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31 entries from July 2005

They are in charge of our gas supply?!

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So while we were away in the USA, Mat Unwin & Tammii Twister arranged to do a 'Magic Unlimited Course in Magic' for TXU Energy (now TRU). They created simple tricks to teach the TXU staff, plus made certificates and even did a special show as a finale to the event. It all went very well and they got great feedback.

However, when it came time to pay Mat & Tammii, the lady didn't have the cheque on the day stated in our standard contract. I called her a week or two later and she said she didn't ever see the contract, but payment was "in the system". After a few more weeks of calling her office and leaving messages, Mat found the number of another staff member who attended the course. I called him, and it was only then that we learned the lady had now left TXU.

He said the invoice was probably "in the system" but after a week or two of waiting with no results, he searched for the invoice, unsuccessfully, and realised that she never actually submitted it at all.

Eventually we were told to submit another invoice, which we did, and a few weeks later sure enough, I got an email from TXU requesting a fill out a "New Supplier Application Form". The form consisted of me giving them all of our address details, business details etc... everything that was already on the invoice. However, "it's the way we do business" I was assured.

A few weeks later, today, I got a call from 'Accounts Payable' who were upset and confused because the invoice didn't have a GST component. They wanted to know if I knew about GST. I was not prepared to explain to them that Mat had, in the very beginning, sent them documents stating that he was GST exempt, so I resubmitted the invoice for the third time. At least I can rest assured knowing that the payment is "in the system".

Imagine if I told them I couldn't pay my gas bill because one of my staff had "lost the invoice". Or because the wording on the form didn't suit the way we do business. Imagine if I hadn't paid my gas bill for over TWO MONTHS!

That's it! We'll cut off TXU's magic supply!!!

As Mat quite accurately put it: "TXU - We're excited about receiving our payment. Even if you're not."


Houdini back again

Pearce Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential) is set to star in the Houdini drama 'Death Defying Acts', with Rachel Weisz (Constantine, The Fountain) in talks to co-star as the magician's mistress, according to Daily Variety.

Based on true events during the escape artist Harry Houdini's 1926
tour of Britain, the movie follows Houdini's passionate relationship with a woman he encounters in Scotland.

The project will be directed by Gillian Armstrong and was written by Tony Grisoni and Brian Ward. It's an Australian/UK co-production and scheduled to start shooting in 2006.


100th post!

Wow! It feels like a celebration here as this is our 100th post. Wooohoooo!

Okay, enough partying, down to business. We just watched the first episode of a new ABCTV Comedy Series 'We Can Be Heroes'. We only tuned in because our good friend and felow Melbourne magician Jade Jade2 is in it, but it turned out to be an extremely entertaining and well produced show. The star and creator, Chris Lilley, plays five different characters in this 'mockumentary' about the search for 'Australian of the Year'. If you missed tonight's episode, it's on every Wednesday night at 9pm on the ABC for the next five weeks. Also, you can catch up with who's who on the Heroes Website.


How to win a magic contest - Part 2

(Part 1 of this series is here.)

6873_2 As I was honoured to be on the Jury at FISM 2003, I'll use the FISM 2006 competition as a guide. At FISM the judges will look at six specific aspects of your act and give you points for each category:

·         Technical Skill/Handling.

·         Showmanship/Presentation

·         Entertainment value

·         Artistic Impression/Routining

·         Originality

·         Magic Atmosphere

Go here to see the complete FISM competition rules.

Let's take a moment to look at each category.

TECHNICAL SKILL/HANDLING: This is one category where you have no excuse not to get maximum points. No matter what type of routine you are attempting, it is almost unforgivable if you are not technically proficient at it. If you fumble for a dove loop, or a palmed card is exposed, or a billiard ball flashes, you need to be back in the rehearsal studio and not on the stage. Some might think I'm being a little harsh here, we all fumble when we're nervous, I certainly understand that, but there is a difference between a perform who is suffering from nerves and one who simply is under-rehearsed. Even so, one mistake because of nerves can be overlooked, but two and you will start to lose points. But if you walk out on stage and when you fan your cards they have more gaps in them than a bad set of dentures then you are going to score very low in this category.

