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34 entries from October 2007

The Global Warming Profits

Remember the old days of the psychics? Doris Stokes and others who would make outrageous predictions that everyone would accept as true and praise the psychics for their great abilities. The psychics became celebrities and their word was accepted as gospel. By the time the predictions were supposed to have come true, everyone had forgotten what was said anyway, so the psychics continued to prosper despite unfulfilled prophecies.

It's ridiculous really. Even the Bible says it's easy to spot a false prophet: Deuteronomy 18:22
"If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him."

So Andrew Bolt, nemesis of the false prophets of global warming, has taken another to task here. Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007 and author of 'The Weather Makers' has predicted many disasters because of global warming including an increase in hurricane activity in the Northern hemisphere. Take a look at how that prophecy has turned out.

But as history has proven time and time again, fiction is always more fun than fact.

Andrew also has a great quote in his column in this morning's Herald-Sun where he talks about the rich and famous of the global warming cause who like to give the rest of us advice without taking a drop of it themselves:

"After all, ours is the age of the pampered moralist, wagging a finger from First Class: no metal knives for Economy!"

I wish I could write like that!


Magic Fakers & Ethics

As 'Magic Fakers' has been "relaunched" in it's new format, I've been getting a variety of feedback. One interesting piece was emailed to me by "Eddie". He raises some interesting points so, with his permission, here is what he had to say. Do you agree, disagree...? Your comments will be appreciated:

This has just been an area in magic that has humored me for 20 years. Prefacing my humor let me also say I am  approaching 20 years of full time magic supporting my wife and our 6 children.

Magic has been very good to me. What has humored me and also annoyed me many times over the years is the fact that 99% of all the magicians convicted and dedicated to this ethical and moral topic carry no convictions outside their little magic kingdom. From dealers to performers it's just a lil show for the eyes of their peers.

In every other part of their life they are buying, using and endorsing knock offs, copies and look-a-likes. From clothing to food to medicine to toys to appliances to tools to EVERYTHING. Magician's don't think twice about ethics in the consumption of any product outside magic.

Take a little survey around your own home Tim and you would be amazed with a little research how many items you own that are "knock offs." But wouldn't it be plain silly to start a website listing and complaining about all the "toy" knock offs at Walmart.

There's a popular game called Jenga with wooden blocks you stack and remove. It sells for $15. Right next to it is an exact copy of the game. It sells for $3.99. Your wife sends you to the store for Jenga. You need the game for one night to entertain friends with, then you're going to take it to the thrift store. Which version are you buying Tim? Would you really buy Jenga persuaded by your convictions of their creation. I would think no.

I'm on my way to a gig and I perform Pen thru anything in all my shows. I left mine on my desk, but I will be passing by the magic shop on the way to my show. They have a knock off. It sells for $7......they have Cornelius $40.........hmmm....I have two $40 versions at home. I need this for one show - wouldn't think twice, here's my 7 bucks.

The scenarios and lists could go on forever. The fact here is - There is no real ownership. Originality and creation are born from already existing facts and at times abstract subtleties. 99% of what we say is really ours has been cultivated someplace else.

It's mostly egos that claim originality, if not for pride then for money. My vote would be for consistency. Let the magi that are whining about ethics and morals in our circles do the same when they are in need of prescription drugs costing $400 a month. "No really Mr pharmacist, I don't want that $50 knock off - does the exact same thing for me drug. We owe it to the scientists who have put their time and energies, yada, yada, yada".......I'm done ramblin here Tim. Again, this is certainly not personal. I've only heard great things about you and your work.

Eddie
P.S. As a side Tim, All this is coming from a guy who put out a handful of creations 12-15 years ago. Two of those items were copied and marketed. One by a magic shop in Chicago and the other by two national dealers. I have learned to practice what I preach.

Movies

Magicians

I finally got to see the British comedy film 'Magicians' last night on DVD. This is DEFINITELY worth tracking down even if you have to (like I did) visit a few different video stores to find a copy. Better still, buy one if you can find a store that sells it!

This is the tale of two magicians who begin as partners but then split up and become bitter rivals (yes, I know it sounds like two other recent magic films, but believe me this is the "anti-Prestige").

Created and directed by Andrew O'Connor, once 'Young Magician of the Year' at The Magic Circle, this film is so thick with "in-jokes" and magician-references you may mistake it for a documentary. Many of you will probably recognise the characters as people from your own local magic club plus, if you look carefully, you'll spot a heap of real magicians doing cameos in the movie. (Did you pick Ali Bongo in his full 'Shriek of Araby' costume?)

