Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Like A Rolling Stone

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street


And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Bob Dylan

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christina Aguilera - The Christmas Song

In my "In Box"

Hey Brother!
Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Polly, You rock. Tom Rolls!
Also, Tom Frank, magician, Dad, Friend of mine!
Everytime I perform, you perform!
I suppose you might like that better if'n I sent you some cash, then you would feel like that were true!? :)
Haha...
Got my new RNT rings. They are heavy! They hurt when you slam yourself too! I like them!
I keep looking at my hands to see the black. Kinda like a reflex action!
No black! Sweet!
I like my other rings too!

Thanks for the magic!
Love,
Tim

Pollock, originally uploaded by sapaburu.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good luck to me

He watched the world change around him
and he asked himself
What did I contribute?
What did I learn?

Turmoil plagued the planet
and uncivilized worlds ruled

easy for me to say
as I sip my cocktail

aloof
what can I say
you are who you are

or I am, who I am

It’s hard to tell the difference
when nothing is real
and everything is fake

even the brick walls and fire hydrants
fake
this town takes the cake in fake

and what do you make
when the cake is fake
who’s on the take
and who’s gonna be late

I bought a blue hippopotamus
and took it to the lake

who would have known
bartender. . . fake

camera pans a playground
zooms in on a child
on a tiger
on a large old rusty spring
back and forth
the child sways

in each movement
a smile
and in each smile
an untold world

strange how innocence seems
I’m not sure I was ever innocent

winter marks the death in the cycle
and winter is here
even in paradise
there is a chill to the air

but to be fair
If I had more hair
I might be warmer

I’m a dinosaur
a dying breed
a relic
in danger
of ceasing to serve a function

progress
whatever. . .

the sound my drink makes as I bring it to my lips
ice, swishing against the side of a monogramed rocks glass from my 2nd marriage.
tomorrow is another day
another opportunity to get it right.

Good luck to me.

I'll be there!!

Bark in the New Year with Friends!
Bob Weir and RatDog join
Phil Lesh and Friends for two nights, 12/30-12/31

Special Announcement from the Band:

Just as Hunter warns us to be skeptical when times are great - "when life looks like easy street", etc. - when times are as tough and scary as right now, it's time to plan a party. It's also time to savor our roots, and that means... New Year's Eve Show (plus one!)!

So here's the facts: December 30th and 31st, Bob Weir and RatDog and Phil Lesh and Friends/Phil Lesh and Friends and Bob Weir and RatDog, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, with the Jackie Greene Band opening both nights.

Which band will open which night will be determined by a coin toss. We may ask our favorite President-elect to officiate. We'll let you know the results.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Have a Jerry Christmas!


Have a Jerry Christmas!, originally uploaded by hokulea.

First night of Chanukah

It was Pollys' idea to make latkes (potato pancakes), but I'm pretty sure my mother approved. I could feel her presence in my heart and mind as we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah by lighting the candles and saying the prayer.

"Baruch ata Ado-nai, Elo-heinu Melech ha'olam, Asher kid'shanu b'mitzvosav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah"

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to Kindle the Chanukah light.

I'm not a religious person, but I do enjoy the traditions of my people and my childhood. It's been a trying few weeks/months, but I'm keeping enough love in my heart and a smile on my face to make the most out of this dwindling holiday season. Money has been tight, and street performing has been problematic. It's been cold and rainy here on and off for weeks. I was able to go out yesterday and have a half way decent afternoon before it got dark and cold. I met Polly at the gym after the CityWalk, and we put in a good hour and a half work out before going home to make our dinner. Along with our latkes Polly made Herb roasted winter vegetables on a baking sheet. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potato and lots of love made it delicious!

We decided that we wouldn't talk about the calories, carbs or all the oil that the latkes were cooking in. Instead, we enjoyed our meal, looked lovingly into each others eyes and enjoyed our candle lit meal.

Rain is back today, work looks doubtful. Probably a good day to get some housework done, go see a movie, or watch some of the football games I TiVo'ed yesterday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jason Wethington Visit

It seems like a lifetime ago that I met Jason Wethington and hired him to be one of my magic shop demonstrators at the Carew Tower Magic Shop in downtown Cincinnati. We had a rocking crew at the shop, Ryan Swigert, Jason Wethington, Brett Sears, Mike Johnson. Jason worked for me for 2 and a half years and during that time we became friends before he moved down to Orlando where he's been working at an English Pub at Epcot for almost a decade.

Jay flew into LAX Saturday morning, took the Fly a way shuttle to the Van Nuys Airport, where I picked him up 10 minutes from the house. It's been great seeing him. We had Saturday and Sunday to chill before he started his work week at the Magic Castle on Monday. His run has been going good. One of his goals of working the Castle, was to get notes on his act from people whose advice he respects. Over the last two nights, he's received notes from Jon Armstrong, John Lovick & Derek Delgaudio.

Tonight I'll go and check out his act. Jay is a smoothie. His coin work is pretty and inspired. He does his act as a British Pub Entertainer (with a put on English accent). I'm excited to see him work. It's been fun to take some hikes with him in the Hollywood Hills, talk about magic and what we've been up to for the last decade.

Here is a video clip of Jason performing at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

In my "In Box"

Tonight I received many calls regarding Street performers, most
performers were moving to different areas withought permission.

If you see an open performance area, you must call hilltop to get in
contact with the on site coordinator and ask for permission to move.
If you move locations withought permission you will be asked to leave
citywalk.

I looked at the check in sheet at hilltop and many performers have
signed in and out at the same time.
Going forward, if the street performer coordinator notices you have
signed in and out, you will be asked to leave.
You need to sign out at the end of your set.

Tonight has been extremely un proffesional, I have been trying to run
special events on citywalk and at the same time being constantly
interrupted with unacceptable behavior.

Performers have also left citywalk early withought calling my office
phone.
Going forward, If you arrive late, cancel, replace yourself or plan to
leave early, you must follow these procedures:

1) Call hilltop operations to notify them of any changes
2) You must also leave a message on my office phone

The following groups may not return to citywalk till we speak.
* SAMA, call the office on Monday.
* Geo Clay, Call the office on Monday.
* ZIP, You must call the office on Monday

* Tom Frank, ( we already spoke, you are fine to return. )
*Kelsey ( we already spoke, you are fine to return. )


All of these steps are designed to ensure that we - CityWalk
Entertainment and the Street Performers - are doing everything we can to
run the street performer program smoothly, and that everyone has a fair
chance to perform up here.( please respond when you receive this email
to make sure everyone understands the procedures )
Thank you

Vernon

Friday, December 05, 2008

Steam through a sewer grate

The year was 1983, I had been thrown out of every high school I ever attended (or didn’t attend). The bottom of the barrel, a school called City Wide (nicknamed Easy Slide) even they had to draw the line when I accidentally set a student on fire. I dropped out of high school, stole a car and moved to New York City, to sew my oats, drop acid and street perform on the Upper West Side. It was my School of Hard Knocks.

