Friday, July 30, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (224-225)

.:224/365: Laser Cut:.

What is pretty much one of the most bizarre illusions you will ever watch, David Copperfield plays his role to the hilt here in a manner that can only be classified as “smarmy”. With laser lights seemingly cutting through Copperfield, he begins walking around all over the stage as if he were truly split into two pieces. The very eye-catching illusion was certainly an impressive feat back in the day, especially since it was performed live in Las Vegas, with viewing audiences completely stumped as to how it was pulled off.

Throughout this performance, what you will observe about Copperfield is how underrated his aptitude for comedy actually is. The fact that he gets to elicit chuckles without even uttering a word at key moments in the illusion only cement how amazing Copperfield really is when it comes to being a total package.

This illusion is actually not one of his best ones, but the way he packaged it certainly makes for a very interesting and entertaining routine altogether, and something worthy of performing as a Vegas main eventer. The day I ever end up performing in Vegas would be the day I believe I have made it as a performer, and here’s one of those amazing individuals doing it for years, and winning almost universal praise for his work.

Having said all that, I think it should be obvious what my final topic on stage magic will be on the last day of the month...

.:225/365: David Copperfield:.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most influential name in the magic industry of the last generation, bar none.

Many new magicians might claim allegiance to David Blaine and scoff at David Copperfield’s overly choreographed performances in favour of Blaine’s “gritty” style, but has anyone bothered asking Blaine if Copperfield ever influenced him? Has anyone ever bothered asking every street magician out there if they ever wanted to perform anything as awe-inspiring as walking through the Great Wall of China, or making the Statue of Liberty Disappear, or flying over the Grand Canyon, as opposed to, well, holding your breath for a long time underwater?

David Copperfield, in my eyes, is a man who defines “legendary” in every sense of the word. As the most commercially successful magician in history, Copperfield is the man practically all David Blaine wannabes inwardly aspire for. The man is graceful, funny, brilliant, and let’s face it, richer than pretty much any other magician has ever been.

I don’t think I need to sing the man’s praises so extensively for anyone to understand the kind of influence he has exerted on the magic industry, having raised the bar for performances to the point that anyone who is considered good at it will only hear one of two comparisons: you’re the next David Blaine, or you’re the next David Copperfield. Either statement is a huge compliment to any person, and I can tell you without any doubt that I would be deeply honoured to have people compare me to even a single percent of Copperfield’s skill and prowess as a performer.

Born David Kotkin to Jewish parents, Copperfield took on the name as a teenager because of the book of the same name. He started performing professionally very early, at around 10 years or so, and even became a lecturer about magic as early as 16 years old. He made a name for himself throughout his performances, earning accolades not just because he was a good magician but simply because everything about his performing persona screamed “magic”. In 1977, he had his first TV special called “The Magic of CBS”, and this gave birth to Copperfield’s “The Magic Of David Copperfield”, various magic shows on television, comprising almost three decades of great and captivating television.

When asked about his influences, it’s actually unsurprising to hear Copperfield say that it wasn’t a particular magician. He looked at the likes of Fred Astaire and other similarly influential people, and thought, “Hey, I want to do that for magic!”

And he did.

With a unique style and a kind of elegance that only he can elicit, Copperfield was in a league of his own. He was the total package: he was mysterious, he was elegant, and he was deceptively hilarious. While undeniably elegant, it took decades for someone like Lance Burton to hit his stride in the humor department, whereas Copperfield was exhibiting it from day 1. Penn and Teller are hilarious, but they were certainly anything but elegant. David Blaine is mysterious, but certainly not funny or elegant. Criss Angel... Criss Angel sucks and doesn’t hold a candle to Blaine, Penn and Teller, Burton, and certainly not to David Copperfield.

It’s what Copperfield has achieved that makes me marvel at him altogether. He’s done it all, to say the least, and nobody can deny how much impact he has had on the world of magic, bringing it to the mainstream consciousness long before David Blaine gave magic yet another resurgence, albeit by taking it back to its grittiest. Copperfield dressed everything up, polished it, and made everything he did larger than life. And really now, name me a single magician who doesn’t want to be regarded as larger than life, no matter how “gritty” they may project themselves to be?

Mr. Copperfield, thank you for your unique brand of magic. You are truly a once-in-a-lifetime performer, and we may well never encounter another one quite like you again for at least another decade.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Project 365 Backlog (222-223)

.:222/365: The Niagara Falls Challenge:.

This is one time where I won’t lavish praise on a Copperfield illusion, and I think it should be obvious why: while the Niagara Falls escape was a pretty good escape, for starters, the script was way too complicated for it to matter. It seemed that nobody really understood what was going on, so it lessened the impact, and it’s not even because the actual scripting of the routine was too complicated to explain, but the way the entire performance was framed made it seem that way, which was devastating to the overall impact of the performance.

Anyways, just watch it to find out. Ultimately, this was still a good performance, but could’ve used a lot more work to simplify the script to preserve the immediate impact of what was being done.

.:223/365: The Vanishing Camera:.

A total classic from Paul Daniels, this illusion is performed by making a video camera disappear while in a crate, all the while transmitting what the camera sees before Paul Daniels makes the camera disappear in a very stylish and impressive manner.

To be honest, it’s hard to top what Daniels did here when it comes to television magic: it was as clean as can be, and it practically left next to no holes in logic as to how he could’ve possibly pulled it off. Overall, it was impressive and stupefying, and I must say, Impressive altogether.

I really must apologize for my shorter posts as of late. I’ve been increasingly busy at work lately, which explains why I’ve been finding it difficult to write at length the way I try my best to.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (220-221)

.:220/365: Hiding The Elephant:.

“Hiding The Elephant” is another book you should be reading if you’re interested in the history of magic, as it is Jim Steinmeyer’s very handy historical guide to magical illusions, from their origins to other aspects about them, and surprisingly, has never once raised the furor of other magicians, despite actually exposing certain secrets of the art form. The fact that Mr. Steinmeyer is actually not only an esteemed writer but more so one of the chief designers of magical illusions of his time tends to give the man a pass.

Interestingly enough, the title is based on the illusion that is performed by one Harry Houdini, who, despite his natural appeal in the realm of escapology, still felt compelled to perform classic magical acts, managed to actually do this amazing bit of magic in a circus tent. It was pretty much a disappearing elephant illusion, and it boggles the mind how something this amazing does not get a second look when people consider the illustrious career and times of Mr. Houdini.

Anyways, since I have a very big meeting coming up on Tuesday, let this two-for-one post suffice for the time being, as I wholeheartedly recommend both books, as I’ve actually read both of them already.

Speaking of these books, I borrowed them from my good friend, Elbert Or, who just so happens to have had his school blessing recently, as he opened an art school in Katipunan. Pretty awesome, and it was good to catch up with him and spend time after the blessing, just hearing how he’s doing and what’s up.

.:221/365: Carter Beats The Devil:.

“Carter Beats Devil” is the name of a very entertaining book written by Glen David Gold, that is a fictionalized depiction of a very key moment in magician Charles Joseph Carter’s magical career, where he performed an apparently death-defying bit of magic with US President Harding, where the president seemed to have been dismembered, killed, and even fed to a lion, then restored to full health afterwards.

Unfortunately, shortly after this, the president mysteriously died, and this results in a very awkward situation for Carter, who is now faced with the implication that he himself may have caused such a tragedy to happen.

Overall, this is a great book, and you really should check it out. I don’t want to spoil much of the book, and admittedly, Project 365 has been very difficult for me to maintain lately, but I really want to see it through and finish this whole thing, as I go and anticipate Filipino Magic Month in August, where I would talk about the luminaries in our humble industry.

Over The Weekend...

.:Fun Tourney!:.

Played Vintage for once in a long time. Went pretty well, as I actually made it to the top 8.

.:King-Less But Fruitful:.

The last two Disenchanted Kingdom episodes I attended featured the band of idiots without the King DJ Logan, but both shows still resulted in an excellent show packed with just the right amounts of innuendo, comedy, cheesiness, and conflict.

In fact, towards the tailend of the show, a debate erupted between the male and female camps regarding the nature of coffee dates – that it should lead to sex, but a man who settles for coffee dates is a loser, since coffee dates, according to Marf, more often than not, are useless.

As the guy who’s supposed to be the non-alpha male in the outfit, I ended up looking dumbstruck as, well, I go on a lot of coffee dates, and sex was, ermm, never part of the agenda. It was rather amusing to find myself smack dab in the middle of a fairly animated discussion that really showcased how alpha males think as opposed to females.

It’s really been fun at the DK lately, what with the expanded roster of misfits populating the show. There’s a wide range of personalities, quirks, and sensibilities at play, and things couldn’t be better for the DK, really.

