Kung Pao Chicken

2+ lb chicken breast


4 bunches green onions

4-6 cloves garlic

4-6 slices ginger

3 tablespoons red pepper flakes

6 tbls soy sauce

3 tbls white rice vinegar

3 tbls white wine

1 tbls sugar (which i think we forgot?)

unsalted dry roasted peanuts

  • Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.
  • Add the garlic. Cook and stir for 15 seconds.
  • Add the onions. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, for 2 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove onions from the pan.
  • If needed, add more oil to the pan. Add the meat to the pan. Cook and stir until the meat is cooked through. (If necessary, cook the meat in batches to prevent overcrowding. If the pan is too full, the meat will water out and steam instead of fry.)
  • Push the cooked meat from the center of the wok or skillet. Add the sauce to the center of the skillet. Cook and stir the sauce until bubbly.
  • Return all vegetables. Cook and stir everything about 1 minute more or until the meat and vegetables are coated with the sauce and heated through.
  • Add peanuts.

The boss

I was asked if I wouldn’t mind playing The Boss in our Evaluation Concepts group because the girl playing the role would be much happier if we switched.

I’m fine with that if people are in favor of it.  I just want to figure out a way to incorporate some acrobatic movements into the character.  I think that this will be possible.  I would like the challenge of playing a character type that I have never played before.

Did you know that sometimes I think in French, now?  I have to translate myself now that I am back in Boston visiting.

It’s nice to be home in many ways and the ride down with The Contortionist was a lot of fun.

I don’t know how to explain the difference, but I feel like it is maybe a little easier to relax here.  Evern though I still train all the time.

Circus acrobat holding a one-armed handstand at the National Circus School of Montreal


Last day of assessments!  Kicked off with flexi, in which Isabelle clearly was trying to make up for our lacking front split improvements in the evaluations by working it into us in spades today.  The Acrobat was my partner again (finally) and we had a good time.  He says: “I hate you.”  Split work was fantastic!

Dance!  The remaining assessment of our barre work.  Wow.  We were basically tested on everything that we have done in the class up until this point.  It was rough.  There were three groups, and each group started one of the 6 exercises we had to show while the others got to practice.  Still didn’t change that if you were in the middle of the barre your job was much easier.  Still, I got through it without any major mess ups.  After the assessment, almost everyone had to leave for their meningitis injections, but The Contortionist, The Trapezist, me, and three others stayed, so we got to work on a lot of things that we were having trouble with, namely, glissade, assamble, pirrouete, changement, changement, and triplets, and sisson, assamble.  After that remedial work, we were shown some cool dancer exercises, like holding hands with one arm and pulling back while relaxing so that you are supporting each other to loosen the muscles in the arm.  Then we did a variation in which you sit and pull up and let go, regrasp and repeat.  Suspension!  Then we held hands and one partner ran around the other to spin them, and they started with their leg behind them, brought it into a sitting position, and then stood straight.  It took practice but I got it eventually.  It was really fun seeing a looser side of dance and Martine. 

Larissa gave us free practice time too, so of course I did ooska roochka.  I also need to work on my presses and reverse presses.  “flexibility and your shoulders problem.”  Larissa also told me that her back is hurting her.  I like when she talks to me, but feel bad that she can’t understand all of my jokes.  I hope she does not think they are at her expense.  We exchanged some Japanese phrases.  She worked in Japan for six months.

The American was in this class, and she is pretty strong at press-like work.

Larissa gave me some new exercises “just for you”.  One is a walking up and down stairs drill, and the other is being on two blocks, doing a tempo, and pushing the blocks out from under me to land on the ground.  I want to do things like these in my act.  When we did crocodiles, she had me go first “James, show the ladies how to do.”  Not bad, but my left side is still for crap.

Acro is weird, I’ve noticed, because it is the only class I get bored in and I always seem to have low energy for it.  Nothing new, but working on layout step out out of cartwheels.

Column a trois is going okay, but I checked with Sylvain who said that I am progressing fine and that I should not worry about it.  One other first year and The Trapezist worked with us at least for today.  I do think that being the middle is probably the hardest Job, but of course The Trapezist can do it fine… she has more experience, though.

Trampo was interesting because Caroline let us choose what we wanted to do both on and off the trampoline, and The Contortionist and I both decided to do preparation physique.  The only ones who chose that, I think.  On the tramp, I wanted to work cool enchainements, so she gave me demi tour-ventre-dos-demi tour-dos-ventre-dos-demi tour de bou.  She also gave me vrei-dos-ventre-dos-demi tour-dos-assi-demi tour de bou.  Yow.  They were hard, but fun.  I guess I flapped my arms like a bird.  When she showed me what I looked like I asked ‘est-ce que tu malade ou est-ce que cest moi?’ and she couldn’t stop laughing.  ‘forget it, james.  You are not a bird.’  When I tried to do the routine again, I did it with straight arms, which means that I just made bigger circles.

Isabelle asked me to fill in for two days of the recreational program, which is cool because hopefully that means I can start working regularly for them next session or next year.  If I do well.