Upon arriving in the big city, after dropping my stuff off at a friends, I needed to ditch the car. I filled up the tank, rolled a big joint and put it in the ash tray sticking out. I drove to Times Square in Manhattan. Pulled up in front of a McDonalds left the keys in the ignition and the car running, reeking of pot. I went in and ordered a quarter pounder with cheese, fries and a pop. By the time I came out the car was gone and someone else's problem. I lived in the Ben Franklin Hotel at 77th and Broadway. A transient hotel perfect for an 18 year old street magician from Cincinnati.

It was the beginning of a journey that had had already been in full swing for years. I loved my room at the Ben Franklin Hotel. Didn’t have many visitors, Derek Dingle came over a couple of times. Shawn Greer visited, Jeff Moche was in the hood, Dave Hughes also in the neighborhood. It was great! The Upper West Side was in the peak of it’s redevelopment/gentrification. Fancy restaurants, high end retail, a street act on every corner, street vendors and a festive community feeling 7 days a week. I worked a few hours a night on Columbus Avenue and spent a lot of time tripping in Central Park.

I have vivid memories sitting on the top of that building, with my legs hanging over the edge, looking over Broadway. The warm city air in the night time.


They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway
They say there's always magic in the air
But when you're walkin' down the street
And you ain't had enough to eat
The glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere

They say the women treat you fine on Broadway
But lookin' at them just gives me the blues
'cause how ya gonna make some time
When all you got is one thin dime
And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes

They say that I won't last too long on Broadway
I'll catch a grey hound bus for home they all say
But they're dead wrong I know they are
'cause I can play this here deck of cards
And I won't quit till I'm a star on Broadway

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Harry Langdon , originally uploaded by sokaris73.

Over the hill? I think not

Life is real, so you better get with it. Bullshit, I believe that about as much as getting a real job.

Filling out my passport application. My last one expired in February. I got the last one for a trip to China, coincidentally that’s why I need this one. I have an opportunity to work a month in Beijing. Who knows if it will actually happen, but best to be optimistic and prepared. One show a night 6 nights a week and discuss putting a magic shop in club as well. I’m up for the gig and will rock the mother fucking room.

I am a lean mean entertaining machine. One nice thing about performing at the CityWalk every night is, my chops are on fire. Along with a new found and heightened physical presence (from working out daily), coupled with tricks that I perform nightly, strong familiarity with the routines and comfortable performing in temperatures that range from 50 degrees (the coin roll out to the star with Morgan silver dollars in 50 degree chill, no easy feat) to 100 degrees. I see it all every day. Perfect beautiful sunsets that sweep the west coast. The other night it was cold and foggy, the marine layer rolled in and mangled my deck of cards in short order. Another overcast day here in LA (there aren’t that many). Reminds me of my time in Seattle. It was like this most of the years. No rain though, just a big gray sky. Chilly 65 degrees, but still in shorts here at home. Will bundle up for what I can anticipate to be another weak night at work. Can’t believe that I’m in 32” waist pants these days. Wasn’t all that long ago, that my 38”s were getting snug. Feeling fucking GREAT. I could conquer THE WORLD. I might not make any money doing it. . . but I could do it!

Polly loves to cook winter meals. In the last week or so we’ve enjoyed Beef Stew, Chili and last night was Chicken Gumbo with hot,spicy, cajun sausage. My woman can throw down in the kitchen, let me tell you. We eat healthy and very good. Protein ROCKS! Never thought I hear myself say that!?

Got a call from Gay Blackstone yesterday about some TV show, was looking for a street magician. Aye Jaye had recommended me, telling her that I was the best of the best (how flattering). Unfortunately they were looking for someone with 40 years of experience, but was 25. I forwarded her a few video clips of my work and thanked her for her time. Bummer. . . too old at 43. I can dig it, I’m a big boy. . . This is Hollywood. I understand.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Buster Keaton, originally uploaded by twm1340.

Living LA style, eating right and exercising

Sun setting in the valley, back yard

Thinking about blowing work off tonight. Not feeling it AT ALL. MIght have to suck it up and go any ways, it’s just a couple of hours. Last night was painful. Shows were good, just cheap audiences, I feel their pain. . . literally.

Been working Fountain Court at the Universal CityWalk a little more these days, seems to be a world of difference in the way I can connect with out the LOUD BLARING MUSIC being pumped into every orifice. Liked it a lot. Over the weekend it translated into my best day in weeks. Last night. . . not so much.


The trick I’m doing in the picture below is an oldie but a goodie. Taught to me by Larry Pringle back in the day. I’ve recently started doing this trick again. Getting the same good reactions it always did. It’s been a long and winding road. Tricks, tips, tits.

Tom Frank 1981 • Kings Island

This is me at 15. I loved this job! $250 a week back in 1981, six 20 min. shows a day, 6 days a week. Hell, I'd have done it for free. Look at those little cuties.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I dedicate this song to my girl Polly

I'm pulling through and it's because of you
When I was stranded came your helping hand
Lonely, hurt I had not known which way to turn
'Til you said, "Try smiles, not tears, just laugh and learn"

I'm pulling through and it's because of you
You made me see how lovely life could be
Lifted up my heart and made me count the cost
To find I'd gained, not lost

When I thought that hope was really gone
You showed me I was wrong
And you taught me how to carry on
Thanks for the lift in time and thanks for your song

I'm pulling through and it's because of you
I'd do the same for you if your turn came
Hope it never will
For I've been though the mill
I won't forget this debt
I'm pulling trough

When I thought that hope was really gone
You showed me I was wrong
And you taught me how to carry on
Thanks for the lift in time and thanks for your song

I'm pulling through and it's because of you
I'd do the same for you if your turn came
Hope it never will
For I've been though the mill
I won't forget this debt
I'm pulling trough

By Diana Krall

Responses to my last post from The Magic Cafe Forum

This is very interesting Tom.

I have been through a few Hero's Journey's myself, as we all have. My journey from when I started in the late 70's to where I am now is what I am talking about. One of the biggest changes is my motives for performing.

I too have wondered if I can incorporate an ARC into my performance. And I believe that it may be too much to do in a short period of time. I mean, most people ARE IN THEIR DAILY ORDEAL, and to interupt that for a quick relief, than I feel we have fullfulled our calling to disengage 'hero's' from their quest to even provide fuel for their journey.

It's almost like we are in the 'mentor' role...or if we are not, maybe we could be. Providing insite into THE SPECIAL WORLD.

I appreciate your desire to extend this to passers by...but maybe in a different venue? Or, maybe we could develope mini-performances for different stages of the Hero's Journey. But wouldn't that leave people with incomplete circles...like an independent film that you leave from wondering what happened to the main character vs. a complete circle where you know what happened to the main character that happens in most Hollywood films.

I believe US/WE/YOU/ME are IN EVERYONES JOURNEY as a MENTOR figure to guide and provide insite...not just skill and light comedy. Or, maybe, that is just my call.