Last Thursday was pretty awesome because it was KDL’s birthday, actually. Unfortunately, he was on birthday leave, so I didn’t run into him. Haha. All good, though, as I’m sure I’ll be running into him tomorrow as I drop in on the show.

.:A Running Joke:.

Last Saturday, I hosted Mike Unson’s show in Conspiracy, and while it was definitely a very good show all around, what was very shocking about the whole night was the fact that it ended up becoming an opportunity for them to poke fun over the fact that I lent somebody a huge amount of money and promptly being treated like crap by said person afterwards.

It felt like every single comedian, including LC of Reklamo, was reminding people not to lend other people 11,000 bucks just because. I was both amused and mortified throughout the night, but hey, I suppose it all works out in the end.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (217-219)!

.:217/365: Shadows:.

This has got to be one of the most interesting illusions ever, and it’s just a coincidence that Teller happens to be performing it.

“Shadows” is a very visual performance of cutting a flower into pieces by taking a knife to its shadows, rather than to the flower itself. The effect is stunning, impressive, and definitely is a sight to behold, as Teller, in all his silent glory, performs one of the most elegant pieces of magic you will ever watch in a long time.

I don’t think I need to say anything else. This is one of those bits of magic that requires you to just shaddup and watch.

.:218/365: Howard Thurston:.

Howard Thurston, known as “The man who fooled Herrmann” and “The king of cards,” was a classic vaudevillian performer of magic, who was also known for having the largest travelling magic show in his day, using eight entire train cars to take his props across the nation.

As an archetypal performer, few people could find fault with Thurston’s range and his skill, having demonstrated his ability to impress a relative of the man considered the king of magic in his time, Alexander Herrmann. Of course, dropping the first name to connote that he actually fooled Alexander himself was a bit sneaky, but hey, it did wonders for his career.

When it comes to historical movers and shakers in the magic industry, Thurston’s contributions are less in the realm of inventing illusions, and more in his advancements for card magic. He was called “the king of cards” mainly because of his amazing skill with cards, having popularized the rising card trick, and emphasizing to everyone who cared to watch that indeed, cards, no matter how small they can be, do have a place on a stage show.

I know this short piece on the man doesn’t do nearly enough justice to his lengthy body of work, but I guess I cannot help but express an immense amount of respect for Thurston’s tenacity, and his passion for the magic arts. Nothing short of a stroke kept the man from working, and I could only think of Paul Potassy at this point as a man who could rival Thurston’s work ethic.

.:219/365: Walking On Water!:.

As you learn magic more and more, you discover at some point that there is truly nothing impossible when you have camera tricks and paid actors on your side.

So says the book of the Mindfreak.

::rolls eyes some more::

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Project 365 (216/365): Three Ropes And A Baby

.:216/365: 3 Ropes And A Baby:.

Falling more in line with parlor magic than stage magic, the 3 Ropes and a Baby routine is a very elegant rope routine that plays tricks with your eyes. While more people are currently familiar with Richard Sander’s jazzed up version, Fiber Optics, this version of the routine emphasizes smooth, deliberate moves over the flashy flourishes Fiber Optics has come to be known for.

It’s a simple premise, really: 3 ropes of varying lengths, they slowly change and become of equal length right before your eyes, and with one less rope from the equation, the two remaining ropes become one rope, loses its ends, loses it s middle, become two ropes again, and at the end of the routine, all three ropes can be passed on for examination. In fact, all three ropes can also be passed for examination at the beginning of the routine.

I like rope routines because ropes are easily examinable to show that there’s nothing funky about them. It’s hard to disbelieve magic happening with ropes simply because it’s pretty apparent what’s going on when you do some thing or some other with the ropes, thereby casually implying to whoever is watching that you are achieving the impossible through pure skill or genuine magic. Either way, people are significantly less on guard for “tricks” when they are presented with a rope that they can examine to their hearts content to prove nothing is up.

While I do like Richard Sanders’s take on this, what with Fiber Optics being a part of my routine for about half a year until I stuck with Michael Finney’s Lady and the Rope, I wanted to show a routine that emphasized very solid technical skill over flashiness. The flashy stuff will come with practice, rest assured. For most beginners, it’s best to get a handle on the fundamentals first, so that when you start going to more advanced material, you don’t develop nasty habits or shortcuts you wouldn’t have developed if you started your magical education properly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Project 365 (215/365): Paul Potassy

Oh-kay. So today's guesting on Unang Hirit was... less than optimal. Meh. I'd put them on blast for it, but I'm more inclined to stay my hand instead.

Nonetheless, congratulations to Carlos for being Nuffnang's new country manager! Yeba! Pa-burger ka naman!

.:Project 365 (215/365): Paul Potassy:.

Still actively performing at the tender age of 90++ years old, Paul Potassy is considered a living legend in the industry, standing out as a master of a single set of routines that he has strung together so well and so effectively for himself.

As a professional, nobody can possibly contest how good Potassy is as a performer, but what sets him apart is how smart and practical he actually is, having developed a killer set that he has never deviated from for decades, and emphasizing a character that allows him to get away with just about anything and everything, thanks to the very comforting note that he considers the best magic trick he has ever done to be wooing his Filipina wife, which means that many Filipino magicians have seen and heard from Paul Potassy himself over the decades.

There is no question that Mr. Potassy is skilled in sleight of hand and the fact that he uses real razor blades for his act instead of gimmicked razors is, altogether pretty amazing, too. It's the way he managed to string all these routines together and the utter simplicity of his working scripts that makes him impressive. With minimal props, he achieves the kind of traction people gain with massive stage shows with grand production values and elaborate set designs, and he achieves it with little over one bag and maybe a table or two.

As an inspiration for the adage that simplicity need not always be a bad thing for magic, Paul Potassy represents this school of thought very handily. His routines are smooth as silk, and his old age has certainly taken away a lot of the flamboyance in his routine, but his ability to speak six different languages allows him a chance to show off his brains and personality while doing what has to be one of the simplest silk tie magic routines one will ever witness, especially once you figure the method out.

I cannot think of a single person more appropriate to watch and learn from when it comes to getting the hang of getting started on parlor and stage magic. His entire routine doesn't need any expensive props whatsoever, and the results he can achieve with them are just astounding for the rate of investment. While I wouldn't advise you to copy his set effect for effect, I would suggest one look at the way he strung these effects together, the simple nature of each effect, and the overall results these things combined can deliver.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Project 365 (214/365): The Transported Man

Lest we forget, I'm guesting tomorrow, gais! Channel 7, Unang Hirit. :)

.:Project 365 (214/365): The Transported Man:.

This magic routine of fictional origin (That has since been duplicated several times over.)is visually stunning and has achieved a lot of infamy in the non-magic world, all the way down to the term "The Prestige", which, in reality, is not even a term that is actually used by magicians, to begin with.

In its fictional history, the act was originally performed by Borden as played by Christian Bale, wherein through two doors, he tosses a red ball that bounces and then gets caught by himself through the other end of the stage. It was an illusion that defied logic and baffled people everywhere, more so in an age where sawing a lady in the half was still an impossibility.

As his rival, Angier, as played by Hugh Jackman (Yes, Batman vs. Wolverine.), found himself frustrated with discovering the secret, he figured out his own way of duplicating the illusion, and in doing so, he found an unsavory solution that seemed lacking in elegance to him: he would use a double to carry out the illusion, and never once be able to bask in the applause of the illusion as he falls through a trapdoor set up in the stage.

At some point, this plan is upset when Borden manages to expose the fact that Angier uses a double, and in doing so, infuriates Angier even more. At this point, the story takes another dark turn, and Angier ends up discovering another method to the Transported Man: a cloning machine. Unfortunately, he also has taken to murdering each of his clones upon each performance to prevent an overpopulation of Angier clones.

In the end, the reveal comes that Borden actually had a twin brother, thereby allowing the only living twin a chance to finally commit the crime he was sentenced to die for: murdering Angier, who actually merely set up one of his clones to be drowned in the presence of Borden.

A chilling illusion with a chilling history, but believe you me, the secrets of magic were guarded so well in the past that people did have to resort to blackmail and theft just to get what they wanted.

Thankfully, though, this illusion has had creative performances at present, and even at our show, "Bound and Gagged", I did a sort of similar thing, where I ended up at the balcony after being locked up in a trunk. Went pretty well, actually.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guesting On Unang Hirit This Wednesday, And Project 365

.:Unang Hirit Again!:.

Hi, guys! I'm guesting this Wednesday on Channel 7 for Unang Hirit. I'll be talking about mentalism, so you know it's going to be a very interesting time for everyone involved.

.:209/365: Broom Suspension:.

