Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cameron Diaz dating Criss Angel

(Yahoo News)

Far be it for me to be skeptical of why this is newsworthy, but it seems to be hot gossip at the moment, so I'll roll with it:

On Monday, while out in Vegas, Cameron Diaz was spotted having a lovely dinner with famed gothy Magician/Illusionist Criss Angel, before watching the Cirque de Soleil Beatles Tribute, Love.

Cameron Diaz just split with boyfriend Justin Timberlake in January, and Criss Angel was apparently dating Minnie Driver earlier this year.

My two cents: I personally think Cam and Criss have definitely improved each others' prospects.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Magician Steve Cuiffo robbed in South Africa

(Via News24)

While spending Mother's Day at the home of a 15 year old student in Cape Town, New York Magician Steve Cuiffo was robbed at gunpoint in Khayelitsha, along with two teachers and a college director.

While they were outside getting into their van (which was a National Lottery Sponsored 'Magic Van'), they were suddenly surrounded by a number of individuals with guns, who took all of their valuables and cash. This even included Cuiffo's copy of Nelson Mandela's memoirs Long Walk To Freedom. The gunmen then took the van and fled.

Cuiffo said that it made him, even more so, want to 'help students break the cycle of poverty'.

Steve Cuiffo is an associate of David Blaine and recently starred in the magic-infused stage production Orange Lemon Egg Canary.

These are the humbling incidents that put us in other peoples' shoes.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

The plot thickens...Geller & Co. still insist copyright infringement

The EFF's claims that only 3 seconds of the 14 minute video technically belong to Uri Geller and Explorologist Ltd are not going over well... in fact, in a press release from Explorologist's Lawyer, Richard Winelander, he says:

"The bottom line is Sapient did not ask for permission to use the copyrighted video--he does not own the portion of the video that deals with Dr. Hughes, it is important to note this was not the first YouTube complaint against Sapient."

It's also important to note, that this is not the first (and probably not the last) time Geller has tried to sue for damages based on dubious reasoning- Geller has sued for a number of things, not limited to suing Nintendo for creating a Pokemon with his name/symbols, and suing Ikea for a furniture line (with bent and twisted legs) called the "Uri Line" (both suits unsuccessful, by the way).

But the real kicker is, back in 1997-98, he complained to the Broadcasting Standards Commission in the UK that the episode of NOVA, "Secrets of the Psychics", treated him 'unfairly'. His claim was wholeheartedly rejected on the basis that they saw nothing wrong with Magicians duplicating his feats using plain, old fashioned trickery. In light of this fact, and the fact that Geller seems to enjoy making ridiculous legal claims, it's not hard to see why nobody is really taking his copyright claim seriously.

Meanwhile, I'm still wondering about whether NOVA originally had to get permission to use the clip, or if it fell comfortably within the boundaries of 'fair use'. If it's the former, then that is why Sapient has a problem. If it's the latter, then Geller has no right to complain. The easiest way would be to check the end credits of the episode itself, but alas, I have no copy. I'm also not an expert in copyright law.

Check out what James Randi has to say on the subject.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Uri Geller didn't see his lawsuit coming... EFF bites back about YouTube

Uri Geller, spoon-bending, sports-predicting, Pokemon-spiting psychic (or some people call him a magician) is now suffering a little bit of unpredicted karma. Having successfully had a video that (supposedly) explained his effects taken off of YouTube, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Federation) is now claiming that he had no case, and is suing him for misuse of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

Why? Well, apparently the clip in question, which was uploaded by the Rational Response Squad (a group of skeptics) is almost 14 minutes long, but only has 3 seconds of content that could be considered Uri Geller's. This could more than fall within the confines of fair use. Furthermore, the video clip features James Randi, author of "The Truth about Uri Geller", and long time skeptic of the paranormal, explaining how Geller does one of his tricks.