Then: equilibre with Byamba!  It was cool because it was just The Contortionist, The Trapezist and me and one older student since everyone else was out because of the injections.  Lots of one arm work because it was just really clicking today.  I could search pretty well and was able to see my handstand.  It was great.  After seeing The Trapezist hold hers pretty well, it sparked my competitive side a bit and I held one for 5 seconds!  A new record (for me).  Then he worked the straight-bodied one with me a bit which was great.  I declared vendredei unbrasdi from now on.  Great class.

Time for me to teach, now, so I got changed and stuff.  One of the kids is a real pain, but I just let her do what she wants after a little while.  The little ones were running all over, but I could maintain control pretty well.  The oldest group is great, though, and they joined together for a chorus of “on t’aime, Travelling Acrobat!’  that was cool, and when I was telling people to do two legged walkovers if their one-legged ones were easy, one of the kids said that his one leg ones were easy and so were his two legs (obvious lie from the joker), and I said ‘then maybe for you, you do sans jambe, and he almost fell over laughing, saying ‘Massachusetts is the land of the joke.’

I also talked with Sylvain and Caroline after the classes and they told me that over the vacation week, all the teacher get together and talk about all of the students individually and that it is really interesting because they get a much fuller view of the students.  It’s interesting to realize that all this time there have been eyes on us without us ever knowing.  After the session we all get talked to individually in each class to find out how we are doing.  What I hope they will say about me:

  • Always works hard.
  • Will do more than what you give him.
  • Perfectionist.
  • Maybe unfocused.
  • Good strength, bad flexibility.
  • Easy to work with.
  • Good humor.
  • Well liked.
  • Never gives up on something that is giving him trouble.
  • Helps people.
  • Patient, eager, willing. 

Let’s see how this compares to what they actually say!

Acrobat holding a New York City souvenier

Feeling The Upswing A Bit

Morning handstands with Byamba, preparation physique in which I did my first solo hollow backs on a mat.  Trampo minor assessment was not bad, and I was surprised that my front skills were a little better than my back skills.  I had to learn a ¾ pike front to my back, and was really lost with no visual cues, but all went well.  ITA was fun, I started out doing the solo porting of The Trapezist and The Dreamer.  At one point, The Dreamer was jerking my back so I dropped her.  Alex said “look at his face, you are hurting him.”  She did much better after that.  Juggling was fine, finished with unicyle and hat evaluations, and then in main a main I was one of the only guys in my group who could complete the figures with the girls, which were standing with them on my shoulders, sitting, pirrouetting, and standing, and having shoulders to feet.  Then we finished with banquine, in which I get to be a flyer!  Yay.  Did a back salto. Getting cold again, yuck.  Sante was boring, and I get frustrated with the non-specific popular science they teach.  The science education here is not like that at MIT.  I guess that should be obvious. The Clown is paying me in fruit beverages to improve his flexibility, and we had our first session today, which was fun.  Pizza night at Ban Thai.

Circus acrobats hanging up laundry on a street show tour through Europe

Hey! I’m Actually Getting Better at Stuff!

Well I had the flexibility assessment today, and to my surprise, I actually passed the session’s goals already!  I think that this is a great way to do flexibility.  Work it and work it and work it, and then measure it every two months to see how you have improved.  Great motivator.  Yahoo!

Dance was the first round of assessments, and I did about how I expected I would do.  Barre assessment on Friday.  I think that I am somewhere in the upper half of middle average, if that makes sense.  We shall see, though.  A damn sisson assable combo was killing me at the end of class, though.  Grr.

Equilibre with Larissa was cool, but I need to figure out how to get this back problem fixed, and soon.  I found a Russian magazine of hers, and she told us about this russian singer that was in it and how rich he is (and androgynous).  It was a cool look into her and russian life, even though he’s officialy bulgarian, I think.  Also she said she would take The Clown and I to Russia to look for sexy ladies, because she says that they are there.  Ooska ruchka!  Great class.

I am bothered by my all-Quebecer tumbling class.  I guess I see a little bit of the snobbishness that my roommate Rod told me about the first time I met him.  Oh well.  I started working on cartweel side summie.

Trampo was the same stuff, but I just started my work on my minor evaluation tomorrow.  I like Carol’s classes.  She gave us the day off on conditioning, claiming that everyone looked like ghosts.  Yesterday I was talking about how it is a bit of a shock to all of a sudden be evaluated and stuff in circus school, and hard-core circus lady said ‘you are not the only one.’ 

The Clown wants to do partner flexi with me because I am serious and hardcore too.  He did not do well on his assessment.  I think he’s very impatient, and I can understand that to a certain degree, but I wish he could just let it go.  I also talked with him about having the ‘director’ not be the sole idea source for the group.  I guess it was silly of me to think that he would disagree, but I’m glad we talked about it.