Whether or not you know how this is done, I personally consider this to be one of the most visually astounding illusions in stage magic, as it simply looks possible yet impossible, as opposed to a straight-up levitation, which just looks flat-out impossible, period.

There are many versions of this routine out there already, but even the basic mechanics of the routine are well-thought out enough to stand scrutiny. This illusion has a fairly storied history, although I’m very partial to the feathered boa version.

Overall, I do believe that this is one of those few illusions that still really baffles people, despite the fact that it looks less impossible than a flat-out levitation. The fact that it seems even remotely possible seems to make the illusion even stronger than it already is.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Project 365 Smorgasbord (210-212)!

.:210/365: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice:.

Originally a poem turned into a musical score turned into an animated short in 1940’s Fantasia, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is now a film that stars Nicholas Cage and Jay Baruchel as the sorcerer Balthazar Blake and his apprentice, respectively.

As the magician for the promotions of the film, I actually felt obliged to catch the movie last Wednesday night, and it was definitely a good thing I did, as I met Sharon Yu for the first time in about a year or two since she was last on Campus 99.5. It was a fun movie, and since me and my colleague, Judd, went to catch the film after a battery of meetings for work, it was definitely a good thing that we found the time to see this film.

In terms of story, this was your standard kid’s fare, particularly with all the references to Merlin, and Morgana Le Faye. The revisions made in the story to fit in Balthazar Blake and give Dave Stutler the opportunity to become the Prime Merlinian, the man who will follow in Merlin’s lineage, has certainly been an interesting turn of events, and the way they pieced the story together of a young boy who discovers how he could be a sorcerer, only to be completely sidetracked by what was perceived to be a nervous breakdown, lent to a solid character with issues that could be overcome with the right amount of work.

Would this film fall under stage magic, per se? Well, to an extent, since one of the supporting cast played the role of a magician ala Criss Angel, it did remind me a lot of stage magic. The Magic: The Gathering posters were a nice touch, as well, as I was amused at the cameo of my favorite card game in the film, as well.

I don’t really want to spoil much in this storyline, but I really found this film to be a good one, not just because it pertained to magic, but it had a love story that had the right amount of maturity (And by maturity, I don’t mean sexual content, but a mature, sensible way of handling relationships.) that I rarely see in romantic angles for films. One of the scenes I liked the most was the line where the leading lady commented “Do you think one botched date would make me hate you forever?” Life isn’t always about never making mistakes or else. Sometimes, if you really believe in someone, a few honest slip-ups here and there are not the end of the world.

I also liked the homage to the old Fantasia short, though, when Dave decided to use his magic to aid him in cleaning his laboratory up. That was pretty fun to catch, and overall, this film was just such a fun romp from beginning to end.

Do catch it, if you like magic interspersed with some pseudo-science (As a bit of trivia, it’s actually a myth when they say humans only use 10% of their brain at any given time.), and witty comedy, plus a sensible love story, all against a nice, fantastical, geeky, nerdy background. I think it works out pretty well as a movie, and hey, the film did advance my stage magic career quite a bit, seeing as I have more shows to do this weekend for the film’s promotions.

.:211/365: Pulling A Rabbit From Out Of A Hat:.

I can’t think of a single routine that has not been associated with magic more than the act of a magician pulling a live rabbit from out of his hat.

Supposedly first performed by Louis Comte in 1814, this venerable illusion has got to be one of the most impressive magic routines children will ever see, but what makes this even better in my eyes is the sheer potential it possesses to actually do even more over time. Many hat routines performed at present never stop at the classic performance, and usually proceed to more mind-boggling effects such as producing an endless supply of stuff from the hat, or a comedic twist like the video you see above.

Classics are always classics for a reason, so don’t knock ‘em, guys. The rabbit from the hat is still a crowd pleaser, even in its pure, unadulterated form. I can assure you most of the people who say “pull a rabbit out of a hat” have never seen that particular bit of magic done in front of them their entire lives. :P

.:212/365: Lance Burton:.

Elegance without the demureness. Flair without the flamboyance. Lance Burton is, without a doubt, one of the most debonair magicians on earth, and one of the routines we often take for granted, dove productions, has been attributed to this man and his genius at coming up with routines that not only baffle the viewers, but are performed smoother than silk.

In my mind, I cannot think of a single magician who is more suave than Lance Burton in his prime. Not even David Copperfield came close.

Like most magicians who really made it big in the industry, Lance started young, at the age of five. His interest in magic began when he was a volunteer for Harry Collins, who performed the classic “Miser’s Dream” by pulling coins out from thin air and Lance’s ears. As he mastered magic at a pace faster than one would expect of someone his age, Collins himself took notice and took the young magician under his wing.

Over the years, Burton has earned many distinctions in magic, having been the youngest ever winner of FISM, as well as having cemented his name in the history of magic for two very amazing performances: dove productions, which led to him being featured in a movie just for the sake of performing the illusion, and the Roller Coaster escape I mentioned him doing in March. Throughout his time, this man has been a Las Vegas staple, and if you ever go to the United States this year, make sure to catch his last few shows in Monte Carlo, as his contract expires this September 4.

I cannot express enough my admiration for Burton’s style and finesse onstage. There’s something about his presence that just commands respect, and he exudes a mystique that nobody can quite duplicate. As he grew older, he learned to incorporate even more elements into his character, whether it be his amazing ability to ad lib in reaction to hecklers and other commenters during his shows, or his playful sense of humor that comes into play in some of his routines, such as the disappearing handkerchief.

Lance Burton is definitely one of the first few names that I would mention whenever anyone would ask me which stage magicians I admire the most.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Project 365 (208/365): Zig-Zag Lady

.:208/365: Zig-Zag Lady:.

Conjuring images of the more iconic “Sawing The Lady In Half” illusion, the Zig-Zag Lady is an illusion wherein the magician apparently divides his assistant into three parts, then by pushing the boxes that have been divided into three pieces apart, demonstrates the sheer impossibility of the lady’s precarious position.

The Zig-Zag Lady illusion is brilliant and one of the most eye-popping illusions in the history of stage magic. Invented in the 1960’s by stage magician Roger Harbin, this relatively young illusion has gained a wide measure of renown already, for the sheer ingenuity involved in making it work.

Every single time I see this illusion, I really can’t help but be amazed. Even if I know the method behind it, there’s something so brilliant, so clever about the way the whole routine was pieced together that I am sufficiently impressed by seeing the performance right before my very eyes. Look out for local magician Wanlu’s two-piece version of this, as in my opinion, that illusion in particular looks even more impressive than the three-piece variation that has become the norm in the industry.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Project 365 (207/365): The Cardboard Box Illusion

.:207/365: The Cardboard Box Illusion:.

This illusion looks positively dangerous, but unlike the ill-fated bullet catch routine, so far, no casualties have ever been recorded, although I’m sure getting this routine wrong would really hurt in the morning.

Most effects of similar ilk tend to use conspicuous props like a wooden trunk or something equally reusable, but the visceral nature of utilizing a very and obviously disposable cardboard box for the illusion really does add an air of legitimacy to how the routine is performed.

Personally, this is one of those routines that I definitely would love to perform, as it’s a classic, and is actually relatively easy to perform once you figure out the motions and the showmanship required to make this come off as nothing short of a miracle. Nonetheless, there’s something eerie about how the illusion works, that gives a very dangerous vibe as it’s being performed. Thankfully, those who know how it’s done know better than to actually make any fatal mistakes with this routine, which is why this particular illusion has gained quite a following, and continues to mystify a lot of people.

You know what gets me, though? I’ve seen the legendary Lou Hilario perform a variation of this illusion, and it involved a child volunteer. The child never even knew what happened as she apparently just lay in the box as Tito Lou got to work.

What makes this positively amazing is that most versions of this illusion require an assistant, not a volunteer, for very obvious reasons...

I guess some magic secrets still remain as secrets in this day and age...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Project 365 (206/365): Chung Ling Soo

.:206/365: Chung Ling Soo:.

Obviosuly, no video of the ill-fated bullet catch would exist at this point, but Chung Ling Soo, the man known in real life as William Robinson, was a stage magician who, after discovering that calling himself “Robinson, Man Of Mystery” didn’t appeal to his market, decided to turn to the mysterious Orient as his resource for his onstage persona, Chung Ling Soo.

As Chung Ling Soo, he took most of his repertoire and even his name from a legitimate Chinese magician in America, Chin Ling Foo, which sparked a feud between the two of them, which may have been manufactured to mutually promote them. However, Soo became famous for his illusion, “Condemned To Death By The Boxers,” which pretty much involved being shot at by a gun, and then catching the bullets which were marked afterwards. The reason why it’s easy to decode how this routine is done is because there is no need to switch for anything: without completely revealing the method lest I encourage people to try this routine for themselves, the bullet simply never even gets to the gun, allowing Soo to casually reveal the bullet after being “shot” at.