But I do believe we can do that by TRIGGERING that which resides in the human heart...that eternal desire set in our hearts is being tapped into every day one way or another. If I tap into it and give it some form of LIFE than I fulfilled my motive for performing. That form of LIFE can be expressed in many ways...even through the many tricks that fill the books on our shelves.

So I am getting into this with you as a experiment. I would love to explore what you are talking about. Maybe I hit on with what you are talking about, maybe I added/subtracted from it. But I would like to do the same thing you are inquiring about.

How?

-Scott M

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Hi Tom, greetings.
This is a tricky one. I think `Magic' as it is presented today, by most `Magician'; is viewed by the audience as `clever trickery',.. when it's done well. Therefore, this Character of a `Magician' is what?,... a clever trickster.

Guys working as Gamblers,.. or Con-men (Harry Anderson), have more believiblity in there character; therefore they can "go places" with stories. This `Believiblity' is the key.

On the other hand, Variety Acts,.. physical variety act, often DO have a tension bow. "Will they accomplish it?!?" The audience sees the challenge, understands it,.. and with luck; wants to know the outcome.

So, how do we achieve this with Magic? I try to incorporate Magic with other Art Forms. When the people watch me, they are attracted by Music and Dance,... the Magic happens within this package. Therefore the emotions are carried by another horse. For me,.. it works.

gallagher

p.s.: You mentioned `the distractions'. This is probably the biggest challenge for Sidewalk Workers,.. getting the audience in a quiet, peaceful,.. safe moment. I beleive this is the biggest benefit of keeping the Circle size smaller. A `tight', closed circle, yes. But not too big. A `homey' feeling can be very stimulating,... for BOTH sides of the table.

2057-0870, originally uploaded by AliceJapan.

Quote du Jour

"We are lonesome animals.
We spend our life trying to be less lonesome.
One of our ancient methods is to tell a story
begging the listener to say
– and to feel –
'Yes, that's the way it is,
or at least that's the way I feel it.
You're not as alone as you thought."

- JOHN STEINBECK

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Transformational Arc

I'm trying understand the components of story telling as it relates to the writing of a screen play and the performance of a magic act. One big difference is the lack of any transformational arc in either the story or the character (a generalization of magicians). Movies, stories, novels and other mediums use the arc to move things forward. You start here, you go through this and you come out different somehow. Most variety acts are demonstrations of skill tied together with light comedy. I've been wondering how to embed some arch in my act/character. To take the audience on a bit of a personal journey and let them feel some sort of change from the beginning to the end. For example, start the act with a cynical distaste for wonder, dismissing it as a puzzle. Acknowledge that magic is the butt of many jokes and accept that it's all a big fake. Then through the course of presenting the effects, somehow the magi begins to get it. To discover or rediscover how wonderful and beautiful it is to put a smile on the face of a person who needs to feel that sense of wonder.

I used to end every performance by saying,

"Your smile, is the light in the window of your face, that shows the world your heart is at home"

Scrooge, a great story of transformation

I yearn to make my act relevant for myself and my audiences. Strangely, I think it has less to do with tricks and more to do with writing. I continue to work on my craft. To hone and refine it. Polly said to me last night, you must really love what you do, most people would have hung it up by now." I do love what I do. I go out there every day and try and make the world a better place. . . one smile at a time. As a street performer I get my teeth kicked in regularly and am humbled nightly. Fighting all forms of distractions, I try and cut through the thick, scaly exterior of peoples psyches and get to the root of the matter. To answer the question what are we all doing watching this guy?

I hope to figure this out before I die. . . . in a long. . . long time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


My Brain, originally uploaded by My Name is Rom™.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Magic and the Brain: How Magicians "Trick" the Mind

Magicians have been testing and exploiting the limits of cognition and attention for hundreds of years. Neuroscientists are just beginning to catch up

By Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik

From the Dec. issue of Scientific American

The spotlight shines on the magician’s assistant. The woman in the tiny white dress is a luminous beacon of beauty radiating from the stage to the audience. The Great Tomsoni announces he will change her dress from white to red. On the edge of their seats, the spectators strain to focus on the woman, burning her image deep into their retinas. Tomsoni claps his hands, and the spotlight dims ever so briefly before reflaring in a blaze of red. The woman is awash in a flood of redness.

Whoa, just a moment there! Switching color with the spotlight is not exactly what the audience had in mind. The magician stands at the side of the stage, looking pleased at his little joke. Yes, he admits, it was a cheap trick; his favorite kind, he explains devilishly. But you have to agree, he did turn her dress red—along with the rest of her. Please, indulge him and direct your attention once more to his beautiful assistant as he switches the lights back on for the next trick. He claps his hands, and the lights dim again; then the stage explodes in a supernova of whiteness. But wait! Her dress really has turned red. The Great Tomsoni has done it again!

The trick and its explanation by John Thompson (aka the Great Tomsoni) reveal a deep intuitive understanding of the neural processes taking place in the spectators’ brains—the kind of understanding that we neuroscientists can appropriate for our own scientific benefit. Here’s how the trick works. As Thompson introduces his assistant, her skintight white dress wordlessly lures the spectators into assuming that nothing—certainly not another dress—could possibly be hiding under the white one. That reasonable assumption, of course, is wrong. The attractive woman in her tight dress also helps to focus people’s attention right where Thompson wants it—on the woman’s body. The more they stare at her, the less they notice the hidden devices in the floor, and the better adapted their retinal neurons become to the brightness of the light and the color they perceive.

All during Thompson’s patter after his little “joke,” each spectator’s visual system is undergoing a brain process called neural adaptation. The responsiveness of a neural system to a constant stimulus (as measured by the firing rate of the relevant neurons) decreases with time. It is as if neurons actively ignore a constant stimulus to save their strength for signaling that a stimulus is changing. When the constant stimulus is turned off, the adapted neurons fire a “rebound” response known as an afterdischarge.

In this case, the adapting stimulus is the red-lit dress, and Thompson knows that the spectators’ retinal neurons will rebound for a fraction of a second after the lights are dimmed. The audience will continue to see a red afterimage in the shape of the woman. During that split second, a trap door in the stage opens briefly, and the white dress, held only lightly in place with Velcro and attached to invisible cables leading under the stage, is ripped from her body. Then the lights come back up.

Two other factors help to make the trick work. First, the lighting is so bright just before the dress comes off that when it dims, the spectators cannot see the rapid motions of the cables and the white dress as they disappear underneath the stage. The same temporary blindness can overtake you when you walk from a sunny street into a dimly lit shop. Second, Thompson performs the real trick only after the audience thinks it is already over. That gains him an important cognitive advantage—the spectators are not looking for a trick at the critical moment, and so they slightly relax their scrutiny.

The New Science of Neuromagic
Thompson’s trick nicely illustrates the essence of stage magic. Magicians are, first and foremost, artists of attention and awareness. They manipulate the focus and intensity of human attention, controlling, at any given instant, what we are aware of and what we are not. They do so in part by employing bewildering combinations of visual illusions (such as afterimages), optical illusions (smoke and mirrors), special effects (explosions, fake gunshots, precisely timed lighting controls), sleight of hand, secret devices and mechanical artifacts (“gimmicks”).