I thoroughly recommend 'Magicians' to all magicians. Will lay people enjoy it as much? Hard to say. I think they'll just say it's silly and surely adults "don't really behave like that..." Yes, they do, and Andrew O'Connor has captured it all on film!

I saw two other movies over the last few says as well. Both at the other end of the spectrum but both bring up interesting issues of censorship. Now 'Magicians' was rated M because the 'f-word' is dropped quite a few times and there is a bare bottom. 'Saw IV' was rated MA. Not only does it feature swearing and full frontal male nudity (though he is dead at the time), but it features totally gratuitous, exploitative violence. The other film 'Eastern Promises', also features swearing and full frontal male nudity but the violence is, though bloody, not gratuitous. (Well, not as gratuitous as 'Saw IV'). 'Eastern Promises' is rated R. (Ah, but it does have a sex scene... maybe that's the difference).

Personally, I think 'Saw IV' should be rated R as well, but that wouldn't be good for it's target audience... most wouldn't be allowed to go see it! So somehow, it has managed to get a more profitable MA rating.

Saw4movieposter_000'Saw IV' is pretty much "more of the same". The story is confusing, even if you've already seen the previous three films - but if you haven't then don't see 'Saw IV'. The story is clever though, perhaps too clever, because most people will leave the theatre more confused than they did at the end of the last Saw movie. It does give you a good look into the background of Jigsaw, but it asks many more questions than it answers. Also, the characters aren't very well defined so you may find, as I did, you're asking... "Who is that guy again?" Add to that the fact that some characters from the previous movies make brief appearances without any introductions so, unless you recognise them, it won't be until you read this that you'll understand exactly what it was that you just watched. And maybe that's not good moviemaking.

As far as the violence goes they continue to come up with new and insidious ways in which to kill and torture people and, if that's your cup of tea then you'll enjoy this. I find it's really desensitising people to reality and I think that's beginning to reflect in the headlines (gangs bashing people for the fun of it, people filming themselves beating others up, this morning the case of a mother who pulled her baby's fingernails out...).

Easternpromiseszu6'Eastern Promises' is the latests film from David Cronenberg who brought us the disturbing but powerful 'A History of Violence' in 2005. He again teams up with the amazing Viggo Mortensen to tell a tale of the Russian mafia in London. It's a very dark and quite profound piece of story telling that will really leave it's ark on you. It gives you a lot of shocks and jolts (especially the fight scene in the Turkish bath) but you really get to know the characters and their situations and feel for them, concerned for what's going to happen next.

It's a modern day tale of gangsters and something you could imagine is going on right now in your own home town. Worth a look, but go prepared!

Also, 'Day Watch' is finally screening in Melbourne but only in two or three cinemas! I haven't had a chance to see it yet but, if it's still on when we get back from Hong Kong I'll be over there to see it immediately! I even bought 'Night Watch' on DVD and viewed it again the other night to prepare myself for the sequel. Absolutely astonishing film making... and they say 'Day Watch' is even more visual. Can't wait!


Ethics - A response from Brendan Croft

I’ve watched this discussion from the start and had to stop myself from jumping in boots and all at the beginning, now however I’d like to try address Tim’s question with my own personal opinions.

One of the only good points from that ridiculous Café thread was that we first need to define Ethics. There is the opinion that ethics are different between individuals and that we all vary, there is also the thought that ethics are defined by a group or culture, which would infer that it doesn’t differ between all individuals. Unfortunately both are true, unfortunate as far as making this discussion easier. For those who haven’t been curious enough to visit dictionary.com

Ethics

1. (used with a singular or plural verb) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture. 

2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics. 

3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence. 

4. (usually used with a singular verb) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.

So with the actual dictionary definition doing nothing but muddying the waters, I’m going to put forward my own definition for the sake of the ethics in this magic discussion and what I actually think.

Ethics

An individuals’ system of moral principles that define their behaviour and attitudes, these principles are shaped by and contribute to the rules of conduct recognized in respect to particular classes of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics; Magic ethics. An individual’s ethics will be shaped by the culture/environment they are raised in and throughout life, they will affect the types of groups and people an individual relates to and associates with.

With recognition that ethics are dependant on the individual, it becomes a question of what “ethical standards” could be agreed upon within the magic community, if any. I’ll ignore the fact that it is really a moot point due to non magicians having essentially unlimited access to the same information we do, and probably a completely different system of ethics, and not all magicians will play nice anyway.

So to the questions, (you may want the original blog post in another window).