Finally, an hour of equilibre with Byamba.  It was fun.  One of the upper class girls got hurt.  It was her fault, she collapsed after Byamba had helped her to the floor and hit her lip on the stalk.  Cut her lip.  She blamed him, though I think.  I invited him to the show on Satuday, and I think that he will go.  Yeah!  Talked with him a bit about what his training was like in Mongolia.  Also found out that his six kids story is a funny lie.  But his wife is maybe divorced from him?  And he has only one son, and he writes him over email sometimes?  I don’t know.  Maybe also a lie.  But one of his other students told me about this time he sanded the rust off her stairs and denied it, saying that the director of the school did it.  I think he does not like her.  Anyway, he jokes about her a lot.

Did sante and nutrition til late, so I better get to bed.

Circus acrobats backstage at Paleo festival next to their costumes

Midterms 2

First meeting with the artistic counselor for our Evaluation Concept today.  We tried to set up some semblance of a schedule, and assigned characters.  In my mind it was perhaps a bit too premature, but on the other hand, what better time than now?  I am a little surprised at how hard a time some people have at creating a character.  I guess it’s one of the advantages of coming from a theatrical background.  I had to do an improv sketch in French, though, and it was only moderately successful.  I think part of it was that it was the first time I’d ever worked with the professor.  The Clown is really happy to have his direction because he is ‘really good’ at theater stuff and has ‘a lot of experience.’  Be that as it may, I am worried that the director is using this as an excuse to railroad his ideas.  It is a danger to impose your ideas in group work because you will eventually run out of those ideas and feel as though you are doing the same thing over and over.  I don’t like anyone’s opinion to override anyone else’s.

Trampo was good, and I started work on back layout today.  It’s hard because with correct trampo form it feels like you are arching like mad.

I have an evaluation in my trampo minor also!

ITA I learned the other form of cradle today and had my barre fixe assessment, which was a piece of cake.  I finally got the hang of the porting, though, which wasn’t bad.  You just need to not bend your back at all and use your arms.  Being small is a huge disadvantage for me, though.

After juggling where we just did our assessment and I didn’t do too bad, we saw the Jeu III students present.  They were pretty good!  A few were a bit less interesting, but it was nice seeing people’s stage presence, though.  Straps Guy is really good at it. 

Main a Main was cool because we did planche and I finally got my timing down as well as being able to be the pusher on the running form of planche.  You need to bend when the pushers’ first foot hits, and finish your jump as soon as they touch the end of the board.  I jump too far, but Sylvain let me do a double (“just for fun; this isn’t track and field”).

After main a main, it was time for a half hour of free equilibre with Byamba.  I was pretty exhausted, and I think he could tell, but this is experience I need to gain.  3 hours a day is the goal.

Movement assessment was weird, we just did the standing there humping thing, and then did the four people humming and one person following thing.  The Trapezist told me that she thought I was good at the moving freaky thing.  My only goal was to be entertaining using breakdancing moves, silly noises, long pauses, and the like.

Then I got a pretty good massage from one of the girls in the first year who has gender issues about how the group immediately saw the Boss in our show as being a male.  I think she worries too much.  At first, the group wanted me to be the boss, but then I said I’d prefer being the troublemaker, and they agreed.  This exact first-year was being pressured into being the lesbian boss, but then because the wife of the boss at my suggestion.  All of it happened too fast, though, and she is now maybe unhappy about it.  Good massage, though.

Flexi assesment tomorrow.  Oh my god.

The street performer hotel room - three circus acrobats in a car


Early day.  Jeu was not so good, I was just feeling slow and ideas were not coming.  The Clown and I were selected to do a group exercise for the first example of something in protoimprov.  It was cool and we did well.

Then I had equilibre, after dropping all my freshly cooked pasta on the floor.  I do like that Larissa is so tough on me.  I see it as indication that she has high hopes for me.

Trampo evaluation went really bad.  I think because I was so tense.  All my warmups were good, but the actual evaluations were crap.  Yech.  And in acro, I was misunderstanding instructions and flopping all over the place.

The fil de fer assessment was a little more low-stress, so I took the opportunity to challenge myself by doing the whole assessment on the high wire.

One of our year did not do so well in his trampo assessment; he was told he could not pass the class at this rate.

I did a class in equilibre with The Acrobat, The Trapezist, and The Tumbler.  When one of the other students, he asked me sarcastically if this was my class and I said no and kept working.  The funny thing is that Byamba worked more with me than with him who kept goofing off.  Also, The Tumbler complained that his shoulder hurt a bit to get out of an exercise or two.

Then, after a bit of shuffling around, in three high columns, I felt the connection to the base for the first time!  Yahoo!  Just when I was about to give up hope and say I was not cut out for it.

Planche I also found the rhythm on for the first time.  You need to push immediately after coming in contact with the board, and not before, or you just rebound off the wood, which I was doing.  I just need to control where I land, and things will be great.

Things to remember:

Man, my kicks look good with my newfound flexibility!

Showing off muscles with the guys.

Byamba pushing The Acrobat down while saying “alle, alle,” to punish him for not working.

Trying a manna for the first time with Byamba’s help (2 months, I told him)

Talking late with The Trapezist about social life.  She says I’m complicated.  I told her I just tell people what they tell me.