But the most versatile instrument in their bag of tricks may be the ability to create cognitive illusions. Like visual illusions, cognitive illusions mask the perception of physical reality. Yet unlike visual illusions, cognitive illusions are not sensory in nature. Rather they involve high-level functions such as attention, memory and causal inference. With all those tools at their disposal, well-practiced magicians make it virtually impossible to follow the physics of what is actually happening—leaving the impression that the only explanation for the events is magic.

Neuroscientists are just beginning to catch up with the magician’s facility in manipulating attention and cognition. Of course the aims of neuroscience are different from those of magic; the neuroscientist seeks to understand the brain and neuron underpinnings of cognitive functions, whereas the magician wants mainly to exploit cognitive weaknesses. Yet the techniques developed by magicians over centuries of stage magic could also be subtle and powerful probes in the hands of neuroscientists, supplementing and perhaps expanding the instruments already in experimental use.

Neuroscience is becoming familiar with the methods of magic by subjecting magic itself to scientific study—in some cases showing for the first time how some of its methods work in the brain. Many studies of magic conducted so far confirm what is known about cognition and attention from earlier work in experimental psychology. A cynic might dismiss such efforts: Why do yet another study that simply confirms what is already well known? But such criticism misses the importance and purpose of the studies. By investigating the techniques of magic, neuroscientists can familiarize themselves with methods that they can adapt to their own purposes. Indeed, we believe that cognitive neuroscience could have advanced faster had investigators probed magicians’ intuitions earlier. Even today magicians may have a few tricks up their sleeves that neuroscientists have not yet adopted.

By applying the tools of magic, neuroscientists can hope to learn how to design more robust experiments and to create more effective cognitive and visual illusions for exploring the neural bases of attention and awareness. Such techniques could not only make experimental studies of cognition possible with clever and highly attentive subjects; they could also lead to diagnostic and treatment methods for patients suffering from specific cognitive deficits—such as attention deficits resulting from brain trauma, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, and the like. The methods of magic might also be put to work in “tricking” patients to focus on the most important parts of their therapy, while suppressing distractions that cause confusion and disorientation.

Magicians use the general term “misdirection” to refer to the practice of diverting the spectator’s attention away from a secret action. In the lingo of magic, misdirection draws the audience’s attention toward the “effect” and away from the “method,” the secret behind the effect. Borrowing some terms from cognitive psychology, we have classified misdirection as “overt” and “covert.” The misdirection is overt if the magician redirects the spectator’s gaze away from the method—perhaps simply by asking the audience to look at a particular object. When the Great Tomsoni introduces his lovely assistant, for instance, he ensures that all eyes are on her.

“Covert” misdirection, in contrast, is a subtler technique; there, too, the magician draws the spectator’s attentional spotlight—or focus of suspicion—away from the method, but without necessarily redirecting the spectator’s gaze. Under the influence of covert misdirection, spectators may be looking directly at the method behind the trick yet be entirely unaware of it.

Cognitive neuroscience already recognizes at least two kinds of covert misdirection. In what is called change blindness, people fail to notice that something about a scene is different from the way it was before. The change may be expected or unexpected, but the key feature is that observers do not notice it by looking at the scene at any one instant in time. Instead the observer must compare the postchange state with the prechange state.

Many studies have shown that changes need not be subtle to cause change blindness. Even dramatic alterations in a visual scene go unnoticed if they take place during a transient interruption such as a blink, a saccadic eye movement (in which the eye quickly darts from one point to another) or a flicker of the scene. The “color-changing card trick” video by psychologist and magician Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in England is a dramatic example of the phenomenon (the video is available online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE). In Wiseman’s demonstration—which you must see to appreciate—viewers fail to notice shifts in color that take place off camera. It is worth noting that despite its name, the color-changing card trick video does not use magic to make its point.

Inattentional blindness differs from change blindness in that there is no need to compare the current scene with a scene from memory. Instead people fail to notice an unexpected object that is fully visible directly in front of them. Psychologist Daniel J. Simons invented a classic example of the genre. Simons and psychologist Christopher F. Chabris, both then at Harvard University, asked observers to count how many times a “team” of three basketball players pass a ball to each other, while ignoring the passes made by three other players. While they concentrated on counting, half of the observers failed to notice that a person in a gorilla suit walks across the scene (the gorilla even stops briefly at the center of the scene and beats its chest!). No abrupt interruption or distraction was necessary to create this effect; the counting task was so absorbing that many observers who were looking directly at the gorilla nonetheless missed it.

Tricking the Eye or Tricking the Brain?
Magicians consider the covert form of misdirection more elegant than the overt form. But neuroscientists want to know what kinds of neural and brain mechanisms enable a trick to work. If the artistry of magic is to be adapted by neuroscience, neuroscientists must understand what kinds of cognitive processes that artistry is tapping into.

Perhaps the first study to correlate the perception of magic with a physiological measurement was published in 2005 by psychologists Gustav Kuhn of Durham University in England and Benjamin W. Tatler of the University of Dundee in Scotland. The two investigators measured the eye movements of observers while Kuhn, who is also a magician, made a cigarette “disappear” by dropping it below a table. One of their goals was to determine whether observers missed the trick because they were not looking in the right place at the right time or because they did not attend to it, no matter which direction they were looking. The results were clear: it made no difference where they were looking.

A similar study of another magic trick, the “vanishing-ball illusion,” provides further evidence that the magician is manipulating the spectators’ attention at a high cognitive level; the direction of their gaze is not critical to the effect. In the vanishing-ball illusion the magician begins by tossing a ball straight up and catching it several times without incident. Then, on the final toss, he only pretends to throw the ball. His head and eyes follow the upward trajectory of an imaginary ball, but instead of tossing the ball, he secretly palms it. What most spectators perceive, however, is that the (unthrown) ball ascends—and then vanishes in midair.

The year after his study with Tatler, Kuhn and neurobiologist Michael F. Land of the University of Sussex in England discovered that the spectators’ gaze did not point to where they themselves claimed to have seen the ball vanish. The finding suggested the illusion did not fool the brain systems responsible for the spectators’ eye motions. Instead, Kuhn and Land concluded, the magician’s head and eye movements were critical to the illusion, because they covertly redirected the spectators’ attentional focus (rather than their gaze) to the predicted position of the ball. The neurons that responded to the implied motion of the ball suggested by the magician’s head and eye movements are found in the same visual areas of the brain as neurons that are sensitive to real motion. If implied and real motion activate similar neural circuits, perhaps it is no wonder that the illusion seems so realistic.

Kuhn and Land hypothesized that the vanishing ball may be an example of “representational momentum.” The final position of a moving object that disappears is perceived to be farther along its path than its actual final position—as if the predicted position was extrapolated from the motion that had just gone before.

More Tools of the Trickery Trade
Spectators often try to reconstruct magic tricks to understand what happened during the show—after all, the more the observer tries (and fails) to understand the trick, the more it seems as if it is “magic.” For their part, magicians often dare their audiences to discover their methods, say, by “proving” that a hat is empty or an assistant’s dress is too tight to conceal a second dress underneath. Virtually everything done is done to make the reconstruction as hard as possible, via misdirection.

