Steve Cohen Announces History Channel Magic Special

Magician Steve Cohen will begin filming a two-hour TV special for the History Channel next month that involves him “traveling the world to search for lost magic tricks that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years,” he announced in his newsletter today.

I remember him saying the walnut trick he performed on David Letterman involved researching an old trick. Delving into older, lesser known effects sounds like an excellent premise for a special, and something that is right up Mr. Cohen’s alley. We at Magic Trickster are excited to hear about the project.

I’m excited to announce that I’m currently at work on my own 2-hour television special for the History Channel. We begin filming next month, and I’ll be traveling the world to search for lost magic tricks that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years.

The team working with me is an incredible group of talented professionals, and I feel blessed to have found people who share my vision.

Stay tuned – we still don’t have an airdate but you’ll be the first to know.

Posted in Magic Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Penn Jillette on Magic and Politics

It’s probably safe to say I enjoy political discussions, interesting similes and metaphors, and magic more than the average person.

Penn Jillette’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal had all those things. It’s an interesting read about suspension of disbelief and how that might apply to the political scene. I appreciate the gist of it, but it would have been great to have a specific example or two of politicians who were caught out. Underlying the column is a disturbing, complete lack of faith in the political process.

Continue reading

Posted in Magic in the News, Magicians in the News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Magician John Cassidy in Balloon at White House

balloon man with Michelle Obama

Magician John Cassidy, engulfed in a big red balloon, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

John Cassidy, who performs a “balloon freak show” and subtitles his website “comedy, magic and really weird things with balloons,” performed for Michelle Obama at the White House on Oct. 11. Photographer Chuck Kennedy captured the moment.

Some cards are haphazardly on the floor. The First Lady is resting her arm on a magic case. And Mr. Cassidy’s head is popping out of a red balloon. It’s like some fantastic scene from Wonderland.

In a caption contest, Gawker readers suggested she is interviewing court jesters or examining a new device to protect people from radioactive attacks, among other possibilities.

Posted in Magicians in the News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

George Melies as Magician

George Milies and Jeanne Darcy

George Melies and his wife Jeanne D'Arcy, magicians

The New York Times published beautiful photos from the making of Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “Hugo,” which features Ben Kingsley as the magician and filmmaker Georges Méliès.

The online gallery includes two images of Méliès’ wife, Mama Jeanne d’Alcy (played by Helen McCrory), levitating or being levitated, which is great to see. Melies owned the Robert-Houdin Theater, which was, of course, the theater of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Scorsese told the Times Robert-Houdin also performed the levitation:

One of his great tricks was the levitation. But most magicians know how it was done. Méliès did it also.

The photos are by Brigitte Lacombe.

Posted in Magic in the News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Magic tattoos

Alan Rorrison (who has been posting videos at born to perform) has a sweet suite of card suit tattoos on his arm.

I’ve always wanted an ace up my sleeve, like Worm (Edward Norton) in Rounders.

And Ziztur got Teller’s Shadows trick tattooed on her thigh. (“I’m honored,” Teller tweeted.)

Posted in Magic Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Ha Lim’s magical, musical card manipulation routine

An Ha Lim performs the most beautiful card manipulation routine I’ve ever seen in the video embedded at the end of this post.

An Ha Lim

An Ha Lim on the cover of Genii, August 2010

It is set to instrumental music (string quartet Bond’s “Explosive”) and the music is crucial to the success of the magic performance. Driving strings suddenly give way to an airy, new age feel at 1:35. The accompanying change of pace and texture of the card productions is something I’ve never seen before. Cards gently spin around. It’s like a beautiful morning after a storm. Then, bright colors start to pop about 10 seconds later. Then, cards appear at his fingertips five at a time and the cards flutter like butterflies. The intensity of the music picks up, as does the pace at which cards appear from nowhere.

An Ha Lim was on the cover of Genii in August 2010. Magazine editor Richard Kaufman noted his charisma, personality and beguiling smile as well as his tremendous skill and his first-place finishes in competitions.

“He has new techniques for producing multiple cards that have left many speculating whether he uses some sort of mechanical device hidden in his hands,” Kaufman wrote. “Demonstrably not true.”