Throughout his career, Chung Ling Soo maintained kayfabe at all times. He portrayed a Chinese man onstage and even in front of journalists and regular people, keeping his Western identity a secret only among fellow professional magicians and his closest friends and family. This was a man who truly lived out the concept of “The Prestige,” as we have seen in the film.

Unfortunately for Chung Ling Soo, he didn’t count on his gun actually firing a real bullet. A technological mishap occurred that resulted in his death.

Or did it?

To this day, conspiracy theories abound that Chung Ling Soo’s death was not a misadventure, but possibly murder. His wife, Dolly, loaded the guns each time he performed, and he allegedly was having an affair with another woman. Many conspiracy theorists believe that his wife, on that fateful night of his death, loaded the gun with a real bullet, and this resulted in both his death and the one moment he broke character onstage, as he shouted “Oh, my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain,” upon realizing that he was hit with a bullet for real.

Perhaps we will never truly know the secret behind his death, for apparently, it could very well have died with him. Nonetheless, Chung Ling Soo’s story is a cautionary tale for anyone who wishes to perform dangerous stunts in magic: something could always go wrong, so it never hurts to take as many precautions as you can when you perform.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Project 365 (205/365): The Bullet Catch

.:205/365: The Bullet Catch:.

This version by Penn and Teller has got to be the most head-scratching routine I’ve ever come across. According to Banachek, he was the one who created this routine, and Penn and Teller purchased the rights from him.

The Bullet Catch is an amazing effect, truth be told, but also one of the most dangerous things ever, because something can always go wrong. I don’t care if Penn and Teller use fake guns or whatever other methods, if one of them one day decided to use a real gun and off their partner, there go all those safety precautions they took to ensure it wouldn’t be a problem.

Many magicians have performed a variation or two of this routine, but Penn and Teller’s version stands out because they go through extraordinary lengths to emphasize that switching the bullets was not going to be an option. Having said that, Banachek did emphasize that his method, barring real intent to murder, was not the least bit dangerous. In the world of bullet catches, this is arguably the safest yet most amazing version of the routine ever, and I’d love to tell you how it’s done, except I haven’t the foggiest idea how they do it, which, to me, really cements Penn and Teller as my personal favourites of all time, because no amount of decoding on my part has ever allowed me to figure out how it works. You could use stooges for mind-reading, elaborate props for illusions, but this particular one seems to negate any of those possibilities altogether.

Many have indeed performed this in the past, but several magicians have met untimely deaths for one reason or another. Tomorrow, we will talk about the most infamous casualty of the bullet catch illusion.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brush With Celebrity To The Max!

.:Starstruck At The Disenchanted Kingdom!:.


Ladies and gentlemen, as a person who has met a lot of people over the years, who has interviewed the great Mick Foley himself, as the guy who has encountered so many celebrities in his life (without being one himself), it takes a lot for someone like me to get starstruck. I tend to just really look at them much in the same way I look at anyone else, although few exceptions immediately come to mind, such as Gary Valenciano and of course, Mick Foley.

When I dropped in this morning for the second straight day on the Disenchanted Kingdom, I certainly did not expect to meet the lovely, funny, smart, and sassy Ms. Rhian Ramos. We were a packed house that morning, with the official trio of Marf, Cleo, and King DJ Logan, and the unofficial trio of myself, Ana, and newbie Lucio. I was stumped, as at that moment, Rhian was all by her lonesome on the couch, and I deigned not to just sit beside her, since, yanno, celebrity and all, and I was promptly starstruck.

I’ve heard my friends who’ve met her all gush about her, but seeing her in person made me realize what it was all about: she was stunning, and she was so witty, and as Logan introduced me to her while I stood in the booth, she asked me to sit beside her on the couch, and I gingerly did, as Logan explained to her that I was called “Plant Man” because I don’t respond unless I’m ruffled. She took that as her cue to ruffle me, and I was playing it off like nothing was happening, but Marf pointed out I was turning a bright shade of red.

Anyways, as the show went on, we talked about things you didn’t expect to hear from a 19-year old like her. It was naughty but classy how she proceeded to nimbly and coyly play her way into getting a perfect 10 on Por-No, Por-Yes, and everyone listening must have been suitably impressed by how she pulled it off. Personally, I was most impressed with the way she thinks, and that was really what made me take notice of her, more than anything else.

.:The Street Magic Tour!:.

Just came from my first day of my street magic tour for Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, and it was a blast in SM North!

I’ll be performing this Sunday in SM Megamall around 2,3,4, and 5 PM, either at the Cinema or Foodcourt area in fifteen-minute burts. Next week, I’ll be doing more of the same in SM Manila and Mall Of Asia.

Pretty exciting time to be a magician, eh?

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs Of 2010

.:My Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs For 2010:.

It’s that time once again when my favourite writing project comes around. The Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs has been an annual tradition for myself that I have kept up with, mainly because I like keeping an eye on key blogs who are making waves in the circles.

This year, this special project is made possible by: Events and Corporate Video, Budget hotel in Makati, Pinoy Party Food, Copyediting Services, PR Agency Philippines, Budget Travel Philippines, Send Gifts to the Philippines, Black Friday Deals, Roomrent - units for rent, Search Profile Index, and Corporate Events Organizer.

As an employee of Nuffnang, it’s definitely my job to keep an eye on these bloggers, and I have to say that it was rather difficult to come up with only ten blogs for me to wholeheartedly recommend, but here’s the list, for your perusal. I’m doing this in a countdown format, in terms of how I personally rank these blogs, although their order has no bearing whatsoever on the final tally for the project.

Ultimately, they are influential not because of their Alexa Ranking or their Pagerank, but simply because of their ability to penetrate the consciousness of the people who read their blogs. It doesn't matter if a billion people read your blog if nobody reading your blog agrees with you. These blogs do not just find an agreeable audience cooperating with them each step of the way, but an audience whose choices, lifestyles, even humor and way of thinking, are influenced by each of these ten very influential blogs.

Furthermore, you can check out my picks in 2008 and in 2009, if you’re so inclined.

10. The He Said, She Said Of Reviews

Having a sweet match-made-in-heaven couple form a tandem blog meant to review movies and other similar topics is a novel concept, and Yesnomeh manages to pull this off very well. I like the contrasting writing styles, and the amusing byplay between the two writers, and being personally acquainted with them, I can practically imagine them talking with each other as they write their entries, bickering playfully and bantering gamely with each other.

It's really hard to go wrong with this site. They know what they're talking about, and the way they play off of each other just feels so... natural. If more couples interacted like these two do, what a better world this would be!

9. Project 52 Weeks: Even More Ambitious Than A Project 365:.

I have a Project 365 in my blog that tackles topics involving magic on a daily basis, but even my daily output cannot compare to the rigors of making one short film a week. My good friend, Mica, was up to the challenge.

Mica is an amazing blogger as is, but now, she turns her attention to the world of short films in a very ambitious blog. Project 52 Weeks is full of surprises, as Mica’s directorial vision knows no boundaries and isn’t saddled by any restrictions. With 52 quality short films bound to come out of this project, you can be sure that some screenwriters will take notice of this body of work.

Mica: today a name, tomorrow a directorial legend? Let’s hope so.

8. Kikay Runner: Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

Noelle De Guzman is a TV host, a model, a brilliant woman, and well-known as the The Kikay Runner. As a lady who frequently does well in running competitions, her advice, her thoughts, and her rants and raves are worth listening to for anyone who’s remotely interested in running: or getting to know one of the most eligible bachelorettes in the blogosphere today.

I do believe that when you look at someone as stunning as Noelle, and she's telling you that running has kept her as fit as she is, then you're bound to pay attention.

7. Slumberdoll: Within The Woman Behind The Lens Lies Sheer Awesomeness

Tricia Gosingtian, better known as Slumberdoll online, is a known photographer and model who has certainly made a name for herself in the industry already. She has inspired a lot of new photographers, and has often been confused for a cosplayer with her pretty looks and amazing fashion sense.

I think this blog is influential simply because she has a rabid following wherever she goes, and when it comes to dictating trends in her wide sphere of influence, it’s hard not to listen to someone like her, as her opinions in the world of fashion and photography certainly carry a lot of weight, thanks to her very stellar resume.

6. When In Manila: The Daily Show, Except Not Daily

As a huge fan of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Vince Golangco’s unique approach to fake news has proven to be very entertaining to watch on a regular basis on the site known as When In Manila. Admittedly, this isn’t the only content you can find in the website, but from the humor to the sheer clout Vince Golangco has achieved over time because of his efforts, this website has definitely influenced a lot of people and given online Filipinos a chance to appreciate Jon Stewart’s stylings in a more contemporary and relevant setting.