But change blindness and inattentional blindness are not the only kinds of cognitive illusions magicians can pull out of a hat. Suppose a magician needs to raise a hand to execute a trick. Teller, half of the renowned stage magic act known as Penn & Teller, explains that if he raises his hand for no apparent reason, he is more likely to draw suspicion than if he makes a hand gesture—such as adjusting his glasses or scratching his head—that seems natural or spontaneous. To magicians, such gestures are known as “informing the motion.”

Unspoken assumptions and implied information are also important to both the perception of a trick and its subsequent reconstruction. Magician James Randi (“the Amaz!ng Randi”) notes that spectators are more easily lulled into accepting suggestions and unspoken information than direct assertions. Hence, in the reconstruction the spectator may remember implied suggestions as if they were direct proof.

Psychologists Petter Johansson and Lars Hall, both at Lund University in Sweden, and their colleagues have applied this and other magic techniques in developing a completely novel way of addressing neuroscientific questions. They presented picture pairs of female faces to naive experimental subjects and asked the subjects to choose which face in each pair they found more attractive. On some trials the subjects were also asked to describe the reasons for their choice. Unknown to the subjects, the investigators occasionally used a sleight-of-hand technique, learned from a professional magician named Peter Rosengren, to switch one face for the other—after the subjects made their choice. Thus, for the pairs that were secretly manipulated, the result of the subject’s choice became the opposite of his or her initial intention.

Intriguingly, the subjects noticed the switch in only 26 percent of all the manipulated pairs. But even more surprising, when the subjects were asked to state the reasons for their choice in a manipulated trial, they confabulated to justify the outcome—an outcome that was the opposite of their actual choice! Johansson and his colleagues call the phenomenon “choice blindness.” By tacitly but strongly suggesting the subjects had already made a choice, the investigators were able to study how people justify their choices—even choices they do not actually make.

The Pickpocket Who Picks Your Brain
Misdirection techniques might also be developed out of the skills of the pickpocket. Such thieves, who often ply their trade in dense public spaces, rely heavily on socially based misdirection—gaze contact, body contact and invasion of the personal space of the victim, or “mark.” Pickpockets may also move their hands in distinct ways, depending on their present purpose. They may sweep out a curved path if they want to attract the mark’s attention to the entire path of motion, or they may trace a fast, linear path if they want to reduce attention to the path and quickly shift the mark’s attention to the final position. The neuroscientific underpinnings of these maneuvers are unknown, but our research collaborator Apollo Robbins, a professional pickpocket, has emphasized that the two kinds of motions are essential to effectively misdirecting the mark. We have proposed several possible, testable explanations.

One proposal is that curved and straight hand motions activate two distinct control systems in the brain for moving the eyes. The “pursuit” system controls the eyes when they follow smoothly moving objects, whereas the “saccadic” system controls movements in which the eyes jump from one visual target to the next. So we have hypothesized that the pickpocket’s curved hand motions may trigger eye control by the mark’s pursuit system, whereas fast, straight motions may cause the saccadic system to take the lead. Then if the mark’s pursuit system locks onto the curved trajectory of the pickpocket’s hand, the center of the mark’s vision may be drawn away from the location of a hidden theft. And if fast, straight motions engage the mark’s saccadic system, the pickpocket gains the advantage that the mark’s vision is suppressed while the eye darts from point to point. (The phenomenon is well known in the vision sci ences as saccadic suppression.)

Another possible explanation for the distinct hand motions is that curved motions may be perceptually more salient than linear ones and hence attract stronger attention. If so, only the attentional system of the brain—not any control system for eye motions—may be affected by the pickpocket’s manual misdirection. Our earlier studies have shown that the curves and corners of objects are more salient and generate stronger brain activity than straight edges. The reason is probably that sharp curves and corners are less predictable and redundant (and therefore more novel and informative) than straight edges. By the same token, curved trajectories may be less redundant, and therefore more salient, than straight ones.

Controlling Awareness in the Wired Brain
The possibilities of using magic as a source of cognitive illusion to help isolate the neural circuits responsible for specific cognitive functions seem endless. Neuroscientists recently borrowed a technique from magic that made volunteer subjects incorrectly link two events as cause and effect while images of the subjects’ brains were recorded. When event A precedes event B, we often conclude, rightly or wrongly, that A causes B. The skilled magician takes advantage of that predisposition by making sure that event A (say, pouring water on a ball) always precedes event B (the ball disappearing). In fact, A does not cause B, but its prior appearance helps the magician make it seem so. Cognitive psychologists call this kind of effect illusory correlation.

In an unpublished study in 2006 Kuhn and cognitive neuroscientists Ben A. Parris and Tim L. Hodgson, both then at the University of Exeter in England, showed videos of magic tricks that involved apparent violations of cause and effect to subjects undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging. The subjects’ brain images were compared with those of a control group: people who watched videos showing no apparent causal violations. The investigators found greater activation in the anterior cingulate cortex among the subjects who were watching magic tricks than among the controls. The finding suggests that this brain area may be important for interpreting causal relationships.

The work of Kuhn and his colleagues only begins to suggest the power of the techniques of magic for manipulating attention and awareness while studying the physiology of the brain. If neuroscientists learn to use the methods of magic with the same skill as professional magicians, they, too, should be able to control awareness precisely and in real time. If they correlate the content of that awareness with the functioning of neurons, they will have the means to explore some of the mysteries of consciousness itself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Penn & Teller on West Wing

mooturk

Thanksgiving 2008

Thanksgiving has always been a tough holiday for be, not always, but for the last 23 years I've morned the death of my little sister Margie who was killed in a car crash on Nov. 24, 1985. Life's funny, I've known Polly since those days, we used to live walking distance from each other as teenagers. Anyways, she was there for me when I needed a friend. . . and still is. I decided something this year, I'm finally done mourning the death of my sister, and mourning the deaths of my marriages as well. The holidays don't need to be the source of any bad feelings. I've been so caught up inside my own pain for years, that I forgot that I was worthy of happiness. I am worthy of happiness and for that I am thankful.

We all want to be the stars of our own drama, but there's a much bigger picture out there for us. We're all plugged into the matrix, just trying to contribute as best we can to make the world a better place.

I am thankful that Polly is in my life. Just when you think it's over, love can just slap ya right in the chops. We take good care of each other. Two and a half years together and not one single argument, that's got to be some sort of record. Her lips taste and feel just as good as they did in high school. I'm nutty about this chick, what can I say.

I'm thankful that my kids are healthy and happy.

I've dealt with my fair share of ups and downs. I made two lifetimes worth of mistakes, and three times worth of adventures. I've got stories, and If I could just get them out of my head. . . I think it might just be fun and interesting.

Memories of happy times, more, less pleasant. . . all a apart of the fabric of my life. The people I've been lucky enough know, and even the ones I was not so lucky to know, they all had their parts.