Geller signed his name 'under penalty of perjury' that he was 'the owner or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that allegedly infringed' when he filed his complaint. Since obviously he is not acting on behalf of his hardest critic, his claim is now being questioned and the EFF has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 'Brian Sapient', the YouTube user whose account was suspended for posting the video.

And thank you Cnet, for cluing me in to the actual video:

Incidentally, this is indeed a clip from Nova, and not only do I recognize James Randi, but I actually remember watching this episode multiple times on PBS when I was a kid.

The question in my mind, is, if this clip was on Nova first, then why didn't he sue THEM? Probably because, as a respected documentary television program, they had already considered the question of fair use.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More Houdini like Escapes - straitjacket, milk can- flattery to the master

Just when I thought it was safe to turn around without running into another inventive Houdini fan, I stumble across two rather fascinating cases. One successful, the other not quite so much.

(Via Yorkshire Today)

One stunt that Harry Houdini failed to pull off apparently was escaping from a milk can filled with Tetley's bitter (a type of ale)- he was overcome by CO2 fumes, and his assistants had to drag him out before he completed the stunt. However, 37 year old Paul Cheesbrough from Todmorden, England claims to have trumped Houdini with his own escape from a Milk can filled with cold water. Much like Houdini, the milk churn was padlocked from the outside, and his hands and feet were bound on the inside. But wait a tick, despite the fact that this article runs under the headline "Great Escape Act Outdoes Houdini", I do believe I've missed something here- didn't Houdini routinely escape from a padlocked Milk can filled with water? Now, Cheesbrough is undoubtedly a larger man than Houdini (who was quite small), which could make things more difficult. But in this case, the temperature of the water doesn't even matter because he was wearing a wet suit. The point, in this case, (despite the headline) is that Houdini was challenged by Joshua Tetley and Son in the Empire Theatre in Brigate, Leeds. Cheesbrough was challenged to do his stunt by the Leeds Magical Association, for their 10th annual day of Magic. The stunt itself was a difficult one, as the displacement of the water inside the can eliminated his air supply. He did, however, manage to escape within 90 seconds, which is impressive. Not many people can match the master, even if they're not outdoing him.

Which leads me to my next tidbit- this guy. (Via Cincinnati Enquirer)

Illusionist Phil Dalton, while doing a show for an elementary school in Cincinnati, didn't have such good luck. He tried Houdini's famous straitjacket stunt- he was suspended 90ft in the air, with his legs shackled, but with one major exception. The ropes had been soaked in Diesel fuel and set on fire.

Despite the fact that he had gone to great lengths to test the burning time of the ropes beforehand, a slight pick up in wind sped up the incineration as he was attempting to escape. He still managed to escape within 2 minutes and 44 seconds, but not before one of the three ropes had burned all of the way through, and a second most of the way through, leaving him dangling precariously on a single rope. Dalton, who does a variety of other types of stunts such as sawing himself in half or pulling snakes out of hats, doesn't intend to do this particular stunt again any time soon.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Silly Billy the Clown loses business for Child Molestor Relatives

(Via New York Post)

David Kaye (formerly David Friedman) is the son and brother of Arnold and Jesse Friedman, who were teachers convicted of molesting their students in the 80s. In light of Kaye's occupation as a magician/clown, he changed his name.

But the release of the documentary Capturing the Friedmans in 2003 saw the decline of Silly Billy's business, as his association to his family made his clients uncomfortable. Originally, Silly Billy the clown was locally the most popular child entertainer for birthday parties.

Oddly enough, Kaye has now invented a new persona- "Dr. Blood". A slightly darker character that appeals to an older audience. He claims it has nothing to do with his decline in business.

I personally think it's an odd move on his part, but I can understand how fragile a child entertainer's reputation can be- parents can get easily rattled, and simply don't want to take chances.

At Philip and Henry, we maintain a policy of checking into each and every magician, so that we can assure our clients there's nothing to be worried about.

Nonetheless, here's the trailer for the documentary. Capturing the Friedmans got an academy award nomination.