Vince Golangco's blog is funny, off-the-wall, and bound to give birth to a host of other Filipino blogs willing to follow the trend of fake news catered to a more intellectual audience online.

.5. Pakshet: Totally Unpredictable

Judd Sta. Maria is also an employee of Nuffnang, but what makes him deserve a spot in this list is not his association with me as a colleague, but the sheer strength of one of his entries on his Tumblr, Pakshet.

In one particularly entry, he traced Chuck Norris and Manny Villar having a debate with each other, and Manny Villar promptly winning when he asked Chuck Norris kung nakaligo na ba siya sa dagat ng basura. This particular comic strip gained memetic notoriety and really put Villar to the forefront in the online arena, for all the good and bad things that caused.

Furthermore, it was also in this blog where Mr. Sta. Maria first broke exclusive photos of the unfortunate car explosion that happened in Serendra last year. He was the first on the scene, and managed to catch very vivid images of this event, that resulted in him being featured on television, proving the nagging suspicion we had that whenever trouble is around, you can be sure that Judd will be around, too.

4. Crissey: Cute, Smart, Definitely Influential

She may not be on FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women, but Crissey Si has legions of fans because of her very cute and childlike demeanor, backed by a very intelligent and introspective personality that often comes to the fore at the least expected of times.

It doesn’t matter what Crissey does online: it catches on. That’s how influential this lady is, and many of her fans and friends certainly can’t help but marvel at how she constantly manages to reinvent herself at every stage. There’s no question that her blog is already influential: the only thing that remains to be found out is how much further she can broker that power online and what that would hold for her not only online, but offline as well.

3. Foodie Manila: A Fresh Spin On A Tasty Topic

Let’s face it: food blogs are a dime a dozen. Anyone who eats and likes taking pictures of their food before they eat could potentially consider themselves to already be a food blogger, and there’s nothing wrong with that, really.

However, it becomes extremely difficult for any specific food blogger to stand out with so many of them. What my colleague here at Nuffnang, Carlos Palma, has successfully done, was to take this very oft-used concept and turn it on its head by upping quality across the board.

Foodie Manila is a food blog worth checking. From mouth-watering pictures of the food, to very thoughtful, soulful, insightful writing, Carlos Palma has his audience eating out of the palm of his hand, and it’s a delight to check this blog out on a regular basis.

2. Facebuko: Wittiness, Thine Name Is Jonas Roque

This blog would’ve been my top pick if I was polled last December 31. Facebuko is a humor blog that utilizes the Facebook interface for laughs and thought-provoking commentary. It can be a parody, it can be satire, it can be straight-up comedy, but no matter what, it makes you think.

I’m a huge fan of Facebuko’s blog. I know he has gained a following almost overnight by sheer dint of the quality of his output. Many people already liken him to other popular memetic blogs that made their name over a year ago, like Good Times Manila or even Tunay Na Lalake, which only underscores how highly regarded Facebuko is as a blog that influences the psyche of those who read it.

It’s well-written, it’s funny, it’s thought-provoking, it’s unbelievably creative, and it has a massive following. What about those qualities would make you think that Facebuko is not an influential blog?

1. Good Times With Mo: The Blog That Launches 80,000 Daily Hits

It’s good to be Mo Twister. No, really.

You’re on the flagship radio program of the flagship radio station of Radio Partners. You have showbiz friends, and you get to hang out with them all the time. You’re rumoured to be dating Rhian Ramos. You’re rich, you have women throwing themselves all over you, and you don’t even have to be the one raising your own kid, since the kid lives in the States.

And now, you even have a blog that generates a whopping 80,000 hits a day.

There is no question at all that if there is only one influential person in this entire list, then it would be Mo Twister. Here is a man who has made “Forbidden Questions” popular all over the country, who has given Brian Gorell a soapbox on radio, and has had almost as many controversies on a regular basis as Kris Aquino. This is a man whose listeners hold onto every word he says.

He has exerted influence not only in terms of hard numbers, but even with a solid few who are fanatical about all things Mo Twister. This man probably gave tons of precedent by which the KBP operates now, with his straight-from-the-hip commentary, rivaled on FM radio only by his contemporary on 99.5, King DJ Logan.

That his blog was simply more of the same comes as no surprise at all. He plugs his blog on air, and you will notice that every single time his show goes on commercial break, his listeners promptly check his blog out to see what's going on between commercials. That's how hooked his listeners are, and for that, he is, in my view, the emerging influential blog of 2010.

6Project 365 Smorgasbord (204-206)

.:204/365: Vanishing The Statue Of Liberty:.

Arguably the most legendary illusion of all time, David Copperfield’s vanish of the Statue of Liberty has always been a full-fledged display of what it is about him that made him a household name in magic: the man knew how to create a spectacle, and he knew how to really get people talking about him, as this routine continues attracting discussion and wide speculation, decades after it has been performed.

What made this routine amazing was that it was done with a live audience witnessing the entire thing. It wasn’t a case of paid actors pretending to be an audience, but a genuine gathering of people who were fortunate enough to witness a historical event.

Copperfield’s script for the vanish was very simple: the Statue was bathed in a circle of lights, and hidden behind a curtain. Once the curtains go down, the Statue was gone, and the searchlights passed through the entire thing, with nobody the wiser what happened to the Statue. The curtains go back up, and boom, the Statue was back before everyone knew it.

Whenever a magician makes something appear or reappear, spectators tend to assume that there is something peculiar or pre-set about the item that vanished that allowed the magician to make it disappear. The reason this particular vanish really got everyone’s attention was the fact that it seemed logistically impossible to move the Statue of Liberty from one place to another in a flash without it requiring massive machinery to pull off, but Copperfield did it with just a few magical gestures and a curtain.

For me, this is one of the most pivotal moments of magic, because it made people believe that there was something really amazing about Mr. Copperfield, and this awe and wonder extended to a lot of his contemporaries by sheer virtue of the notoriety the illusion has gained. Half the people who talk and speculate about this particular illusion have never even seen the actual illusion in question, which just makes the whole thing hilarious.

Ask any person over the age of fifteen what is the most striking magic trick they have ever seen or heard of, and a significant number of them will respond with this one. I’m almost willing to bet on that.

.:205/365: The Chair Suspension

There are a million and one versions of levitation effects out there, but personally, this has to be one of my favourites, and not simply because it’s part of my repertoire.

The script is rather simple, and if you noticed the video I showed last July 1, the Boa levitation works on the same principle: essentially, you have one person who lies down across a board supported by two chairs. You remove one of the chairs while holding up the board, then you remove the board, and lo and behold, your assistant, or even volunteer, remains hovering in the air, instead of falling to the floor.

Very simple, very effective, and has relatively portable materials. As a levitation routine, you definitely can’t ask for much more if you’re searching for portability, although I still believe that the Abnormal Lift routine has this beat by a mile, simply because unlike most other levitations, the Lift involves levitation as performed by your very own audience, which just heightens the effect, more than anything else.

.:206/365:Levitating Over The Grand Canyon:.

Apparently, not only Criss Angel can use some camera trickery to get away with an act completely unperformable live, but I’m willing to cut David Copperfield some slack because Bonnie Tyler is in the clip, singing “Holding Out For A Hero”. That makes up for everything. Everything, I say.

This effect is arguably the most eye-popping levitation effect you will ever witness, although I doubt you will see it live. Despite that, this is merely an extension of Copperfield’s amazing stage magic routine called “Flying”, where he really does fly all over a stage area with audiences watching him, and for a clever little convincer, they even show him flying inside a glass box, as if to taunt the people who believe it’s the work of invisible wires.

This routine just ups the scale of that act by making Copperfield fly all the way across the Grand Canyon with the wind blowing through his hair, with no green or blue screen to back him up, at that. Needless to say, he stunned a lot of people with this one, and definitely got everyone talking yet again.

Am I a fan of this routine? Well, not really. I prefer his routines that can be performed live, but I watch this video less as an actual magic act and more as a music video, in all honesty.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Project 365 (202/365): Siegfried And Roy

.:203/365: Siegfried And Roy:.

Pardon the misnumbering yesterday. It's not such a big deal, I hope.

Undoubtedly the second most popular magician tandem in the world next only to Kel and Jay, I mean, Penn and Teller (Either way, I’m biased. LOL.), Siegfried and Roy are two of the most recognizable names in magic of all time, and have been the cash cow of the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas for over a decade, until Roy’s untimely severe injury involving one of his white tigers.