Tomorrow Polly and I and the two kittens, Charlotte and Sparky will celebrate Thanksgiving here at home and there will be nothing but love, good food and good vibes.

Peace out

Neil Young Streaming on NPR

Listen to CD on NPR, Click Here

NPR.org, November 24, 2008 - Neil Young was just a few days shy of his 23rd birthday when he took the stage at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Mich., for what would become a legendary performance. It was 1968, and Young was about to release his self-titled debut solo album. His old band, Buffalo Springfield, had split up six months earlier, and few people even knew who Young was. But to his own surprise, and to the surprise of the Canterbury House, Young drew a sold-out audience.

Neil Young was horribly nervous before the performance and had to be coaxed from his hotel room by his manager Elliot Roberts and the minister of Canterbury House, Dan Burke. Burke tells NPR Music he remembers Neil Young huddled in Young's hotel room bed, too scared to perform. He told Burke no one would want to hear the Buffalo Springfield tunes or his new tunes. Young was afraid he didn't have enough material. But he was eventually persuaded to take the small stage.

"You really blew our minds," an astonished emcee said while introducing the performance. "We only expected a lot less people than showed up. I think you are a lot wiser than we were."

Despite the packed house, it was an intimate performance, as Young treated his audience to a cozy set of material most had never heard before, though some were Buffalo Springfield tracks. Studio versions of some of the songs, like "Birds" and "The Old Laughing Lady," would appear later on various Neil Young solo albums.

Few people outside of those in attendance that night would have known about the Ann Arbor performance if it weren't for a 1970 single Young released called "The Loner." The B-side of that 45 was "Sugar Mountain" — which, according to a note printed on the disc, was recorded live at the Canterbury House. Neil Young fans speculated that a recording of the entire concert must exist somewhere, and eagerly awaited its release.

The live recording of "Sugar Mountain" reappeared as a B-side to the "Cinnamon Girl" single in 1970, and again in 1977 on the double disc Decade, a compilation of Neil Young hits. But the rest of the concert recorded in Ann Arbor remained a mystery.

Now, 40 years later, Neil Young and Reprise Records are finally releasing the long-awaited Canterbury House performance as part of the Archives Performance Series, Young's effort to release box-set editions of past live concerts. Live at the Fillmore East was released in 2006, with Live at Massey Hall 1971 following a year later.

Sugar Mountain — Live At Canterbury House 1968 will be released Dec. 2, but you can hear the entire album here on NPR Music as an exclusive first listen.

Raining in sunny California

All roads lead to the inside of my ass. . . I have absolutly no idea what that means, just squirted out.

It’s a fucked up world with a lot of multi faceted issues, problems and obstacles to overcome. If I didn’t know better, I’d say someone has a bizarre sense of humor. What , with all the new ideas about french kissing a brussel sprout, and all.

I make sense of my world by not making sense, it’s just easier that way. I put no pressure on myself to live in the real world. I’m a paradox, been off the grid for years; but the easiest of guys to find. Hidden right out in the open , so to speak. It’s a wonder I’ve ever made a living at all.

It’s tough these days, I see it in people’s faces. Everywhere except at the gas station. These motherfuckers jack you up to the point where you’re gonna break, shit, 2 months ago gas was almost $5.00 a gallon, it was costing me $75 to fill up. Gas is back down to under two bucks a gallon and I can afford to speed wrecklessly again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote du Jour

"I've got a peculiar weakness for criminals and artist--neither takes life as it is. Any tragic story has to be in conflict with things as they are."

- Stanley Kubrick

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whit Haydn


whithaydnpensive, originally uploaded by allanbarnes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where I live


Hollywood, originally uploaded by califboy101.

Screenwriting Expo • Day 4

Melissa Rosenberg - Interview with Q & A

Head Writer on Dexter, recently adapted "Twilight" for the big screen"

I should warn you in advance, I am attempting to to transcribe my cryptic notes from the conference, they might just be thoughts or bullets or my mind wandering. I doubt any of it will make a lot of sense to anyone who wasn't there. But I was there, and this is just me refreshing my own memory.

Talking about "Twilight"

Visual energy and cinematic pizazz

Book to movie adaptation to externalize her experience. Talks about how the author reinvents the mythology of vampires.

Watching a box set of a series (episodes back to back) is a great way to study the life of a series. Polly and I have done this with a couple of shows and I agree.

Sleep and exercise

Detailed outline - for feature films she works up a 25 page single spaced outline

Breaking in - Undergraduate Acting/Dance

Screenwriters get beat up a lot

USC Peter Stark Producing Program, AFI, UCLA Extension

Writer on "Magnificent 7" & "Party of 5"

Talent - Craft - Politics
Loyalty - Trust
Not just about telling the best story possible, also about making whoever is in charge feel safe

Write realistically

Dexter - Was shooting an episode in 9 days. They were coming in under budget and were switched to an 8 day shooting schedule. Her advice was not to come in under budget.

Voice over hardest to write - only way to get in Dexter's head.

What if. . . What if. . . What if. . .

Death is easy. . . Comedy is hard (ain't that the truth)

Never spec a show you want to work on

Don't be a second draft writer - stick to the detailed outline

Originality
Procedural not character driven?

Digging into the darkest part

Her experience as a choreographer helps with staging.

When writing a pilot • Premise plot vs. starting into the story 3rd episode

Pilot should be a typical episode, not a total set up
Tell a good story

Entertainment Industry recession proof? Used to be more true before the corporate conglomerate of the industry. Cut backs, trimming.

3rd & Fairfax WGA Library open to the public - go there and read scripts.

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Nancy Meyers - Interview with Q & A

Writer/Director/Producer Story Editor/ Creative Exec

1st Screenplay "Private Benjamin" also wrote "Father of the Bride", "Baby Boom", "Irreconcilable Differences", "Something's Gotta Give" and more. . .

Doesn't write to the market
Very long outline (80 pages)
Try to make real and honest characters

Write what you know

Accelerate and intensify to make comedy; if it's too serious. . . it's Drama

Two things at once - tour of home while taking her clothes off.

Typeface, wardrobe, photos, Inspiration Board
Plays music all day long
Plays same piece of music over and over

Big premise needs jokes that support it
Movies hard to make (imagine that)

Can't be an accountant and a writer

TV writing is nothing like feature writing
very much a job. Sit at a desk all day long

Talent is all that people are interested in

Need detail and description for everyrthing

As a Director "Pace it up" pace is critical

Talent = "It" Do you have it?

Pitch - Say it quickly and say it well. Have them think what you're thinking

Ideas progress
"What if" process - Can't judge while you're doing it

Must have tremendous determination

Grab'em, Hold on to them, Never let them go
Don't drift

Listens to music while writing
plays music on set to help actors feel the tone of the scene Sinatra, Gershwin

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Aaron Sorkin interviews William Goldman with Q & A

William Goldman - "All The Presidents Men", "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid", "Chaplin", "The Great Waldo Pepper",
Taught at Princeton. Wrote "Adventures in the Screen Trade" (book). Passed on adapting "The Godfather" Went to Oberland College 1948 - 1952

Aaron Sorkin - "American President", "A few Good Men", "Good Will Hunting", "West Wing", "Charlie Wilson's War" (passed on adapting "Jurrasic Park" (doesn't write in the fantasy genera).