Let's try that again. This time with a little bit more feeling, and a little bit more clarity:

In our society, accusations of child abuse (sexual or otherwise) carry with them a heavy load of suspicion, paranoia, and outright anger. David Kaye, formerly David Friedman, has had to deal with the fallout of accusations against his father and brother. According to the article I read (which is confusing me) he may have suffered a loss in business when a documentary on the subject was released in 2003.

You see, David Kaye works as a magician/clown named Silly Billy. In fact, for a good long time, he was locally the entertainer of choice for children's birthday parties.

Back in the 80s, Arnold and Jesse Friedman were both convicted of child molestation, stemming from a Pedophile Sting Operation. The documentary (called Capturing the Friedmans), through their personally recorded video journal, casts doubt on the logic and evidence that was brought against them.

More than anything, this shows that the media can have a powerful effect on people. The smallest implication of child abuse can send a community in a fury, putting pressure on authorities and the media to put their own spin on things.

Much like the article I read, for instance, which may have put its own spin on things.

In this case I will admit my own ignorance and tread a lot more carefully next time- writing blandly about a sensitive topic simply doesn't happen, and as a writer I shouldn't let it.

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British man misdiagnosed, now broke from pre-death spending

(Via Reuters)

Live like you were dying...just make sure you're actually dying

A British man diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer was given a only two years to live...and then was told that he merely had a non-life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.

Problem is, he went on a wild spending spree and vacation. He even quit his job and sold or gave away most of his possessions, except for the suit he wanted to be buried in.

He is now attempting to sue the hospital for mis diagnosis.

Prognosis? Not good.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

He's going to hang around his favourite bar....on a rope 50ft in the air

(Via PR Web)

Magician/Ventriloquist Spencer Horsman will be stringing himself up 50 Feet in the air over Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge in South Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood. He'll be wrapped in not one, but TWO straitjackets, and attempt to free himself while hanging upside down.

The stunt will take place May 11th (one time only!) and presumably will be done without a net (the PR doesn't really mention one). Horsman will be fighting to beat the clock and free himself before he suffers from the amount of blood rushing to his head, which could cause lack of perception, or loss of consciousness.

Now, I'm going to do a little research on the subject of straitjackets here, as I'm fairly new to the subject, and so I can understand just how crazy this stunt is:

  • These sorts of escape stunts were popularized by Harry Houdini, who could dislocate both of his shoulders in order to escape from a straitjacket.
  • Possible Issues: in addition to blood running to one's head, wearing a straitjacket for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the elbows or numbness in the hands. Muscles can become stiff and extremely painful.
  • Criss Angel did a similar stunt in 2003, suspended 100ft above the Miller Brewing Co. (but in only one straitjacket)
And of course, we might as well take a cue from the master:

The description to this video gives an interesting clue: " While requiring more strength to undo the buckles, this actually made it easier to get his arms over his head, the key to the escape." So what does this mean for a guy wearing TWO straitjackets? Would it work the same way?

By the same token (and with much less fanfare), Andrew Green, a performing arts student at Preston College in Lancashire, United Kingdom, will be trying to recreate Houdini's water torture chamber stunt to raise money for St. Catherine Hospice, a palliative care facility. The stunt involves being suspended upside down in a straitjacket inside a tank of water.

I'm sure, somewhere, Houdini is finding imitation to be the greatest form of flattery.

In this case though, I would say that suspending yourself 50ft in the air is not only amazing, it's a good way to promote your bar.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Japanese Magicians sue TV Network for Explaining tricks

(Via Sunday Times)

In Japan, TV Asahi and the Nippon Television Network was sued by 49 Magicians for airing a show that explained how coin tricks were done.

Thing is, this was prompted by a Magician and Pub owner getting arrested for punching holes in coins- much like in Canada, Japan has laws against defacing money.

Call me crazy, but I think it's way more impressive to do amazing tricks with plain old, ordinary coins. Am I alone in this?

However, if this suit is successful, could it set an interesting precedent for Magicians everywhere?

