Even Bad Magic is Magical

For the first time ever, a magician won America’s big summer talent show; America’s Got Talent.

SC_003Judge Howard Stern has been campaigning for more than three years on his morning Sirius Satellite radio show for America to vote more for variety acts than singers. Like me, he is disturbed that a gigantic talent show featuring lots of acts in a wide range of talents, seems to still favor the singers. There are so many singing talent competitions on TV these days, he really wants a non singer to win the “anything goes” show he works for.  Stern continuously makes the reference that singers have it easy by comparison.  They have an obviously great voice,  and they come on stage sing somebody else’s words. They evoke emotion, and people fall in love with them.

Tonight I watched magician Mat Franco smile and impress the judges and audience with close up magic.  By the end of the episode, he received the most votes,  and won the million dollar prize. Everyone was happy… except maybe the other magicians.

magicI was seriously into magic in my teens for 5 or 6 years. It was a great hobby for me, shared with my best friend at the time. My interest faded away as I got a job and started my adult life, but he continued and made it his career. I’ve maintained my love for magic through my life, and watch it whenever I can, both live and on the Internet or TV.

It’s hard for me to know how magic feels to the average person with less exposure. It was normal for me to understand what magic is, and feel for the magician more than the spectator. As a novice magician, I see it differently and although I will admit to not knowing how a lot of amazing stage magic is done, I still understand the basic concept.

Matt is a good example of a good performer. He has a nice smile that doesn’t scare the audience. Many magicians base their acts on an edgier performance, using flame and danger. Matt is more an everyday performer, opting to not wear a costume or flashy assistants. He’s more like you and me, and his magic seems more real because of it. He’s likable, and he makes us want to enjoy the show.

His choice of trick for the first finale performance was the cups and balls. As I noted above, I’m not an expert on how the general public perceives magic on TV.  Having said that, I’m still fairly confident that a great percentage of Americans and the world have not only seen this trick done before, but may even know how it’s done. Penn and Teller have performed their version of the cups and balls on TV numerous times. They use clear cups, so you can see how it’s done. I’ve seen them perform this on multiple shows many times.

If anyone you know ever bought you a magic kit at any time in your life, it would have included a deck of cards,  red sponge balls, a fake thumb,  and the cups and balls. You can pick up a set for $1 at the dollar store.

As a former magician myself, watching a new fellow prestidigitator perform their version of the trick is like watching your favourite band play their take on a famous Beatles tune. It’s familiar, but different every time and even though you know the tune, the creativity in making it their own is entertaining. Every magician has their own take on the cups and balls. I’ve seen some amazing interpretations. I’m biased, but my high school buddy Jay Sankey had one of the coolest versions I’ve seen.

It surprised me to see Matt’s version of the cups and balls was not very good. I would say almost horrid. He performed a very basic unimaginative routine, pretty much like the stock patter listed in every magic book you could find. He did it poorly, attempting to distract his skill level with a complex rhyming poem about the judges and America’s Got Talent.

Even if the premise of the trick wasn’t known by many before he started, his moves and loads were bordering on horrid. It was quite possibly the worst cups and balls routine I’ve ever seen. In the span of my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot. Hundreds of times.  He was worse than 13 year old Allen Berman, who performed it at his best friends Bar mitzvah, and he was worse than Robby the clown at the Acton fall fair, that I saw 5 years ago. If you didn’t know how the cups and balls was performed before Mat’s routine – you did after he was done. There was nothing spectacular about it. Nothing worthy of a million dollars.

Still, Matt impressed the crowd and some people even stood up to clap. To be fair, they already fallen in love with him based on numerous previous appearances. This was the final, and he’d impressed and baffled everyone before. Most people had already made up their minds which one of the final six they were going to vote for. In an odd way, the true miracle of Mat’s magic was that he got everyone to love him with style and performance rather than actual magic skill.

SC_002His second effect of the evening impressed me more. Like the cups and balls, his second trick was also a common store bought routine. By coincidence it was a trick I loved, and I’ve been showing my friends the same trick since I was 16.I actually remember the very first time I saw it, and bought it. It’s called The $100 Card Trick.

In this case however, the trick was personalized, and Mat’s interpretation was much more his own.  He took one of the most impressive card tricks, and made it big.  He combined the close up aspect of a card trick, with the big stage, and multiple people. he added audience members holding gigantic playing cards, and involved two judges in the effect.   It worked well for the close up judges and the big TV audience.  I loved it. 