A typical Siegfried and Roy show combined illusions (As performed by Siegfried.) with exotic animals (As trained and handled by Roy.), resulting in a unique show that nobody can quite hope to duplicate, especially when coupled with the breeding program Siegfried and Roy utilized to have a steady supply of white tigers for their shows.

Due to an injury suffered by Roy in 2003, the tandem unfortunately had to retire from active performing, and only in 2009 did they come out with their swan song: a special show as a send-off and a definitive end to their storied careers as performers who have wowed generations of audiences who were wowed by this amazing combination of magic and trained wildlife.

Unsurpisingly, Siegfried and Roy came out of the closet recently, admitting that they used to be a couple, but over time, their partnership became more of a professional relationship in concert with a very deep friendship. In contrast to Penn and Teller, who insist on remaining as separate entities offstage and stick mostly to a purely professional relationship, one could say that the way Siegfried and Roy interact as longtime partners is a lot more conventional than Penn and Teller, sans the romantic relationship, of course.

I’m not that big a fan of Siegfried and Roy, but they have had an excellent career spanning nearly five decades. Needless to say, I hold them and their contributions to magic in very high regard.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Project 365 (201/365): Herrmann The Great

.:202/365: Herrmann The Great:.

Nowadays, many people have a pre-conceived notion that a magician is always bedecked in long tails, has a twirly moustache, flat, heavily moussed hair, and a top hat. This man was the one who gave birth to all these conventions, and is considered a part of the “first family” of magic, the Herrmanns.

As the youngest of a brood of 16, it was unquestionable that Alexander Herrmann was born to extraordinary circumstances, even in his own time. His father, Samuel Herrmann, was a part-time magician and a physician, and has gained a lot of popularity in his time, even being summoned to perform by the Sultan of Turkey numerous times (Or at least, this is the claim made by the family.). All throughout, it was only a matter of time before the magical tradition would be passed on to Samuel’s sons, beginning with his eldest, Compars, whom others fondly referred to as “Carl.”

Unlike his father, Compars devoted himself to magic, rather than also becoming a physician. As a performer, he was very happy to discover that his youngest brother, Alexander, was, at the tender age of eight, already expressing an interest in magic. At a very young age, he toured with his elder brother around Europe, and learned everything he could learn from his brother, who eagerly mentored him in the arts of magic. Over time, as Alexander’s skills developed, a mild rivalry arose between the brothers, which set them on their separate ways.

From here, Alexander would tour all over the world as one of the most well-loved performers of all time. In a performance in St. Petersburg, his captivated audience dubbed him as “Herrmann The Great,” in stark contrast to his brother’s title, “The First Professor of Magic in the World.” Although they may have been professional rivals, it could not be said that they were ever at odds with each other on a personal level.

As Alexander took the United States by storm, he became generally known as the King of Magic in the United States, after Robert Heller passed away. His closest rival, Harry Kellar, was a constant thorn in his side, and for many years they would have a storied rivalry that thankfully ended in a truce rather than a drive-by shooting.

It would also be interesting to note that Herrmann The Great was one of the few people who dared to perform the bullet catch illusion. This very routine was learned by his assistant, Billy Robinson, who later became known as Chun Ling Soo, or, for those who don’t recognize the name, the man who became best known for fatally screwing up the bullet catch illusion.

Herrmann The Great’s legacy as a magician certainly lives on to this day. His amazing accuracy with card throwing has given him worldwide notoriety, as he was the first one to make it a significant part of his act, thereby becoming the predecessor to the likes of Jeff McBride and Ricky Jay.

Project 365 (201/365): Crossing The Great Wall Of China

.:201/365: Crossing The Great Wall Of China:.

I believe you’re bound to see a lot of Copperfield this month, since most of the most popular illusions of all time were made famous by him. This particular illusion that he performed was one of the most impressive bits of showmanship I have ever seen.

Penetration effects tend to be impressive because of the sheer mechanics involved in actually making a very convincing penetration happen. Whether it be something as simple as a pen that goes through a bill of money, or David Copperfield walking through the Great Wall of China, these illusions tend to really catch attention for being a flagrant defiance of physics. David Copperfield’s showmanship turned something already stunning in premise alone into a spectacle for the ages, being talked about to this very day even by people who weren’t even born during Copperfield’s heyday, talking about his amazing illusion in a breath of wonder that matches or at times eclipses that wonder surrounding David Blaine.

These larger-than-life performances were what really put Mr. Copperfield over the top, making him the most profitable magician of all time, having grossed over a billion dollars in ticket sales alone. His flair and panache set him apart from other performers like him, who were, admittedly, small-minded, or at the very least, not blessed with the resources at Copperfield’s disposal. I’m sure that the brainstorming process for this illusion must’ve been quite a doozy, and it certainly paid dividends for the man.

Amusingly enough, what caught my attention while looking for a video of the illusion was that there were so many commenters on YouTube screaming that this bit of magic was “fake.” Really? You mean to tell me you were willing to drink the Kool-Aid otherwise? Because, seriously, magic is about entertaining people, not converting someone to a new religion. Of course it’s fake! That’s the whole point of the exercise, and if you can’t appreciate the art form, then do everyone else a favour and shut up, because nobody really cares about your smug self-importance at insisting “you were not fooled.” Nobody cares if you believe in people who can walk through walls or not. In fact, Copperfield couldn’t care less if you believe. All that he cared about was if you were entertained. Now, if people demonstrating apparent powers does not entertain you, why don’t you just do what normal people do and tune out, rather than pop a vein, insisting it’s all fake?

The Great Wall of China is an amazing marvel of architecture that has stood in place for centuries on end. David Copperfield, through his amazing brand of magic, has made this marvel an even greater spectacle than it already is.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hurly-Burly Once Again...


The past week has been crazy, to say the least. After botching an MTG tournament last Sunday, I had to sit down for a while and rethink how crazy my life has been getting lately.

Thursday night was a first in a long time, as I dropped by Votre to perform since it’s GB’s birthday. I think it’s fairly obvious by now that I’ve slid back to the prior status quo when it comes to standup comedy, as I haven’t really done a standup set in almost two months, and have stuck to being a magician, more than anything else. With amazing things happening all over the place, what with the group that started it all, Comedy Cartel starting to kick things into high gear, as well as my good friend, Mike Unson, also making strides in his own inimitable way, things are looking mighty interesting, to say the least.

As a comedy fan, I’m actually excited and happy about these developments. More and more, Philippine standup comedy is gaining ground and making its mark, and these people are instrumental to that. Being a part of history in the making, even mostly just as a supporter of the fine art, has been a great honor to me, and that explains why I had no hesitation whatsoever when it came to performing in Votre for GB’s birthday. As one of my closest friends in standup comedy, I would certainly go out on a limb for the man, and I’m glad that he enjoyed my performance, which was certainly marked by the sheer dynamism that I exude whenever I hit the stage to do my magic and mentalism.

I can’t say enough good things about the state of Philippine standup comedy. Don’t let the rumors fool you: things are only moving on up for everyone involved, and things can only get better for everyone.

Despite that, I guess some things definitely require my attention far more than comedy, or even radio, as dropping by the DK last Wednesday proved to be a very entertaining time for me, as I rekindled old running jokes with Cleo Caliente when Logan asked her who gave her the nice pink jacket she was wearing. I think I turned a rather visible shade of pink as I sheepishly claimed credit for it, and our “Pinoy na Pinoy” game, featuring rich vs. poor conventions, definitely struck a nerve with the listeners. Were we being discriminatory? Quite the opposite, in fact. We were illustrating the sheer ludicrousness exhibited by the people who decided that because of their social stature, a euphemism needed to be used for something rich and poor people alike experienced.

With all of these things happening, I must admit that I needed to sit down and think things over. Up to now, things have been going crazy, and I know that there’s a lot of talking going on without my apparent knowledge (Or so they thought.) about a series of choices I made way back last year, at a time where I clearly felt unprepared to get into a serious relationship. That things went according to plan for me and didn’t go according to plan for someone else certainly put some friction in our erstwhile dealings, and someone who really should learn to know what’s up before making pronouncements decided to stick its nose where it didn’t belong. No, I’m not amused by this, and no, I don’t think it’s fair for me to be judged one way when I made it very clear from the start where I stood. If someone told you he was still in recovery, would you expect him to magically just heal up and suit up for your team in record time? Certainly not. So how is this any different again?

.:Prayers And Well-Wishes Are Encouraged:.

What really put a damper in my spirits today, though, has got to be the discovery that someone very dear to me is going through his third bout with cancer. It’s scary, having to stare that right in the eye for yet another time, but I believe that if it be His will, he will make it through this.