When the twoonie (that's my spelling) first came out, a couple of them fell apart, and then people went around freezing them and trying to bust them apart. The Canadian Mint was not pleased...

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Mandrake movie finally gets a director

(Via IGN) (of all things)

Having only recently discovered the wonders of Mandrake the Magician (thanks to Quinlan's) I guess I can't comment too much on this one, but the long-awaited film based on the popular comic strip finally has a Director.

Chuck Russell (Director of Scorpion King and The Mask) is set to Direct the film, which is being developed by Howard and Karen Baldwin.

The film is supposed to be a contemporary take on the mustached Magician who uses his skills in hypnotism and illusion to fight crime.

I think this film could do very well, and could easily capitalize on Hollywood's new interest in Magic (and it's continuing interest in comic books)- especially since it would be using such a recognizable character.

Now, is there anywhere I can go to catch up on my Mandrake? Any anthologies?

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Enlightenment is it's own Magic: Gere's Response

Richard Gere is now claiming that his kissing of Shilpa Shetty was because of his "failure to understand local culture". Gee, ya think?

Gere issued a statement via the AIDS charity that he is associated with, apologizing for the incident. The outrage has sparked protests, some of which involve burning effigies of him- something that Shetty herself doesn't understand, and thinks it makes India look regressive.

This whole incident is reminding me of some interesting discussions that were going on over at the Magic Utopia Blog recently, on racism and cultural sensitivity among magicians.

What Gere did was perfectly innocent in his eyes, but it prompted a very strong response that he didn't understand or expect. This is a huge example of how being a traveling performer could come with certain caveats- mainly that you should understand a local culture before immersing yourself in it. It's a huge undertaking, but in the end it's worth it- because then you can avoid a fine or three monthes in jail for kissing a local TV star.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Janet Jackson, eat your heart out- Richard Gere's lips get arrested in India

(Via Reuters)

In a moment that would make women across the world melt, Richard Gere repeatedly (and I guess, kind of erotically) kissed Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS campaign event while he was in India recently.

The kissing violates local obscenity laws, and he was afterwards arrested and could be sent to jail or fined if he visits the country again.

Some people are calling it an "outrage against her modesty", but to be fair he DID do a rather gentlemanly bow afterward.

I mean, come on, Richard Gere is still pretty attractive for his age.

Without further adieu, here's the deed:

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'Next' - The reviews are coming in

(Via Monsters and Critics)

I just found an early review on Next, with Nic Cage. I wasn't even aware that it was based on a story by Philip K. Dick (of Blade Runner fame). The movie apparently opens this weekend, so maybe I'll go see it.

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Martin Freeman plays Magician in 'Other People'

His skills in comedy are almost magic anyway, and now he can prove it.

Martin Freeman (best known for his role in The Office) will be starring in a TV comedy about a 30-something washed-up Magician. The premise is apparently a guy who was successful at 18, but is now struggling.

Now, I personally know him best from such comedic masterpieces as Shaun of the Dead and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (yes, I liked it, so sue me), since I've never really watched The Office. That being said, I love his work, and I can't wait to get a look at this show.

Other People is currently in the Pilot stage, but is being produced for Channel 4 in the UK.

Arthur Dent: It must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays...

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Magician Teller kicks it up a notch with Macbeth

(Via Yahoo News)

Now here is a story that appeals to my literary sensibilities as a writer- Teller, the silent half of the famous Magician duo Penn & Teller, is planning on putting on a version of Shakespeare's Macbeth that incorporates magic and illusion into the tale. He'll be working with the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, New Jersey and doing justice to the eeriness of Shakespeare's play using his own experience as a magician and a former student of the classics.

The idea sounds amazing.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Magicians the help Children


I found this article via a South India news site, and I'm quite pleased- it's about a magician named Gopinath Muthukad who speaks to children and teaches them about confidence, by way of relating his experiences as a magician. In fact, it's for summer classes for the State Child Welfare Council.