I’m not actually 10% certain, but I think he made a vital counting mistake on this trick too, but covered it up well.

spellzMatt’s magic is a testament to how much people love magic and to be fooled. I underestimated America’s love for magic. Since I was young, I’ve watched all the TV magic I could find. I sat through every episode of Kreskin and watched all the Doug Henning specials.  Later, I caught every David Copperfield and David Blaine show as well as others. If it had magic in it, I was watching it, including series shows from Canada and the UK. My buddy Jay that I mentioned earlier even hosted his own children’s magic series (Spellz).  Magic has always been a part of my life, and I suppose I assumed it had been for others too.

What I am learning however is the opposite. Most Americans don’t see magic. They’re not exposed to it in their day to day lives, and may only witness a single effect once a year or less. They see a trick on America’s Got Talent each summer for 90 seconds. The average Joe citizen may have never seen a good card trick.  As hard as it is for me to believe, much of the audience may never have seen the cups and balls. It’s new magic.

Magic is awesome. It turns a frown into a smile more globally than a joke or a song, and follows up with the bonus emotion of wonderment and confusion, and if done well, respect.

The thing is, bad magic does too, at least when well performed.

Not everyone in the audience takes pleasure in ruining a trick by figuring it out, or ruin the mood by telling you they’ve figured it out. Some people do feel this need of course, and they’re found on YouTube posting in the comments about how everything is done. YouTube and the Internet are filled with spoilers who crave that, but most people are happy to have been fooled, and smile. In this way, magic can appeal to everyone for different reasons, but they’re still finding joy, either as a happy participant, or a bragging dickhead.

I congratulate Matt. He’s done well. He’s won a competition where many have tried and failed. We wasn’t the best, but he had a  broad appeal, and perhaps better than anyone is probably showing the world that magic is a good hobby choice. An art you can learn and be good at, or at least good enough at. His profile pieces show his growth, and compared to learning how to master an instrument or other skill, magic has everyday appeal and wonder. When you watch a guy doing acrobatics you can be impressed by his skill, but you don’t feel the emotion. Magic creates a different kind of awe, and you can perform it with a salt shaker at the dinner table.

I suspect many people will look at magic as a hobby this year.

The first trick they’ll learn is the cups and balls.

Vote to go to heaven

America’s Got Talent

I was watching Nick Cannon on AGT,  when he admitted a comment, and instantly realized, or else a producer did and yelled at in his earpiece.  I think Nick Cannon just said; if you want to go to heaven, vote for these guys. I watched the facial expressions he made, with my imagination filling in the voice in his earpiece.

I could imagine phones ringing everywhere.  Back stage going crazy over this new juicy news byte. He just told everyone, if you want to go to heaven, vote for these guys. Everyone knew it was bad, instantly. It could be blown up huge if anybody wrote it to make us care.

In my head, the office caught on fire, and decided to pretend everything is normal.

I often imagine life, way harder than it is.

It’s possible nobody thought twice about it but me.

I am eager to see if they come back positive and nobody noticed.

Your heaven deciding vote is not AGT.

Unpause

I helped make a better Santa today.

Warning. These writings are often streams of consciousness, and it is entirely possible I won’t get to describing how that title is relevant before the mood passes and I stop, almost always in the middle. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.

At least for now, if I were to declare a new years resolution, it would be to finish a piece, re-read it, edit it, and do something with it. Today, I don’t even tell people about the blog. I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I don’t want to be famous, I just want a few fans.

I was going to mention I’d be perfect for Jimmy Kimmel to interview, but then realized that could be interpreted that if I were on his show, very few people would know anyway. I honestly love Jimmy Kimmel and have since the first time I say a good episode of the Man Show.

I watch his show on PVR every day, and have the highest respect for his team of editors. I am shocked he didn’t get an award for special effects. Some of the work on that show tops Forrest Gump.

I can’t remember if … wow. I drew a blank on the Mexican’s name, and know that If I refer to him as the Mexican, that my previously humerous blog may be tainted by my supposed racism.

If I remember his name, and I will, I’ll edit the blog.

or not. I’m not proud of the usage, but I won’t blame it on being “in a writing mood”. I really just drew a blank. I can see his car, and his sketches. I’m having fun trying to figure him out. He seems very smart and in on the joke at times, and other times, just funny for the character.