For what it’s worth, I would certainly appreciate well-wishers and prayers. I’m personally very invested in this right now, and I hope that all’s well that ends well after everything has been said and done.

Project 365 (200/365): The Indian Rope Trick

.:200/365: The Indian Rope Trick:.

And now, we hit 200 days of this Project 365. It’s almost done! Unbelievable!

This video, taken from Penn and Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour mini-series, shows a modern performance of a legendary bit of stage, or arguably street magic that has been, at least prior to modern attempts at duplicating the apocryphal descriptions of the routine, a hoax, to begin with.

Historically, the story goes that the Indian Rope Trick consists of a performer who makes a rope go up high into the sky as though it were a pole, while the rope merely comes from a basket in the ground. This rope is upright enough for a young boy to climb up this rope, then disappear from view because of sheer height. From this point on, the performer becomes enraged that the boy doesn’t come down, goes up the rope with a sword, then proceeds to chop the boy into pieces, letting the pieces fall to the ground, and the bloodied performer puts the pieces back into the basket, and from there, miraculously restores the wayward boy, completely unharmed.

Now, the description alone boggles the mind, and bereft of the stage setting in India, it seems utterly inconceivable how this particular illusion is performed – except in time, people discovered that it wasn’t performed, or at least, not at the time, and even in subsequent attempts to duplicate the illusion as described, certainly not in the same manner above.

People never really discovered that the original account of the Indian Rope Trick as depicted by one John Elbert Wilkie in the Chicago Tribune in 1890 was, in reality, a figment of the writer’s imagination. That this routine was described so fantastically certainly elicited a lot of publicity for the paper, but when it turned out that the Indian Rope Trick as described was nothing but pure fabrication, the retraction that followed was not paid much attention to.

Sometimes, it’s good to know that mere ideas for a magic effect become not merely urban legends, but inspirations for industrious magicians to bring the idea into the real world. The Indian Rope Trick holds the reputation of being the world’s best magic trick, even though it didn’t exist at the height of the interest that surrounded the trick in question.

Project 365 (199/365): The Ever-Famous Sawing In Half Illusion

.:199/365: The Ever-Famous Sawing In Half Illusion:.

Watching this video clip, I realize more often than not how funny David Copperfield actually is. It’s not really something he’s well known for, but his comedic timing is top-notch and definitely adds a level of intimacy to his performances, even on a stage setting.

Anyways, according to Wikipedia, despite the fact that arguably the most popular illusion of our time is the illusion of sawing a woman in half, this particular illusion is actually a fairly recent invention. It’s rather disputed heavily when this particular piece of magic history first became performed for the adoring public, particularly because Jean-Robert Houdin, in his memoirs, mentioned this illusion being performed as early as 1809, although no official record of it exists.

The first historically recorded instance of this illusion being performed was as late as 1920, not even a century ago, and this was performed by a magician named P.T. Selbit. Jim Steinmeyer, in his book “Hiding The Elephant,” made it pretty clear that this particular illusion is quite young in contrast to other classics in the magic world, and even the first version of this illusion was admittedly crude and required hiding the entirety of the woman’s body from view while it was being sawed in half.

Over time, more and more variations of this illusion have been performed, including a variation that utilizes a clear box, one that appears completely bare of boxes (Also performed by David Copperield.), and even one that employs a whole lot of shock factor by using blood and guts to demonstrate that the sawing in half was anything but successful, as performed by Penn and Teller. With each iteration of the illusion, the classic script has admittedly turned tired and cliche’d for a bored audience who all seem to be saturated with stage magic, which is, to me, a crying shame.

I think what I find rather sad is that stage magic is often looked down upon by the average layman even more than street magic is. Everything is attributed to trapdoors, smoke, mirrors, and whatever else, and as such, it doesn’t seem impressive any longer to do a standard illusion for what it’s worth. There always has to be a twist, and there always has to be a way to step the illusion up and send it “to the next level”, whatever that means. As a fan of magic and its history, I find this a crying shame, and one of the main reasons why I understand how magicians could hate Valentino for divulging some of the best-kept secrets of the industry for decades. In my estimate, it’s not even the exposure itself that flummoxed me, but the smugness of Valentino to insist that he is justified in forcing the industry to “innovate” more. Who is he to impose such a challenge to the industry as a whole? Were these secrets his to give away? Clearly not.

Despite my very lax stance on exposure, one might say that my disdain towards Valentino is brought about by his attitude, more than anything else. However, lest we get too sidetracked, this discussion is about the sawing in half illusion, and keeping all of this in mind, this is a very cherished classic, and is a classic for a reason. It doesn’t matter how many variations people can come up with this illusion: it will always hold a special fancy to most everyone who has ever seen or heard of it.

I certainly agree with Mr. Steinmeyer when he says this illusion was a turning point for magic, historically. This heralded the beginning of sensational performances over the more subdued magical acts prevalent in the 1920’s. Nowadays, it’s almost a stereotype, no matter how misogynistic it may seem, that the lady is often tormented or victimized by the magician for his act. Prior to this illusion, though, this clearly was not the case. Indeed, the birth of the sawing in half illusion was a turning point in the world of magic and has definitely changed the way magic is perceived in general.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Project 365 (197/365): Blackstone

.:197/365: Blackstone:.

The name “Blackstone” is synonymous with two of the most amazing stage magicians of the last two centuries, as Harry Blackstone, Sr. and Harry Blackstone, Jr. both became household names in the world of magic through their wide variety of magical illusions, gentlemanly stature, and harkens back to a simpler age, where magic was truly a wonder of the vaudevillian age, and not the industrialized powerhouse it currently is.

Watching both men perform was a treat nobody should miss, even just through video archives. Considering that between the two of them, a majority of the developments in stage magic came to be, they were among the cutting edge performers of their time, from Blackstone Sr.’s amazing variation on the sawing a woman in half illusion, or Blackstone Jr.’s contributions to education through his magic, these are two of the most illustrious people in stage magic, and nobody can deny how amazing their stage presence truly can be.

I believe that the video you see in this particular entry is one of the most elegant illusions you will ever witness: a light bulb flying through mid-air all across the theatre, free for everyone to see and even hold. Blackstone’s signature illusion has endured for decades, and is one of the top 50 greatest magic tricks of all time, and in my personal list, probably one of the top 10, even.

It’s a shame that neither man is alive today to continue the amazing tradition they have upheld for two wonderful generations. The Blackstones were certainly a cut above the rest, and as the years go by, they continue to be revered figures in the industry that they have contributed so much to.

Again, do yourself a favor and watch some videos of the Blackstones. If you've seen "The Prestige" and remember that disappearing birdcage illusion that had a lot of gears and tools, Blackstone Sr. invented a variation of that, and it definitely was quite a crowd-pleaser

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dear Noynoy, Now That You've Been Sworn In...

.:A Belated Dear Noynoy:.

Dear Noynoy,

I hope that the car ride with the former president GMA was not an awkward time for you. I just wanted to say "congratulations" to you on becoming the 15th president of the Republic, although really, I'm more inclined to say "good luck," because you're sure going to need it.

If your predecessor was any indication, you should learn from history by now: like you, she was sworn in. But she was also sworn at. A lot. And for all the right reasons, no less. Please don't follow her example.

If that inauguration happened at Wrestlemania, you probably would have heard people singing "Nananana nananana hey hey hey, goodbye," as your predecessor stepped away to rip Pampanga off for the next three years, instead of the whole country. The only good thing I can say about her at the moment is that I'm glad she actually turned the reins of power over to you (Or to anyone at all, for that matter.). I was half-expecting something to come up at the last minute and prevent that from happening.

I hope you know what you got into, really: the presidency, thanks to your predecessor desecrating the office for a miserable nine years, really became an unenviable position of power. It doesn't matter who you are, what background you came from, or what your intentions are: once you become president, all eyes are on you, and any mistake you commit becomes forever etched in the history books. In the age of the internet, history is no longer going to be a kind judge of character over time. In fact, it's not even a kind judge of character for the present, seeing how many people already started Facebook groups and want you to resign even before you assumed office.

Let's face it, Mr. President: prior to the presidency, your track record was anything but impeccable. I know the Filipinos seem to act like they have massive entitlement complexes when it comes to the qualifications they seek in a president, but since they're paying your salary, I think that sense of entitlement is rather justified. Whether it's the people who blindly follow you and will walk to the ends of the world for you, or the people who blindly hate you and wish you were shot during yesterday's inauguration and for singing "Estudyante Blues" with the very telltale lyrics "Ako'y walang kalayaan/sunod sa utos lamang," you have your work cut out for you, and high expectations across the board from all sectors of all persuasions in this country.

