Love of Craft

My wife is a trained Ringling Brothers Clown College Clown.

Clowning is a difficult profession. It doesn’t receive much respect. It’s hard work. Physical comedy can easily wreck your health as quickly as it drives you broke. Material success means getting to work.

But clowning is a craft with roots as old as performance itself. True practitioners bring great discipline and joy to their work. A talented clown relates to their audience with the spontaneity and innate intelligence of a child while employing a mastery of performance honed by years of training. Good clowning is surprising, stunning, human and hilarious.

However, the level of talent, skill and training vary to extremes. There is no official apprenticeship process. When people think of clowns, they’re often thinking about amateurs who’ve had very little exposure to the work of veteran performers.

It’s easy to be a frighteningly bad clown. Many amateurs paint both the top and bottom of their mouth with a broad stripe of red makeup. They turn their character’s mouth into a gaping maw large enough to devour a child’s head.

If you ever get a chance to hang out with experienced clowns you’ll find out how embarrassed they are by bad performers with horrifying makeup and costume, few skills and little respect for the history and rituals of clowning.

I’d say the difference between what I do and what my wife does is that software developers earn a lot more money and are a lot less fun to watch. Still, what I do is also a craft. To do it well requires aptitude, discipline and apprenticeship. Just as in clowning, there are common mistakes perpetrated by bad or inexperienced developers.

Similar to my wife’s clown college class mates, I feel great pride in my craft and in those who take it up with talent and integrity. I also feel frustration, disappointment and a little outrage at peers who strive for less.

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.

2 thoughts on “Love of Craft

  1. For a bad developer habit to qualify it would have to be:
    * Commonly done (Ringling trained clowns have a name for the mouth thing – out of propriety my wife doesn’t want me sharing it)
    * Part of the general public impression (image search on party clown)
    * Serves the exact opposite purpose as intended (scares children)

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