It's nothing short of magical when magicians use their craft to enrich the lives of children. Something as simple as putting on a magic show can change a child's life.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Now THAT is what I call romance

(Via The American Chronicle)

I found an article that gives several suggestions on creative ways to make a wedding proposal, including this:
It's a kind of magic. Hire a magician to help you think of creative ways to pop the question. Arrange the time and place where it will be and go out on a usual date with your loved one. Make sure to explain everything the magician has to know – what he needs to do, when and where exactly. When you pass by, tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you want to watch the magic performance.

The magician then takes your beloved to participate in a magic trick. The magician can then 'magically' produce flowers and a note. When your girl or man reads the note, it's your cue to pop the question.

As a hopeless romantic myself, I fully endorse this method of proposal...not that I'm biased or anything. ;)

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Nic Cage stars as Magician in 'Next'

Nic Cage is set to star in Next, a movie about a man with precognitive abilities that works as a stage Magician in Las Vegas. What intrigues me even more, is that the news is reporting that Cage will be taking lessons in Magic on-set to prepare for the film.

I am constantly fascinated by Nic Cage's willingness to take on rather interesting film projects....I'm sure this one will be no different.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Another Mixture of Magic and Passionate Playwriting

(Via Chicago Sun Times)

I like the sounds of this one- it's a comedy/romance play called Orange Lemon Egg Canary, and it's about a Magician (who is, of course, played by one).

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Quinlan's Magic Trick of the Day

(Via Quinlan's Inside Magic)

I agree with them fully...this card trick is nicely done. :)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Close French election? No problem! Get a psychic!

(Via CNN/Reuters)

I wonder what Harry Houdini would say about this... (no doubt he'd be laughing)

Apparently the looming election in France is so close, that several psychics and fortune tellers are throwing in their own opinions about what the outcome will be. Since around 40% of the electorate is undecided, the polls are of no help, so why not?

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Some Magicians may have their Balloon Burst

(Via The TooWoomba Chronicle)

Here's a nasty thought- you build your livelihood on making kids happy with what you consider to be traditional, heart-warming child entertainment, and in the instant it takes for one toddler to bite a balloon animal and freak out from the loud noise, you suddenly have doubt cast on your artistry and possibly even inflated insurance rates.

Believe it or not, in the US there have been a series of successful lawsuits from parents against Balloon artists for "traumatizing" their children with the bang of a popping balloon.

One concerned Magician/Clown, Lynton Borland, has made a policy of not handing the balloon animals directly to the children.

It's a weird situation, but these days, those are the sorts of things that performers need to consider, especially when their audience is children.

What I'd like to know though, is how they successfully proved that a popping balloon could traumatize a child, long-term?

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Monday, April 16, 2007

A Magician Houdini would be very, very proud of

(Via The Spectrum)

A young magician from North Dakota is willing to give $100, 000 to any person at North Dakota State University who can prove they have psychic abilities. Dustin White, 18 years old, has been training as a magician, and wants to use his knowledge to prove that many psychics are merely frauds. He's including telepathy, telekenesis and talking to the dead; citing such suspicious television psychics as Sylvia Brown, or John Edward.

Now, some people might recall that Penn and Teller had a show called Bullshit- a program that put a skeptical spin on a number of topics, and one of the episodes they did tackled this issue. Of particular interest is the segment where they briefly mention how Crossing Over with John Edward works...and the legal ramifications involved in going into great detail about it, if you're lucky enough to have been at a taping.

In any case, this young magician is carrying on a tradition that does greater justice to Houdini's work, than digging up his body ever could.

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Superstition can be Contagious

(Via Reuters)

Cellphone subscribers in Pakistan are freaking out over a prank spam message telling them they could die from a virus transmitted via their cellphone. Warid Telecom has been jammed with calls from concerned subscribers- quite frankly they're stunned that people would even believe such a thing.