Can you handle it, Mr. President? I don't really know. That's not for me to say. But what's for me to say is that even as a person who did not vote for you, I still stand by the choice my people have made, and a choice I respect and treasure, because with a margin of over four million votes, the legitimacy of your mandate is almost undisputable, save for a few sourgrapes here and there. The elections are done. That was the easy part. Now comes the hard part: picking up the pieces of a nine-year administration characterized by shady transactions, euphemisms, and backhanded stifling of free speech.

Indeed, I did not vote for you, but unlike others far more bitter than I, I want you to succeed. Hades, if Erap actually won, I'd want him to succeed, no matter how much I disliked his presidency, too, and I'll tell you why: if you fail, we, the Filipinos, suffer for it. If those 15 million or so Filipinos who shaded the circle beside your name in the ballot made a mistake, the whole 90++ million of us will end up regretting it. I am not selfish enough to want anyone but my personal choice for president to succeed at your job, because everyone is going to pay for your failure, the way all of us paid for the few of us who were stupid enough at the time to come together for EDSA 2 and oust Joseph Estrada, only to install someone who was no better in power.

Dear Mr. President, I want you to succeed, not for you to finally have achievements to your name, but for this nation to succeed with you. Your glory is not your glory alone: it is the glory of the Filipino people, not because we live vicariously through you, but because the truly patriotic Filipino people will support you despite their personal choices for the greater good, and not only for their selfish purposes. I hope that over time, as people approach to "help" you, you will be granted the wisdom to know the difference between those who want the country to succeed, and those who only want their own interests to be satiated.

You said it, not I: kailangan mo kami. Here we are, ready to help, ready to deliver the change you promised, knowing full well that you cannot do it alone. We have no illusions that you will be our savior. You went un-Obama on us during the campaign and made it painfully clear that this was not going to be a one-man show. Despite that, we certainly want to keep an eye on you and the people around you, because there are still so many things that need to be done.

I'm sure you're used to all the mudslinging that came before, during, and after the elections. It's all part of the territory, especially since your mom herself was not spared from all these, even after her passing. Nonetheless, steel yourself, because it only gets worse from here.

I hope that my letter, no matter how seemingly negative and anticipatory of darker times ahead, does not dissuade you, Mr. President. I am merely stating what lies ahead in the horizon, but by no means should these obstacles hinder you from becoming the great president that I can almost be sure of, in your heart, you truly wish to be. Ultimately, as you recognize this is not a one-man show, then the success of your presidency rests in the ability of the Filipino people to come together and show the world that this so-called Filipino pride is anything but misplaced. You are not blind to the shortcomings of the Filipino as a people. This does not mean that we are somehow racially, genetically, or fatally relegated to failure. Kaya natin ito. Hindi ka nag-iisa.

Once again, Mr. President, congratulations, salutations, and as a sort of special request, we hope to see your erstwhile rival, former Senator Dick Gordon, in the Comelec someday, seeing as the automated elections was his brainchild, after all. Offhand, though, we'd gladly take any excuse just so we can call him "Commissioner Gordon".

Godspeed, and long live the Filipino people.


Marcelle Fabie

Project 365 (196/365): July Is Stage Magic Month

.:196/365: July Is Stage Magic Month:.

Perhaps what is the most revered and hallowed form of magic and the venue even the best street magician aspires to conquer, the realm of stage magic is one that is filled with unique challenges and unique dynamics that calls for an entirely different skillset from that of a magician of different ilk.

Not all great street magicians make good stage magicians. Despite that, nearly all great stage magicians can hold their own as a street magician. I can’t think of a single successful stage magician who doesn’t have the ability to translate their performances to a close-up setting, yet I can think of more than a few successful street magicians who practically crumble in a stage setting *coughCrissAngelcough*.

The history of stage magic is rich, and rife with references to the Vaudevillian age, albeit even temple high priests who perform elaborate “miracles” for their pharaohs could conceivably also be called stage magicians. What really sets this art on quite a pedestal beyond other forms of magic is that stage magic definitely requires a lot of planning and a lot of ability to improvise on the fly when the plan doesn’t go according to plan. You can’t just go up there with no idea what to do and expect a good show, whereas a street magician can just go into performance mode with a deck of cards and zero idea what the flow of things would be.

As a performer, I really started off onstage, albeit I was bereft of good foundations and grounding in magic before I really went semi-professional. When I went semi-professional, I realized I didn’t have enough resources or material to perform exclusively onstage, and stuck for about a year or so to street/table magic, then slowly built enough of a repertoire up so I could be onstage and not make a fool of myself. It took quite a while, but I currently perform onstage more often than I do on the streets now, although I definitely haven’t turned my back on my street magic roots at all.

Stage magic routines are often called “illusions”, and this tends to denote that your eyes are fooling you, to a large extent, often coming with the dismissive excuse that anything there can be done by smokes, mirrors, or trapdoors. Those in the know may not appreciate the way their life’s work gets trivialized, but I feel compelled to say that it’s a whole lot more than just sawing a woman in half (A cliché of a request, if I ever heard one.) or pulling a rabbit out of a hat, if someone insisted on another cliché: stage magic, like any kind of magic, is an art, and from the days where people guarded their secrets oh-so-carefully and stole dimensions and diagrams from each other, to the day of commercialized, industrialized magic (As opposed to a long-running tradition of simple artisan-based magic, stemming from individual performers and illusion-makers rather than mass market ones.) that we see now, there is so much that can be said about stage magic, and so many luminaries to speak of from Tarbell to Houdini (Yes, he counts.) to Copperfield, that I’m pretty certain one month wouldn’t be able to cover even just a concise discussion on the history of the industry.

Personally, I am a huge fan of stage magic. I like watching and having my eyes fooled, looking at everything as though I were a layman, rather than a colleague in the magic art. I don’t bother looking for the hidden wire or the trapdoor or whatever else, because I don’t want to kill my faeries while I’m enjoying the show. I can always do that after, if I really felt the urge to, but there’s no reason for me to let it get in the way of my personal enjoyment.

Stage magicians arguably have it worse than street magicians when it comes to hecklers. As highly publicized events, stage magicians, particularly those who draw huge audiences, can attract a whole lot more hecklers than an average street magician who performs for 5-10 people at a time. To make matters worse, the effects of a sole dissenting voice in a room of 500 or so people are magnified in such a setting, and you will see that some of the best stage magicians are anything but charitable to these distractions. For instance, there have been many stories of world-famous mentalist Richard Osterlind practically manhandling these nuisances, or maybe even embarrassing them in the middle of his performances by making the person seem like a total pervert. Other magicians actually go out of their way and beat up these people, and while I personally don’t feel the need to go that far, I can’t say I feel sorry for the heckler since magicians do this stuff for your entertainment, and not to convert you to their religion.

I know I’ll be discussing the nature of hecklers and the futility of it in December where I talk about issues in the magic world that need to be addressed constantly, but I think I’m not pre-empting much by saying this: magicians do this for a job. Their secrets are theirs to keep or theirs to divulge, and just like Coke keeps its formula under lock and key, magicians are entitled to keep their secrets to themselves if they so choose. There is nothing wrong with this. We go to a magic show with the express understanding that there will be deception involved. This is not a bad thing. We don’t go to a moviehouse and watch Batman, expecting that Christian Bale is truly the caped crusader. Magic, or heck, even pro wrestling, is more of the same. The least you can do is sit back, enjoy the show, and don’t sweat the details. I don’t have powers. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be performing magic for a living, and instead cleaning out casinos on a daily basis.

As a mentalist who uses psychology and the like to achieve magical effects, I can say pretty much the same thing: though what I do seems impossible, it’s nothing you couldn’t pull off if you mastered the art to a tee. It’s just how it is.

Stage magic holds a special place in my heart, because this is where I really get to come into my own as a performer and pull together everything I’ve learned as a magician: the intimate approach of a street magician, the non-stop analytic mind of the mentalist, the hilarious rapid-fire patter of the standup comedian, and magnifying all these nuances to give everyone a stage show worth watching. I am going to relish this coming month, as an opportunity to write about stage magic routines I’ve always loved and admired, and personalities I have a deep respect for. It’s not that I don’t have much affection for any other facet of magic: it’s just that stage magic, along with mentalism, are the two things I’ve always dreamed of doing, and hopefully, I can match the kind of zest I exhibited in mentalism with the things I will write about for stage magic in the coming days.

Note, though, that certain routines that don’t necessarily fall under the strict definition of “stage” will still count, such as, say, Copperfield crossing the Great Wall of China, or Harry Houdini making an elephant disappear in the middle of a circus tent. These are all well within the realms of stage magic, and I don’t want to have to bore you with a shopping list of the general classifications of stage magic effects such as penetration, teleportation, vanishes, and conjurations.