An Ha Lim, who is from South Korea, said in the Genii interview that he became interested in magic in 2003. He practices five to six hours a day, and up to 18 hours a day in the months before a competition. He sometimes does two hours of image training, during which time he imagines the routine and runs through it without cards.

The routine is below. The video apparently was pulled from a French TV show, “Le Plus Grand Cabaret Du Monde,” that features a variety of acts. I never saw An Ha Lim perform until iTricks posted it.

Posted in Magic Blog | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Takeaway explains how the brain lets magic work

John Hockenberry had the authors of “Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About our Everyday Deceptions” on The Takeaway on WNYC recently. In the segment, they describe how the brain favors scenarios that seem the most likely (i.e., if a woman gets in a box and you see her head and then some feet sticking from the box, the feet probably are attached to the head), and how when you focus on one thing you’re blind to most everything else without even realizing it.

Dr. Stephen Macknik, on Penn and Teller’s Cups and Balls: “They’ll do the trick with transparent cups. … And yet it still works. Even though you can physically see the balls being loaded underneath the cup through sleight of hand, the fact is that you don’t notice it because you’re so drawn to the other balls that they’re trying to get you to pay attention to.”

“Our brain does a lot of guesstimation as to what the reality of the world is. Magic tricks are designed to take advantage of the guesstimates that the brain makes.”
— Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde

Hat tip to a former Circus Kirk escape artist who heard the show and e-mailed the link

Posted in Magic Blog, Magic in the News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magic and pro wrestling

I don’t know how this came up exactly. I might have been levitating a fork at the dinner table. Anyway, my brother said magic is fake like professional wrestling.

I guess he meant it as an insult.

But he’s right. Magicians and pro wrestlers, and their fans, have a lot in common. Both magic acts and pro wrestling shows have a proud history of featuring blood and violence (Penn and Teller, The Amazing Johnathan, and Barry and Stuart come to mind). They both invite a suspension of disbelief. Fans know they’re fake, but still, if it’s a good show, some are left wondering anyway. The fields favor those who play extreme characters. They both require years of intense discipline to perform well — that is, perform something that many people will never appreciate.

What if we started a new league, the World Magical Combat Federation? Dueling magicians would use whatever it takes to bring the other into submission.

Posted in Magic Blog | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Great Buck Howard review

At the risk of killing your life (nice post at Surf the Gasp), I’ll post my $0.02 on The Great Buck Howard.

(Thanks to TV Magic Guide for the listing.)

Do not continue reading if you don’t want your later experience of the film to be irreparably pre-molded.
Continue reading

Posted in Magic Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Magician Scott Hammell ‘disappears’ behind canned food

Scott Hammell’s stunt — living in a glass box that people covered with cans to make him “disappear” — is a really great magic trick.

He was raising money for a food bank in Toronto, where he lives. He grabbed headlines and raised food and awareness for the cause.

But he also did a very great magic trick.

Here are some of the criteria I’m taking into consideration:

People cared about the performance and felt part of the performance. It captured imaginations. It brought people together to enjoy themselves and perhaps reflect on things a bit. And here’s an important one — he showed people something they’ve never seen before.

If people come to see a magician, but there is no illusion, and there is no deception nor false assumptions, but it’s framed as a magic trick, we don’t really know what to call it.

What is a magic trick? What is a stunt? Technically, I’d call it performance art. Let’s not get tied up in details and definitions. Partly this was so successful because it played with the definitions of all those things. David Blaine, through his endurance stunts, has already broadened the public’s concept of what magicians do. Scott Hammell toyed with that idea, and — voila — the best magic stunt I can remember in the last few years.

In this case, a magician proposed to vanish in an incredible, and as far as I know, unheard of way. There is lots more that can be done in this vein.

Here’s the last word, posted on Mr. Hammell’s Facebook page after he emerged: “Thank you to everyone who helped Make Local Hunger Disappear this last week with Halloween For Hunger! We raised thousands of pounds of food for Daily Bread Food Bank!”

Posted in Magic Blog, Magicians in the News | 2 Comments