

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Amazon Orders, Whittling 2.0, Advanced Woodworking Techniques, and a Finished Bow

First off, a shout-out to Living in the mid-west puts me at a significant disadvantage as far as hobby supplies are concerned. Living in a town of 20,000 limits my archery shopping options. Amazon has been a life saver. Through Amazon, I have been able to pick up all of the necessary supplies to build my own archery bow.

Oh, how is the process coming along? I'm finished, finished with making my own osage orange archery bow. Take a look:

My bow stands at an impressive 60 inches. The handle of the bow is wrapped in cord and held together with gorilla glue- epoxy.

I started with two separate 35 inch osage orange wood staves. At first, I just whittled away at the wood staves with a simple kitchen knife. It wasn't easy.

Check it out. To the right is a picture of the wood that resulted from over two hours of repetitive, finger numbing whittling. For two hours work, this isn't a lot of progress. So, in order to finish my bow in time and without developing carpal tunnel syndrome, I had to develop a faster, more effective system for cutting the wood.

After some thought, I figured it out. In our backyard is a beautiful deck. I decided to use this deck to my advantage. Using car tie down straps and ratchets, I held my osage orange wood stave in place. With my trusty, durable, freakin' sharp, kitchen knife, I began slicing into the wood. This wouldn't have been possible without a hammer to drive the knife down. I'm not going to lie, this was a challenging process; but, after only 30 minutes, I had my second 35" osage orange bow stave cut down to size. 30 minutes! It took over six hours to reach this same point with the traditional whittling process.

I've learned a lesson through this. When possible, use a more advanced technique to complete a process. It may take a little more time up front to set up the process, but you will save time in the long run. Think about this in your own life. What hobbies, crafts, or projects are you knee deep in right now? Is there any way you could be more efficient? Any time-saving techniques you could employ? Try it out! I hope it saves you time and energy!

Tomorrow, I will be taking better pictures of my bow, as well as take my first real shots from it. I already have my arrow all set up for the practice shooting. I've attached a cord to my arrow. When I shoot my arrow, I am hopeful that the attached string will keep the arrow in a safe distance. Because safety is of number one importance to me in archery.

Safety was driven home in my mind from my very first shot from a bow. I remember, very clearly, being told, "archery can be just as dangerous as shooting a gun." It's true. Tomorrow, I will be shooting a thin, metal-tipped hard piece of wood at a rapid speed toward a tiny target. With the power of the bow, my arrow becomes dangerous. I don't want to put anyone or anything in danger of getting hurt. So, the string attached to the arrow (which I have already tested) will act as a safety tether for my arrow. With this safety system in place, I feel confident enough to begin practicing tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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