SHOWMANSHIP/PRESENTATION: This is the category where you must overcome your nerves. You need to be confident, in control, but not arrogant or full of yourself. You need to look good, speak or act with assurance, and grab our attention instantly and never let us go. If you want to perform a classic dove act, go ahead, but you need to project something about yourself and the way you perform that is like a magnet. Videotape your audiences as well as yourself; are they glued to your every move or are they looking around, distracted by each other and looking at their watches? What's the difference between say 'Catwoman' and 'Batman Begins'? Both movies featured interesting looking characters, action-packed plots, and lots of pretty scenery... but there is something about the Batman movie's story, scting and direction that just makes it far more interesting and exciting to watch. That is what we need in your act: An interesting character, lots of surprises, and tight well edited magic.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Many people argue that this is the most important of all categories. It is if you enter a regular talent contest. But then... how many magic acts win regular talent contests when pitted against singers and comedians? Many magic acts are entertaining to magicians, and you might coast by if you pitch your act at magicians - and to be honest, if you are doing a corporate show for lawyers, you throw in some lawyer material, golfers in the audience, use your golf material, so for a crowd of magicians, you can throw in some magic references. This does add to the entertainment value, but beware, some judges are inexperienced and will penalise you because they will think "That's good for a magic comp, but it wouldn't play well in the "real" world." So you can acknowledge the magicians with a wink and a nod, but steer clear of "in jokes" and references to technique. Having said that, we all know when we see a magic act devoid of entertainment value, we see them all the time. Entertainment value is tied in with presentation and showmanship, however it is as equally connected with the selection of the material as it is the performance of it. You can't be standing on stage, withdrawn and focused on your technique, nor can your material be uninteresting. Unless you really want to set yourself up with a challenge, try to avoid long, drawn out effects with a long card selection process or the adding up of numbers. Confusing plots and set ups should be replaced with multiple effects. It's extremely difficult to keep the audience engaged and entertained if you give the spectator the deck and wait for him to complete shuffling it. It may be better to avoid such potentially dull moments when you're designing your act.

ARTISTIC IMPRESSION/ROUTINING: This category, again, is as much about the tricks and effects as it is the performer. If you were to present three completely unrelated effects: A dove production, a book test and a sliding die box, you most likely would score very badly here - unless, of course, you created some amazing presentation that linked the three effects and made them flow. Again, relating this to movies, a good movie well tell a story, throwing out various elements that go together and maybe waiting until the very end to bring them all together into a satisfying climax. It is possible to create an act of three entirely different routines (something like the 'Trilogy of Terror' movies that featured three separate tales) but even those movie stories, though unrelated, had Terror as a common theme. Many people have pointed to my routine 'Runaround Sue' as a good example of routining. The individual effects all share a common theme, common elements, and flow together to build the story to a satisfying climax. (I'd recommend getting the DVD to study, but it would probably look like a blatant plug! *g*) There are many ways to make routine an act artistically, but try to avoid the somewhat cliched 'theme' act where you simply do a standard manipulation act but replace all of the elements with your theme item of choice. If you would like to do a linking ring routine with donuts, then build the rest of your act around that so that it will support the use of donuts logically. Do not simply add a multiplying donut routine and a jumbo donut climax and expect to be considered artistic.

ORIGINALITY: The most challenging and yet the simplest category of all. First, watch as many magic acts as you can. Look at what they do, and then eliminate those from your list of potential tricks and presentations. It's much easier to start off with limitations than a completely blank page. You might be saying: "Right, I won't do a zombie, an origami, a linking ring routine, a newspaper tear.... what WILL I do?!" For the answer, you need to look in the mirror, and if you - like most performers - have a mirror that lies to you, ask an honest friend. You may be shocked to discover that you are actually NOT Lance Burton, David Blaine or Criss Angel. You may discover that you have quite a unique view of magic and the way it should be performed - but you simply assumed it must be wrong and went with the safe flow of the magic crowd. You may discover you love a particular style of music, or movies, or dress - and that may form the impetus of creating your unique and original character. It is from that CHARACTER that your original magic will flow, once you know who you are, you will know what magic suits you, and what doesn't. This is an area we'll explore in more depth later, but in a nutshell the judges want originality not only in effects, but in presentation and personality as well.