This somehow reminds me of Superman 3, where the villain was affecting the world's weather via satellites, which were being hacked by Richard Pryor. The bottom line here is that while an idea like that might seem silly to people who are familiar with a given technology, it might not seem so silly to those who have no idea.

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Yet another article about the Houdini Exhumation

(Via The Capital Times)

This time, the article is based on an interview with one of the authors of The Secret Life of Houdini, the book that started this whole thing, Larry Sloman. It gives a little bit of insight as to where he got his information- namely that the granddaughter of Mina 'Margery' Crandon supplied him with loads of correspondence between the Spiritualists and famed Magician Harry Houdini.

I do however think that it's a bit much for writer of this article to claim that Houdini's murder is a new idea. It's not. Houdini's conflict with the Spiritualists was widely known, and his death was peculiar enough to warrant suspicion. The idea he was poisoned, however, is indeed the product of the book.

I am now adding a Houdini label, since my number of posts on the subject is growing by the week.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Oldest Magic Book

(Via Magic Roadshow)

Check out a short article over on Magic Roadshow about a book recently rediscovered that was written by a friend of Leonardo DaVinci. The unpublished manuscript, titled De viribus quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers) was written by a Franciscan monk, Luca Pacioli, sometime between 1496 and 1508. He and DaVinci apparently lived together.

The manuscript was stored in an archive at the University of Bologna, but was apparently recently discovered, and has been painstakingly transcribed and translated.

I have to say that I am rather impressed that DaVinci had ties to magic and magical methods... it just makes sense. I'd love to see a copy of the translation... although I'm not sure when it would actually be made available to the public.

Nonetheless, I'm reminded of this movie:

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let's not take away the Magic...

(Via InsideMagic)

The folks over at Inside Magic are backing an online petition to encourage people to stop giving away Magic Tricks online for free. Magicians of course follow a Code of Ethics which holds that magic should be respected as an art form grounded in mystery, and the frivolous exposure or misuse of it demeans it as a whole.

It's unfortunate that not only do Magicians everywhere have to protect tricks they themselves create, but also have to worry about the most basic concepts of Magic being spoiled for the public. You'll recall that Fox's Breaking the Magicians' Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed caused a stir in the Magic community by explaining many classic illusions on network television. You can't blame the public for being curious- but that curiosity shouldn't be quenched all at once. Much like Houdini's exhumation, although it could seem like a good idea in the short term, it would sure spoil the fun for future generations!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Magician on America's Got Talent!

I'm not sure how old this clip is, but I love it.

I just wish the clip hadn't edited out the judges comments!

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Just when you thought it couldn't get any stranger...

(Via The Post Chronicle)

It's really hard to decide how to react, when you read an article about Anna Nicole Smith performing fellatio on a magician backstage- let alone with her husband watching!

I'm not exactly sure why this is considered news-worthy, but I guess all things Anna Nicole are hot news these days in the press. On the other hand, if every person that's ever had (or likes to think they've had) a 'magical' experience with Anna Nicole Smith shares it with the media, news wires everywhere might quickly resemble a locker room conversation of oneupmanship. I say, let the poor girl rest in peace. I don't think the Magician in question is doing himself any favors.

The article

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Magical Medium with a Message

(Via Carroll County Times)

Time and again we see examples of how magic can be turned into something beneficial, and a voice for expressing personal values. For instance, corporate illusionist/magician Wayne Alan has been voicing his concerns about the dangers of long-term smoking, by integrating his talents. Alan tours regularly with his show called "Make Smoking Disappear", which involves magic and detailed descriptions about the long-term effects of tobacco. Rather than appealing to his typical corporate audience, he now appeals to the younger generation at schools and libraries. He does about 100 magic shows a year on the subject.

This is a fascinating form of magic that I see a lot of here at Philip and Henry, and it never ceases to amaze me. Shows like this speak volumes about the unique and individual character of each magician.

The article

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Today in Magic

  • Easter is on the way- chocolate, pious thoughts of the Saviour's resurrection, and cute l'il bunnies everywhere...I would say spring, but it's snowing outside!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This story was so weird I just had to post about it...