DVDs

1)      Hmm, I’m still not decided, DVDs marked NOT FOR RENTAL shouldn’t be, and perhaps libraries should seek permission from the author or copyright holder before including others. The loss of magic club libraries, even theoretically doesn’t sit well with me.

2)      Yes – if it is their trick (therein lies another thorny issue)

Tricks

1)      I buy the better one, there is nothing stopping the originators from getting ideas from those who rip them off and improving their product. Perhaps if we saw more Version 2 products people wouldn’t buy the better rip off.

2)      Not much choice really unless we want to let items fade away because of manufacturing decisions.

Routines

1)      Stand, Clap and Cheer. Ideally take nothing without researching it a little, ideally take concepts and inspiration. Definitely don’t take anything defined by the other performer’s personality.

2)      Assume nothing.

3)      See 2) and If I assume they wrote it why would ask where it came from.

4)      Of course, it’s honest and hopefully they’ll take the compliment regardless of whether they give permission or not.

5)      Yep

6)      Hmm, depends on your respective performance arenas perhaps. Being original means doing what you do regardless of others so keep going.

7)      Sure, if I know it well enough, you said generic trick, purchased stuff covers to large a variety to cover but I assume you meant the same as generic.

8)      Once again yes – if it fits my personality, audience trends are constantly being affected by other performers, especially big names, and we need to please the client in the end. You’d probably just lose the gig to someone who did include it and not the one who made it famous in the first place. Generic effects!

Promotional Claims

1)      To  6)   I think lying in promotional claims is just wrong, I know Bish for one disagrees with this, but I just don’t think it is “right”.

Fees

1)      That’s a dangerous game to play.

2)      I’ve never used an entertainment agent but I do work for another agent, I’d say if they are rare bookers, add it on top, as for regular bookers, most other things are discounted for larger quantities.

3)      No, it shows a lack of respect for the client and it’s another dangerous game (business wise) regards getting caught.

4)      Better than them getting nothing? But see 3)

5)      No

6)      Just don’t do it, hmmm, lying risks you getting caught, but it could also be less insulting to the client.

7)      “Once in a lifetime” is a big event, tell the client and try help with a replacement. If the clients demands you perform and it really is once in a lifetime material, drop the gig.

Agents – as mentioned I work for an agent for another job I have and it is surprisingly similar, a good agent relationship requires both parties to look after the other.

1)      You held the date for the agent, therefore the agent gets it.

2)      Yes, if they book you via the agent you pay commission

3)      This should be covered in your contract with the agent, the agent fights for yes, you fight for no, one of those things.

4)      Sadly that is the way the world seems to work, ask the IOC, if you can survive without doing that then fine, but it seems to be becoming the accepted norm, and a pseudo requirement.

Bad Agents

1)      Yes, or they need to do some sucking up

Other Performers

1)      No

2)      The latter, they might like it.

3)      No

4)      Yes, but see FEES 3) and 4)

5)      No

Teaching Magic

1)      Egad, what a question, so many choices, but so easy to piss someone off, simple card tricks are usually a safe option. I have a favourite for kids but that’s another essay.


SCAMTASTIC!

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SCAMTASTIC is the new show from 'Australia's Honest Con Man' Nicholas Johnson. If you'd like to take your friends for a ride, to Fitzroy, for a great night of magic, comedy and education against scams and cons, take a look at the Scamtastic website and book your tickets now! (It's only a small venue, so this show wil probably sell out - don't miss out!)

3 Shows only - Nov 27, 28, 29 at Cape Live, Brunswick St, Fitzroy.

All tickets a scamtastically low $10!


Copperfield under a cloud after FBI raid and rape investigation

You might remember this news article two years ago:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
HOLLYWOOD - Acclaimed illusionist David Copperfield is hoping to impregnate a female participant on stage without touching her, for his latest trick.

The magician, who was once engaged to supermodel Claudia Schiffer, promises sex will not be involved, but refused to elaborate on the controversial plans.

He tells German magazine Galore, "There is a great deal of new territory to conquer. In my next show I'm going to make a girl pregnant on stage.

"Naturally it will be without sex. Everyone will be happy about it, but I'm not telling you any more."

Well hindsight is a wonderful thing and I wonder if Copperfield regrets coming up with that little idea. The latest news about the FBI raid on his Las Vegas warehouse, where they confiscated DVD gear, hard drives and $2m in cash, is that it is part of an investigation about claims by a woman that the magician raped her in the Bahamas.
Copperfield's attorney categorically denied the charges and said: "Mr. Copperfield's reputation precedes him as an impeccable gentleman."

Well, if things go pear-shaped and Copperfield is arrested, good luck keeping him in prison! Even Alcatraz can't hold him!