I don’t trust his reality fully. I’m beginning to trust Uncle Frank’s reality, and am bordering on it being sad. My father would have a hard time inflating a soccor ball, and it’s not pretty.

It’s part of the stress that brings me to my writing moods on a weekday.

Not the whole reason.

I’m not sure why I rambled about Jimmy Kimmel in the middle of a blog that was supposed to be about something else. I guess I just got a tinge of lottery fever. The idea that my entry in the spinning barrel of Kimmel mentions every day. They may have a guy who looks into it.

I would.

In fact, I do. Google tells me every single mention of Frogstar that has newly appeared. I love it.

My fan-ship is sincere of Kimmel. He and (another comedy fake news show) are my two daily sources for social mockery, government updates and put downs, and a demographic style of humour I just seem to like.

And respect. I really can’t believe nobody is talking about how amazing a lot of the effects are on your show…. err.. that show. Sorry… imagined Jimmy reading this ass-kiss on air. Whoops. Now I’ve made them fine him $500,000… or maybe $12,000,000 because it was Monday.

(feel free to edit that to your appropriate air date)

P.S. You’re looking better in the suits. Not sure if it’s you, or the suits (grin)

I do not LOL unless I mean it. I respect the LOL.

(I’m not actually a LOL type person, but I’d like to change the world when you interview me. I want LOL to mean you laughed! I want to know when I make people laugh.

LOL means smile today. Back when I was a kid, LOL meant you laughed.

Well, maybe not actually. I have no idea if the first person to use it was laughing. I’d like to think so, and it’s better to sell the point if it seems sincere.

I chat a fair amount. As a BLOG reader, you can chat with me via any of the instant messenger protocols or via my WebcamXP chat link. I’m not sure how I feel aboot the world knowing I have webcams on my 24/7 except sometimes.

That’s more of the famous, than the few fans. The webcam has the potential to be creepy or worse, but so far it’s just provided enjoyment. People chat me from all places and all walks of life. There isn’t racism, or fear, or lack of confidence. You’re not jugded right away. You have the chance to be interesting before I’ve ruled you out.

That was missing in society. The willpower to wait and see if incompatibility is superficial. We don’t think about it the same way as compatibility. We can sense a certain level of compatibility within 3 minutes. Speed dating doesn’t help us fine our best match, nearly as much as it allows us to rule people out, very quickly. We know who we don’t like a lot faster.

But what if we ignore that more often. I’m sure some good people do. I see evidence that the majority is in the negative. We do it. It’s what racism is based on. Pre judging based on anything.

I understand some of it we’ll call obvious and file under the category of “things that go without saying” which should link to my theory on that. I’m just not sure if I’ve written it yet. It’s an oldie circling my head.

So some people you rule out faster than others. It may be simply a visual or physical issue, unless guilt forces you to look deeper. I would guess that some people are matched with less attractive people, because at first site, they were mature enough to know there are more important things to a good match, but also possibly a tinge of guilt that you don’t want to feel shallow, but MAN, if I could get a better looking woman, I would.

That may be what cheating is all about. It has never been an emotion of mine, but that may very well be a lie. I hate lies, so I try my best to never do it, or at least if I do, then admit it pretty quickly.

Secrets bug me. I only have one that I keep, and will lie about, even if there is no particular reason. I try to not let it effect who I am, and how I live my life. It does.

To be honest, I’m not 100% sure my peers don’t already know, and just keep it as my secret because that is what a good friend might do.

I’ve had a few.

I’m not gay. My secret just fits the profile.

Every so often I seem to have to mention that, partially because of the Howard Stern Show. I’ll be honest. The thought of kissing Howard’s Ass similar to what I did above with Jimmy Kimmel did not come to me till after I wrote his name. The fact is, I am a Sirius Radio subscriber and have been for some time. Before that, I downloaded his show daily from a secret online source.

In fact, that is my secret. You can stop speculating now.

I listen to Howard Live almost every single day. I have a long history of morning radio starting with Pete and Geetes, Scruff and Geetes, Scruiff and Eddy, Scruff and Gene, and Jesse and Gene.

Howard Stern is the best of the all, usually. He knows. He can’t please everybody, unless they just worship him blindly. They’re called the superfans or whack pack. I’m just a fan. I’ve never been a “long time listener, first time caller” but I wished I was everytime some doofis calls from Canada.