(Via Reuters)
Our baby fell out of the window
You'd think that her head would be split
But good luck was with her that morning
She fell in a barrel of...

A chinese woman in Beijing fell off her sixth floor balcony while hanging laundry, only to be saved by....well, just read the article.

I'd call that the magic of irony.

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Check out this 18 year old magician Chris Hodgson, who can already free himself from being rolled in cling-wrap, with a fractured elbow, in one minute and eleven seconds. Nice!

The article.

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A Little Bit of Video

A News Bit on the Houdini Exhumation

A News Bit about the Kathy Sierra Death Threats Debate

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Fate is a strange Magician

You may (or may not) have noticed my absence from the blog yesterday- well, it wasn't without good reason!

Yesterday I was down at the CTV studios witnessing some history in the making- master of memory, David Farrow set a new Guinness World Record for memory recall by memorizing 59 decks of cards which had been shuffled together and repackaged, and successfully remembered them in order, over approximately a nine hour period.

David Farrow, with the help of Scott Dietrich (one of the Magicians that works with us) recalled over 3000 cards consecutively, and with only one minor mistake. It took David about four days to memorize the cards, despite the fact that he has both ADD and dyslexia. He's living proof that we can overcome even the most difficult of learning disabilities.

I'll probably post more about it later.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Holy Email, Batman

(Via CBC News)

Yahoo, in an attempt to adequately compete with Google, Microsoft, Lycos and like, will slowly be uncapping the email storage limit on their web-based email system.

Speaking as somebody that has had the same email address for about 10 years, I really wish this development had happened long ago enough for me to have kept all of the memorable emails that I've had to delete over the years.

Well, on the other hand, it's only email. ;)

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Harry Potter Cover Revealed

In an attempt to whet the appetites of crazed Harry Potter fans (like me), publishers have released both the child and adult covers for the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to be released July 21st (see countdown below).

I, for one, can't wait. Will the boy magician, er, WIZARD die in the last book?

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A New Twist on the Houdini story

Two of the places that renowned magician Harry Houdini called home- New York and Appleton- have both just broken the story that relatives of Houdini's widow adamantly oppose the exhumation and are now taking steps against it.

Descendants of Bess Houdini, John and Jeffrey Wood, have openly stated that they believe the exhumation is unnecessary and merely an attempt to boost book sales on the part of the authors.

"The Secret Life of Houdini" poses that Houdini was murdered by a group of psychics, The Spiritualists, due to his continuous debunking of their practices. After reading the book, Houdini's Great Nephew George Hardeen decided that the exhumation would be a good idea.

The paperwork for the exhumation is set either to be filed next week (according to WLNS) or today (according to the Albuquerque Tribune). I'll post a more in depth analysis later.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

A little more perspective

Here's a much better article about the Houdini exhumation from the Washington Post, that I found via Magic Unlimited. Ironically, it ends on much the same note I did.

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Age is no issue when you've got magic

(Via Google News)

He's four years old, and already he can do magic tricks and play the ukulele- which is more than I can do. ;) his name is Liam Reid and he travels around New Zealand with parents Bill and Mandy, participating in their magic shows.

Apparently, Liam has been willingly been performing magic since he was 22 months old.

I really wish this article had a video attached.

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The Masked Magician will a graphic novel, and possibly even the big screen?

(Via Super Hero Hype)

Remember that guy that enraged fellow magicians by revealing key secrets on prime time television? Well, he's now going to be the subject of a fictionalized graphic novel. That's right, the Masked Magician.

Back in the 90s Nash Entertainment produced Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed, which starred the anonymous 'Masked Magician'. He quickly became the bane of every magician's existence by explaining mysteries of magic to millions of people on television. In the last episode, he was revealed to be well-known illusionist Val Valentino.