Tell a story
Blink - Nothing to something

There are no 2nd acts in American lives

Difference in "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" Hero's run away and get killed at end
Sold script for 400K in 1967

Sorkin sold "A Few Good Men" for 200K in 1989

Legal nightmare in non fiction

Nobody knows anything

Do you think you can make it play?
You have to believe you can do it
Most writers think they suck
Turned down "The Graduate", "The Godfather" & "Superman"
Warren Beatty turned down the lead in "Superman" (put on the suit and said, no way)

Write where your passion is

That's all the notes I took for Day 4 of the expo

Great writers, great stories, great information. Lets see if I can put it all to good use and write some good stories!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Screenplays, originally uploaded by cjriceproductions.

Screenwriting Expo

I spent the last 4 days attending the Screenwriting Expo in downtown Los Angeles, at the Convention Center. Put on by Creative Screenwriting Magazine. What a time I had, learning about many the different pieces of the puzzle of that make a great story and how it gets to the big screen. I was going to try and barf it all out as one giant slimy blog post (that's appetizing), but as it's getting late and the pot is starting to work, I might try and break it down into bite size pieces. I thought I took decent notes, for a guy that hasn't used a pen in years. There were lots of people with laptop computers, but I didn't want to bring mine. An old note book would do, with plenty of empty pages which I filled with the ugly scrawl of an angry 4 year old. If I can read my own handwriting, I'll make a post for each day I was there. It was a great learning experience and I hope to put what I learned to good use immediately.

I don't know if I'm a writer or not, but I do feel like I've got a few good stories in me and that their just dying to get out. So I'll tell myself that I am a writer and start writing some stories. But I'm not a writer and I know nothing. Why would I even write that last sentence. Who knows, self doubt consumed in low self esteem. Shit, you can get a prescription for that here in LA

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Magic Castle

Thursday night I met Danny Sylvester at the Castle around 10PM. Always fun to spend time with him. Someone asked him to do "The Sylvester Pitch" and I watched as he launched into his whole routine complete with jumbo coins and big nut ending. The guys eyes were bugging out! It brought me a lot of joy to watch Danny work. His coin work is unique, fresh and on a good day not only angle-proof, but pert near undetectable. Then he pulled his tongue down to his belly button before his eyes bugged out huge, then instantly went back to normal. The man of a million gadgets, all on his person. Nutty to say the least. I met Dan 27 years ago and we've been good friends ever since. The two years that we spent as roommates 20 years ago, was a time to cherish and remember. All the fun we had, great times really.

Another old friend was there Chris Korn, I've know him since he was 15. He told me that Doc Eason was around. Todd Karr in the house. After a bit we all met down in the Library to see what Billy Goodwin was up to. Tony Picasso was there as well.

Billy, Doc, Chris, Todd & I stepped out for a smoke. Nice to chat with Todd. I met him as I was opening Seattle Magic, and he was moving down here. He's a gifted writer with an ambitious scope and offers the magic world the only post graduate course in magic, (I'm talking about every book he writes).

Hung out, had some fun, saw some friends. . . a bit of magic and handing the valet gut my ticket to get my car and I'm off, back on the freeway heading home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Robbie Williams - Beyond The Sea

Cylinder & Coins


Cylinder & Coins, originally uploaded by Jaz27.


, originally uploaded by n.millen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In my "In Box"

Hi Tom,

Great to hear from you! I myself am an amateur coin worker and love magic! I'd especially be interested in possibly shooting your portrait against a backdrop of antique magic equipment / posters. Is there a way to get me a photo of some of your collection? Thanks!

Jeffrey

About the Portraits Project:

A sweeping, moving portrait of the people of Los Angeles (and the United States) told through a series of beautifully filmed portraits set to originally composed music. The portraits are of real people, in real places, each different but sharing something common to the human condition: the ability to laugh, smile, feel, share themselves. The project will be photographed over the next couple of months all over the Southland based on participants' availabilities. Each session will take about 3 hours and will result in a minute or two of 35mm or Super 16 footage, professionally photographed and color timed. Each participant will receive a Mini DV tape or DVD disc of their footage for their own use as well as credit in the film. This film will be submitted to film festivals.

About Jeffrey Waldron:

Jeffrey Waldron is an award-winning cinematographer and director who grew up around the world. He holds a BA in Cinema-Television Production from the University of Southern California and an MFA in Cinematography from the American Film Institute.

Reels available here:

http://www.jeffreywaldron.com/work.htm
http://www.myspace.com/jeffreywaldron


Jeff Waldron's 60-Second DP Reel from Jeffrey Waldron on Vimeo.

Getting my groove back

Feeling the music, making my body move
deep groove
A thick and funky bass line
sax takes over leading in a new direction
bass compliments and buys her a drink

slipping off a barstool
and I haven’t even left home yet.

hands feeling good
cigar clutched between my teeth
a new deck of cards
slippers on my feet

coins between my fingers
rings on my toes
palm trees swaying
a winter rose

getting my groove back
need to move on
need to get on with this life of mine
need to sing a new song

Hammond B-3 Organ cutting off a slice
escalating tempos
as people dance feverishly
feeling the life that pumps through their veins
dealing with feelings, confronting pain

New Years Eve in San Francisco
The girl I love on my arm
getting ready
for the best is yet to come

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Fine Romance

Saturday night Polly and I attended a benefit for the Motion Picture & Television Fund. This was the 4th Annual “A Fine Romance”. The party was held at the Sony Pictures Studios (formerly the MGM Studios, where some of the best musicals ever were shot including “Singing In The Rain”). They had converted a large soundstage into two separate areas, one for cocktails and hors d’oeuvers, the other for the wonderful show we were treated to.

Catherine Zeta-Jones & Hugh Jackman hosted a the star-studded evening celebrating the love affair between Broadway and Hollywood.  Accompanied by a live orchestra under the baton of the Hollywood Bowl’s John Mauceri, a breathtaking array of singers from film and stage musicals performed the songs that have tied both coasts together for decades.

The list of performers included Amy Adams, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Sandy Duncan, Victor Garber, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Kelly, Zachary Levi, Audra MacDonald, James Marsden, Donna Murphy, John Lloyd Young and Zeta-Jones. It was a tight 90 minute show full of singing and dancing!

My favorite song in the show was Sandy Duncan singing "Neverland" from "Peter Pan". It made me think of my kids and brought a tear to me eyes. If you don't know the song, here are the lyrics.

I have a place where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
It's not on any chart,
You must find it with your heart.
Never Never Land.

It might be miles beyond the moon,
Or right there where you stand.
Just keep an open mind,
And then suddenly you'll find
Never Never Land.

You'll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that's my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land.

You'll have a treasure if you stay there,
More precious far than gold.
For once you have found your way there,
You can never, never grow old.

