From Smithsonian Magazine, here’s a fun article in which Teller (of “Penn and…”) takes our minds off politics by explaining some of the psychological principles he exploits as a magician: Teller Reveals His Secrets.
My favorite secret:
6. Nothing fools you better than the lie you tell yourself.
Long, but good, article from Chris Jones in Esquire about Teller (of “Penn and…”), and his attempt to sue a mysterious Dutch magician for stealing Teller’s copyrighted magic trick, Shadows:The honor system.
Penn began his patter. He told the audience that they were about to be given a choice. Teller was going to make good his escape – there was no doubt about that, Penn said. Penn was going to start playing a song on his bass, and Teller was going to finish it on his vibraphone, done deal. The choice for the audience was whether it wanted to be mystified or informed. Keep your eyes open if you want to know the secret, Penn said. Keep your eyes closed if you want to be amazed.
Penn began to finger the strings, and on most nights, most of the people in the crowd kept their eyes open…
[Spoilerific description of the trick deleted.]
But for those members of the audience who kept their eyes closed, Honor System was confounding. One moment Teller was locked inside a pair of boxes, and the next he was playing music beside his partner, Penn. There were people who went to see that show seven or eight times, and they never opened their eyes. It became a test of their personal resolve. Given a choice, they chose mystery. For them, Penn & Teller had turned magic into something more than entertainment. “Magic gives you the gift of a stone in your shoe,” their magician friend Mike Close once said. In that short time between Penn’s first hit on his bass and Teller’s opening note on his vibraphone, magic was also an act of will.
When the opening line of your first Senate campaign ad is: I’m not a witch!
And then ends with a paean to hobbyist wiretapper Linda Tripp: I’m you.
That’s funny, because there is video tape of you saying you dabbled in witchcraft. Not to mention your crusade against masturbation. And the spending campaign money on things like gas, food, rent and bowling.
It includes a discussion of Wiseman’s cool “Colour Changing Card Trick” video, which I apparently missed the first time around, though it’s been viewed about 4 million times on YouTube. Anyway, here’s that; it’s only about 3 minutes long, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to commit to the full 46 minutes for the above talk, at least check this out:
Continuing the series of posts containing videos that are (not) real, here’s Leo LaPorte interviewing Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of Wieden + Kennedy about the making of the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl.
The bottom line, for those who don’t want to watch the video: It’s real. It’s all one take (albeit, take fifty-six on day three of shooting), and with two exceptions, it’s all “practical” effects — no computers, no in-camera trickery.
The two exceptions are this: The part where the tickets in his hand turn into diamonds, then into a bottle of Old Spice, was composited in. And the mechanism they used to move him onto the horse was painted out in the final wide shot. Everything else — the bathroom, the boat, and (yes) the horse — was real. If you were on the set, it would have looked just like what you see in the commerical.
With the possible exception of the Saints’ come-from-behind win and the way the game was still on the line in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, this was my favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday. Of course, effects notwithstanding, it’s mostly actor Isaiah Mustafa’s delivery that makes it work. Christie D’Zurilla, writing in the LA Times’ Ministry of Gossip blog (It’s the guy in the Old Spice commercial: Isaiah Mustafa), says:
The Old Spice body wash audition was like any other except …
… the night before, he called a college buddy, quarterback Jake Plummer, most recently of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, to shoot the breeze. Jake wasn’t home, but Jake’s answering machine was — so Isaiah, schooled in improvisation, did an over-the-top mini performance of the script he had in hand…
“I just did it for him, and I did it extra big, and then when I hung up, I thought, ‘Maybe I should try it that way and see if they like it.’ ”
Good stuff. And real!
Here’s just the commercial, if you’d prefer your Isaiah Mustafa with no Leo LaPorte:
Hello voters! Look at your rep, now back to me. Now back to your rep, now back to me! Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped voting with his head up his ass, and switched to the Democratic Party, he could vote like he’s me. Look down — back up. Where are you? You’re at a rally, with the pol your rep could vote like. What’s in your hand? — back at me. I have it! It’s a bill, with appropriations for that thing you need. Look again — the appropriations are now health care. Anything is possible when your representative votes like a Democrat and not a lady. I’m on a horse.
Children exhibit a form of magical thinking by about 18 months, when they begin to create imaginary worlds while playing. By age 3, most know the difference between fantasy and reality, though they usually still believe (with adult encouragement) in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. By age 8, and sometimes earlier, they have mostly pruned away these beliefs, and the line between magic and reality is about as clear to them as it is for adults.
Unless they’re the current US president, in which case they continue to make speeches manifesting their magical beliefs all the way to the age of 60…
Not really magic, but Janus likes to think of it that way, which is good enough for my topic-selection purposes. Anyway, if you like those stereo-isogram thingies where you fuse the two images to make a three-dimensional picture pop off the page, here’s one rendered entirely in ASCII: stereo.txt. Complete with an uplifting message crafted just for obsessives who spend time weblogging when they should be doing something more productive.
Art-school philosophy prof and generally fun smart-ass Crispin Sartwell has a review of Jamy Ian Swiss’ Shattering Illusions: Essays on the Ethics, History, and Presentation of Magic in today’s LA Times book reviews: Entertaining deception. It actually sounds like a pretty cool book; maybe I’ll pick it up when I finish The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which just arrived today.