MAGIC ATMOSPHERE: This is what separates an entertaining act from a magical one. Naturally, you need to strive to be as entertaining as possible, but it can't be just a comedy act, nor can it just be a romantic vignette, it needs to be a MAGIC ACT. We return to the movie analogies: If you see an action film, you want to feel your pulse racing and your adrenalin pumping as you watch it. If you see a romance, you want to be moved, maybe even to shed a tear in sympathy with the characters on screen. If you see a magic act, you want to feel the tingles of anticipation through your body, you want to feel excited as you see the impossible happen on stage right in front of you. Any style of magic act, properly constructed, can give you that feeling: Manipulation, the excitement of Lee Eun-Gyeol as objects dissolved into smoke at his fingertips. Comedy, the moment in Scott & Muriel's act where we realise Muriel wasn't in the stairs after all. Mentalism, any number of effects performed by Derren Brown as all logical explanation flies out the window and you conclude that it must be magic! Think about how "real magic" would look, then try to create that live on stage.

The exciting thing about creating an act for a competition is that you are also creating an original piece of magic that people will have to hire you to see. You are developing your 'USP' (Unique Selling Proposition). Spend the time creating your act. Use the competition as a short-term goal. Whether you win or lose the real payoff will come later in the 'real world'.

Part 3 is HERE


Weird

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I love weird signs and weird instructions. Here are a few of my favourite badly worded sets of instructions, followed by another weird sign.... weird:

  • On Sears hair dryer: "Do not use while sleeping."
  • On a bag of Fritos: "You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside."
  • On a bar of Dial soap: "Directions: Use like regular soap." 
  • On some Swanson frozen dinners: "Serving suggestions: Defrost." (Serving suggestion only)
  • On the bottom of the box of Tesco's Tiramisu dessert: "Do not turn upside down."
  • On Marks and Spencer Bread Pudding: "Product will be hot after heating."
  • On packaging for a Rowenta iron: "Do not iron clothes on body."
  • On Boot's Children's Cough Medicine: "Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication."
  • On Nytol Sleep Aid: "Warning: May cause drowsiness."
  • On most brands of Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only."
  • On Sainsbury's peanuts: "Warning: Contains nuts."
  • On an American Airlines packet of nuts: "Instructions: open packet, eat nuts."
  • On a child's Superman costume: "Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly".
  • On a Swedish chain saw: "Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals".
  • On a container of salt: "WARNING! High in Sodium"
  • On a blanket from Taiwan: "Not to be used as protection from a Tornado"
  • On a Taiwanese shampoo: "Used repeatedly for severe damage"
  • On a stroller: "Remove child before folding".
  • On a packet of condoms: "Do not drive whilst using this product"
  • On a bottle of bathroom cleaner: "For best results start with a clean bathtub before use"
  • On a Korean kitchen knife: "Please keep out of children"
  • On a Packet of raisins: "Why not try tossing over your favourite breakfast cereal"
  • On a curling iron: "Do not curl eye lashes, may cause serious eye injury"
  • On a helmet mounted mirror for cyclists: "Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you."
  • On a New Zealand insect spray: "This product not tested on animals."  (I suppose they tested it on humans then?) - And my favourite:
  • On a Japanese food processor: "Not to be used for the other use."  (Not the other use??!!!)

And here's a helpful little sign to finish off this weird interlude....

Restroom


The War on Terror

Since the second wave of attacks in London, Australia's experts have called for greater security measures here. Good idea I hear you say. Definitely, I reply. Here are some

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: This is the main area the experts are focusing on. After all, the bombers attacked London's underground, so obviously our City Loop is going to be their next target... Our public transport system has already advertised it's 'Safety Zones', 'Emergency Stop Buttons' on trains, and 'Station Attendants' courtesy of spokesperson Humpty Dumpty.