And that's my home where dreams are born,
And time is never planned.
Just think of lovely things.
And your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never Never Land



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Recently sold on Ebay

Antique Bronze Magician Mechanical Magic Desk Standish

Here is a wonderful old antique bronze or brass mechanical standish, in the form of a magician. It measures approx. 8 inches tall, 7 & 1/2 inches wide at the base, and approx. 6 inches deep. It is an authentic antique piece, well over 100 years old, and not a copy or repro of any kind. It is in completely as-found, all original condition, very dusty & dirty, with no repairs or restorations of any kind.~~~ I hardly know how to begin to describe this fantastic piece! It is of very high quality, and rendered with great artistic detail. It depicts a very animated magician, performing his act behind a small folding table on a cobblestone street. His sleeves are rolled up while he thrusts his wand into the air with one hand, and holds a small ball between the thumb & fore finger of his other hand. He is in the process of executing a ball & cup trick, and the table he stands behind is "rigged", as they say, as the central cup conceals a tiny and comical little figure, which is apparently supposed to pop up suddenly and ring, via the workings of a mechanical device and bell which are concealed in the base. (The mechanism is intact, the bell rings and the figure moves up & down, but it may need to be cleaned and adjusted to work smoothly & correctly.) ~~~The Magician is all dressed in 18th century clothing, again rendered in great detail, with tricorn hat, waistcoat, breeches and bow topped shoes. When his pig tail is pushed down, his hat flips up to reveal a well, and on the ground below the table are a trunk, a bugle, and a drum. The trunk opens up for storage, the bugle is actually a removable seal, and the drum top flips up to reveal an ink well, which still has the original porcelain liner in place (the liner has an old hairline crack). There seems to be something small missing on the right front corner of the table, where a tiny hole betrays it's absence. I would guess that it was the other die, but I'm not sure. Besides that, it looks mostly complete, with no cracks or breaks, and awaits a thorough cleaning and restoration. I can find no maker's name, date, or signature on it, but from the construction and feel of the piece, I think that it was probably made in the early 19th century, and certainly no later than the Victorian era. Once spruced up, it promises to reveal itself as a spectacular and rare piece, worthy of the most advanced collection!~~~ If you are a collector of magic memorabilia, small bronzes, or of antique mechanical oddities, then this wonderful piece is sure to please!~~~The only reference that I have been able to find for this fascinating piece is a nearly identical example that sold at Swann Galleries in New York City, on October 25, 2007, as part of the Christian Fechner collection of American and European Magic, Part III, lot # 315.

Sold for $5,300

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Busker du Jour


Street Magician, originally uploaded by reggiemateo.

Not as bad as you think

I don't know what you have to do to flip a pickup on the freeway, but I'm pretty sure it ain't pretty.

Was working myself into a tizzy about a dozen things out of my control, when I saw the reason that traffic was all backed up. The big white pickup was on its top, tilted a bit on the engine side. Air bags deployed, fire engine and meat wagon on scene. Traffic on the other side of the freeway backing up because of the rubber necking. Guess my day wasn't as bad as I thought. After a few rainy and chilly days, were back to 75 degrees, blue skies and sunshine. Protein drinks and going to the gym. A good woman and a humidor full of cigars. What have I really got to complain about?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A day at the office


Tumbling Dice, originally uploaded by rosendahl.

Trick dice and hustlers

I’ve been reading “The Magician & The Cardsharp” a book about Dai Vernon’s quest to locate Allen Kennedy and learn his legendary center deal. While the book has been more of a historical novel, than I would have thought, I’m enjoying it.

The world is full of mythical characters, that are as real as we make them. Having studied Vernon’s penchant for seeking out gamblers since I was a kid; I patterned my own search for gamblers, con men, buskers and other human oddities. More often than not, I didn’t have to go to far to find these people. In fact, most of these people came through my Magic Shop door either in Cincinnati or Seattle.

There was this fellow I met in seattle. A strange and interesting guy. He came into my shop “Seattle Magic”, on 1st Street in Pioneer Square. I was standing at the demo pod smoking a cigar when he entered. African American, mid sixties maybe, a mail man dressed in a mail mans uniform. He saw me shuffling cards and asked me what I do. I thought he might be a magician and busted out my standard opening of having a card peeked. . bla. . bla . . bla. He liked my tricks and asked if I do any gambling stuff. I did a quick 4 handed poker deal where I dealt him the 4 aces. He asked me what I was doing working at a magic shop. I tried to sell him a trick deck, then invited him to look around. He discovered in a corner display case, a collection of old dice and dice cups. We talked about them a bit. This guy was a little off. He spoke with his hand in front of his mouth as though there might be some sort of surveillance going on. That was about it for our first meeting. He came in a few days later dressed as a security guard, and had a few goodies to share. He had a a bunch of “tops” & “fronts” (mis spotted dice and regular dice that match) that he said that he had made. This changed the game and I closed the store and invited him into the secret “Magicians Only” back room. He totally dug the scene, a dimly lit back room with 4 large display cases displaying all the gimmicks not fit to be displayed in the layman showroom. A card table in the middle of the room with 4 close up pads and a large cigar ashtray in the middle of the table.

I was curious to find out how you make trick dice. We made proper introductions, his name was Lee. Lee wouldn’t talk too much about how to make the dice, but he did give me a serious lesson about the trick dice that he had and made me an offer to sell them in the store. I accepted. I had sold the cheap version that just rolled 7’s and 11’s with one die with all 5’s and the other just 6’s and 2’s. The sets he had were 6-4-2, 5-4-1 & 5-3-1 with the matching regular set as well. He quickly showed me that with these combos he could create a huge advantage in hitting any numbers he wanted. I asked him about dice switches and he showed me a couple that he was fond of. I asked him how this looked, and performed a shuttle pass into my left hand, as I rolled the dice on the table with my left hand I lapped the regular dice with the right. It fooled him badly and he asked me what I was doing working in a magic shop.

The next time he was in, he was dressed like a Greyhound Bus driver. What a crazy cat, all these disguises and the whole hand in front of the mouth thing. We would get to be good friends and he confided in me that not only did he make the dice, but he also made juice tables and other electronic devices. This went on for a while and I pleaded with him to let me see his juice table. It was months before he let me see it. He had me drive 20 minutes out to a grocery store parking lot, where his van was parked. The Seattle rain was coming down in sheets as we got drenched going from my car to his van. We got in the back of a cargo van where there was this large 5’ x 2.5’ table painted up like a backgammon board. Lee took out a pair of clear dice with blue spots and worked his magic all over that board. I had agreed to help him sell the table for $5,000. I told him that anyone serious about buying this piece would want to see it in action and at least video. I shot the demonstration and got to say once again, quite an education. I would later give Lee a key to the store and let him set up shop in my back room, with his tools, calipers, drill press and sheets of plastic, I watched him make trick dice with the artistic flair of a pianist.

I’ve met a lot of people like this in my life and have always felt very lucky to have crossed paths with such unique humans.