Well, now Bruce Nash wants to turn it into a fictionalized graphic novel, in hopes of starting a franchise that could lead to a feature film. Nash describes the story as a 'cross between Darkman and the movie FX', about a magician on the run from the law, who fights crime using his magician skills, in order to redeem himself from his dark past. In doing so, the story would again explain various methods of magic.

The four original specials will re-air on the Fox Reality channel this spring.

Now, am I the only one that finds this to be an odd concept? Will it again 'raise the ire' of magicians everywhere? Is it just riding on the coat-tails of the recent interest in magic in the mainstream media?

Tune in this year. Same blog time, same blog URL!

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Russian Villagers paranoid over barcodes

(Via Reuters)

Some residents of the village Bogolyubovo, in Russia, have rejected new passports because they include a bar code. Why? Because the bar code on the passports included 'three sixes' (presumably three sets of six). Some of them also rejected newer pension stubs for the same reason.

Why all this worry? There was talk back in like 2000 that due to the prevalence of magnetic cards for just about everything (Debit, SIN, Health Card etc), that governments would combine them into a single number. This set a number of minds reeling, and many people speculated that it would come down to a single number tattooed on a person's body. Even wilder speculation predicted that the number would be three sets of six-digit numbers, and that it would have to be tattooed on either the wrist or the forehead.

All of this springs from the book of Revelation which says (13:16-18):
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

I wouldn't consider a passport to be a 'mark' necessarily, but it is such an important document, that one might need to carry it with them wherever they go.

Superstition can be a funny thing, especially in relation to technology, or other things we don't understand. I found a post on Chet's Magical Mysteries from last summer that tackled the issue of Hypnosis and Religion. He points out people are often hesitant to be hypnotized, because of the strange things they've heard about hypnotism.

Magicians, of course, have a responsibility to not abuse this lack of information, and to inform (as much as they can anyway) their participants in such a way as to make them feel comfortable.

This is a round-a-bout way of saying I think perhaps the villagers should have been brought up to date on how barcodes work, and what they've been used for so far in history.

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Houdini's death will not escape speculation

Here's a weird one:

George Hardeen, famous magician Harry Houdini's Great Nephew, is bidding to have his body exhumed, to investigate whether or not Houdini may have been murdered.

Despite the fact that Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, there was no autopsy. Some people believe that his death was caused by a punch to the abdomen (someone challenged him to take blows to the stomach), while others yet again believe it may have been poisoning from a group of psychics he had attempted to debunk.

Personally, I'm not sure what they could gain from exhuming his body at this point. But wouldn't it be funny if the casket was empty?

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's better than Comedy Magic? Comedy Cooking Magic!

Phil Robinson the "Cooking French Magician" will be appearing on Britain's Got Talent, and showing off his skills for the judges, including the famous Simon Cowell.

I'm trying to picture what exactly it is that he does, and I'm having trouble. But apparently it involves making wine bottles disappear.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Adding some Real Magic- Onstage

Most of us probably know the magic of watching a well-executed musical being performed onstage, but what if that musical involved actual magic?

I ran across an article via Google News today about a Magician that isn't just performing shows, but also teaching high school drama students how to perform them.

Illusionist Rob Lake has been traveling to schools and theater groups across the country, helping them put on a version "Beauty of the Beast" that integrates magic and illusion. Lake enjoys teaching them the concepts, and watching the show come to life, while simultaneously emphasizing the secretive nature of these magical skills.

This is a fascinating mix of performance art that holds the potential to be a great teaching tool-not just in terms of learning an art, but also taking two passions and bringing them together.

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CBC says Build Your Child's Self-Esteem's Health Tip last week was the various ways in which you can build your child's self-esteem. Of particular interest is this one:

Encourage her to participate in activities that encourage cooperation, rather than competition

(It intrigues me that they used 'her')

One of the things I am bent on exploring here at Philip and Henry is how Magic or training to be a Magician can improve the self-esteem and confidence of a child, in both the short and long term. Magic stands out as being very non-competitive, and a way for a child to gain positive attention.


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