Do me a favor Canadians… Say you’re from Quebec… or some American State.

Americans will hate that Statement, but any fan of Stern should consider it tame.

There are two things that… three things about Stern.

He is the greatest interviewer of all time, and I believe, that if he tried, he could do just that for the rest of his life. I’d be he talked to Barbara about it.

I bet Stern gets and evening interview show on TV some day… and he takes out very little, but doesn’t scare bigger stars. He’ll cool the sex talk, and still be excellent.

Some would say it’s the sex questions that make the interview.

Some, maybe. Starts don’t mind squirming if they don’t look like idiots for not wanting to answer, and they don’t.

What were the other two?

He has created a community, unlike any other show.
he doesn’t always refer to it, because nobody copies it so well.

all tv people banter now. dj partner teams do less bits and more chatter, but nobody really showed you a life of characters like Stern. He is a sitcom at times, as much as any other on TV.

Sam Simon wrote a sitcom for the show as a project. It was OK. It wasn’t old time radio compelling. I liked the idea, and I understand it was fan service, but it wasn’t sit down Thursday and listen quality. The idea however, occurred to me that that might have been the front. Th facade. Same Simon was actually hired, to write the Howard Stern show. I have always had the utmost respect for the quality of at least half the bits on the show, but I give full points to the soap opera – or sitcom if we use the same term, that is between the bits. The part that hooks us, without realizing.

If you ask 10 people in different demographics what they like best about Stern, I would guess most will have a solid answer. There will one thing they mention as a response. I have no way of knowing, but I would guess many would mention the bits, the songs, the phone calls, Fred, Robin, Artie or whatever. I imagine a much to small percentage list; the show. The characters and the story line. I want to believe Sal is real, and Richard is real. I believed Benji was. I believe Howard picks real people, but I also know they’re trying to hard to be freaks.

I would respect if I found out it was scripted. I respect it live or directed too

I would imagine the super fans will be split. They seem to enjoy being split.

The biggest fans are never happy. Its weird. They’re less forgiving of a man who has many styles, well played within one man, intentionally hated by many.

A not so pretty, but not to ugly to have a model wife, admitted crazy man with issues bigger than mine… and a lot just like mine.

If I find out Howard Stern Radio Show is as real as Larry Saunders and people smarter than me have known that all along.

The ignorant believe that writers are handing jokes. I’m still not sure what Artie does as a writer… or Benji. If they make Howard look good live, I’m not surprised they’re exact job is vague.

I really didn’t notice a style change in who Howard is when Artie wasn’t there.

Maybe he’s just the male actor. The community needs a male demographic that isn’t Howard or Robin, and Fred is just like an actual sound guy now, only part of the show when the argument is planned. Some are more obvious than not.

I don’t want to deceive. I still believe the Howard Stern Characters are real; people in real situations, and that most of the stories are true.

My World Philosophy of course is all about stories, so I don’t care if the stories are not all personal. I know celebrities but Stories. Kramer taught me that a few years ago.

Before anybody used racism as a weapon to destroy. Back then maybe it was commies, but for a different reason. I’m not sure we’ll calling that fear racism. Maybe they have a different word for it.

There was a third Stern thing. I forget it now. I am near my end. Or my first end anyway.

If this is your first time reading an evening’s rant by me, I’d like you to know they’re not all this random. This is the blog for a special mood.

Thoughts transcribed.

For a transcript of this blog, please look up transcript.

I will now min i dream, and eventually panic that this blog is actually read by anyone related to either show. By admiration for both is sincere, but I have never seen this kind of fame as being positive on your shows. I’d never know whether I was good famous, or Keven Famous.

William Hung famous is more broad appeal unless you watch Kimmel every day.

End of Part 1.
Saved to the Internet for a change. Usually these ones don’t get to be public.

Not that you should feel special. Like I said, it’s 2007. I’m trying new things.

Fun Bonus Fact: Cigarette sales go WAY DOWN in January and are normal again by March.

I learned that on a site called Gullible.com and therefore do not take any credit in case it’s just a lie. I’m not always good at spotting them.

I just bought some Nigerian land. What do you think?

I need to admit, the use of aboot was a cheap laugh, not a funny coincidence error. Americans seem to like that one.

Just before sleep, I remembered: Giamo.