What more could we need to combat terrorists? My suggestion would be actual real people staffing the platforms, manning the trains, and conductors on the trams. But wait a minute... that might cost actual real money in wages, superannuation fees etc... What are we being offered instead? More security cameras!!! At last count, we have over one million cameras! How many people are actually WATCHING those cameras? Well, that's not the point, they are best utilised as recording devices so we can go back and identify the faces of the bombers before they blew up the trains.

If you had conductors they might actually notice if someone abandoned their backpack on the tram and respond accordingly, maybe even save a few lives. Hey, the presence of actual conductors on the trams might even slow down fare evasion and in turn make more money for the transport system which would enable them to pay the conductors wages!!! But that's just crazy talk!

AIRPORTS: We are told we will be getting tighter security measures at airports. Hey, the cost will be passed on to us through extra taxes on our tickets, and we will be humiliated even further at some airport checkpoints, but hey... we'll feel much safer. Maybe they'll even train staff to spot a multi-bladed metal tool going through an x-ray machine.

ID CARDS: The old favourite 'A National Identity Card' has been brought up again with most people polled saying they would certainly support it if it would stop terrorists. Will it? I guess so, just as long as the terrorists don't come up with the idea of forging them. What am I saying... sure they'll carry a bomb onto a crowded train full of commuters, sure they'll crash a plane full of innocent people into a building, but forge a 'National Identity Card'... of course not! What are they? Animals?!

It will only be a matter of time before the proponents of the card tell us that, in an attempt to counteract the forging of ID Cards, we can get chips implanted in our wrists or on our foreheads for extra security! What a Revelation! Of course, a side benefit of any form of 'National Identity Card' and several million more security cameras is that the government can certainly keep a better eye on us non-terrorists. Actually, the terrorists will operate "under the radar", the only ones being watched will be us!

RELIGION: Almost every day in the newspapers we hear the cry that the cause of terrorism and all wars is religion. Especially those "narrow-minded religions" that feel that they are the only true religion. The solution, blend all religions into one all-embracing world religion. This, of course, will be an effort to bring peace to humanity (not an attempt by one group to control all of humanity, of course not!)

What happens to those people who still want to practise freedom of religion? It's a small step from religious control to religious persecution. The argument is that, a small minority of extremists use violence to express their religious views, therefore let's just have one religion embracing all views that all people must participate in.

I guess that fits in with the world's current teachings on other matters, for example sex. A small minority of extremists use violence to express their sexual views (bashing homosexuals), therefore let's just have one sexuality embracing all styles that all people must participate in. Currently in schools, children are taught to accept all forms of sexuality and subtly encouraged to try them. (In the news here, a 12 year old having sex was prescribed the pill by counsellors at her school who promised not to tell her mother. Sex at 12 now seems acceptable by the law worldwide. Here is a story from Nova Scotia where a school approved sex maual says "a person who is 12 or 13 can consent to sexual activity")

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. The bottom line is that we must retain the freedom to speak about religion, sexuality, beliefs of any kind without fear of persecution or prosecution. If we, or anyone, tries to extend that freedom to the use of violence or impinging on the rights of others then we should face the full penalty of the law.


Better Sex Education Needed!

The show Midnight Magic, at Jupiter's Casino, has finally got some nationwide publicity, but not all publicity is good publicity...

The first story broke when one of three tiger cubs, born "accidentally" to one of the three in the show, died. The next story came when a second cub died, and the third is reportedly not doing so well and "being monitored by a vet." The problem was that the Casino did not have a permit to breed the animals. Welfare groups considered that the animals handlers were not looking after them in accordance with the permit if they allowed them to have sex. (You want to try stopping two tigers...?)

In a typical example of bureacratic over-reaction, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energies is investigating the matter "First we will deal with the housing of the animals and (possibly) take action against the Casino at the same time".

RSPCA is investiging and considering prosecuting the Casino, the State Government is considering prosecution, and the Federal Government is being questioned about their wisdom in issuing the Casino a permit in the first place.

The Casino has now promised not to use live animals in it's shows anymore (I wonder if that includes doves?) and has abandoned plans which were underway to import a lion for it's new show beginning in August.

The Queensland RSPCA had the final say:

"Let the casino stick to what it does well, which is to provide excellent gaming facilities and quality entertainment. Exotic animals should never have been part of that entertainment."