Monday, February 27, 2006

Mondo Magic Returns, But Not In USA

Me Luv Magic Long Time

It is not fun to be working when you’re at the beach. Most people there are either swimming, strolling, playing beach volleyball, getting a tan or chilling out. As one of a handful of journalists, our assignment was to follow the Mondo Magic film crew and see magicians Chris Korn and J.B. Benn go up to unsuspecting beachgoers and make believers out of them.

We met up with Korn, Benn and the film crew around noon at Silosa Beach on Sentosa Island, Singapore.

Korn goateed and lanky, dressed the part in a white T-shirt and shorts, sporting a visor cap. Benn, who is about a head shorter and beefier than Korn, was in T-shirt and jeans. My suspicions were that Benn, whose dark brown eyes held secrets beyond my experience, was mostly quiet and a tad introverted unlike his partner who was just the opposite. It was a good fit and their differing personalities matched their talents although they were both in the same field.

“Benn’s style is slightly more intense and it shows with the tricks he does,” said Korn.

Indeed, Benn looks more focused when he is performing his magic and he can mysteriously bend coins without touching them or stick three rings together with no way of pulling them apart. Korn on the other hand, is easy going and makes people laugh.

It was Korn who combed the beach mostly and wowed the crowd with his sleight of hand, card and coin tricks. He met with some difficulty though with some of the card tricks mainly because of the humidity, which made the cards damp and rather slippery.

One trick in particular, where Korn asked a bikini-clad sunbather to pick a card, then place it back in the deck and he would shuffle it and send the entire deck flying in the air while attempting to catch the card with his toes, just proved too trying.

Korn gave up after three attempts. But he made it up by drawing the card from his mouth instead.

These are new-age magicians, who do not need sexy assistants, truckloads of props or even a stage to perform their tricks. As Benn explained, they can use anything around them for their tricks.

“What I love about the magic we do is that it is organic; I could have nothing with me, absolutely nothing. I can show up at somebody’s house and just borrow a cup and just do it. People really freak out when it’s with their own stuff.

“If I bring my own cup, somehow ... even though it’s impossible they will still try and think, ‘Well, it’s his own cup that he brought’. But if I went into your kitchen and took a big coffee mug and said stare at the coffee cup and then lifted it and a grapefruit appeared underneath it ... people go nuts! Some people run out of their houses,” said Benn with a smile.

Benn, a New Yorker, was already a professional magician at the age of 15. Like Korn, he did not receive any formal training. Both men honed their craft under apprenticeships.

Benn revealed that he trained under a famous “one-armed magician from Argentina” while Korn, who was born and raised in St Louis, Missouri, learned from a local magician, John Mendoza.

Both, however, already knew of each other before they started the show.

Benn explained: “We met through a mutual friend of ours who is The Librarian of The Magic Castle, an exclusive club in Los Angeles where magicians meet and perform. The Librarian, who is in charge of all these ancient books and manuscripts, put us together and that’s how we met.”

Performing in front of a camera is not the same as performing for a crowd as the camera takes centre stage for these magicians. Otherwise, the audience would miss what they are doing.

“When the shoot is on I have to be very aware of the camera’s position. So I have to work with the camera as though it’s another person. That’s part of the challenge. I have to communicate with the audience, to make them feel they are part of the act. If I ignore them then it’s like watching a documentary.

“There are two different styles so you have to try and really bring the camera in and sometimes bring the tricks right to the camera,” said Benn.

Cameras, though, are not as challenging as facing a cynical audience as the duo often do. But these magicians welcome a challenge and both are confident of turning the tables on the unbelievers. “It makes it more fun sometimes,” said Benn.

“Some people who are cynical ... that behaviour comes from something they’ve seen in the past. No one is born a cynic and I know that I can devastate a cynic with what I do.

“Sometimes it’s more fun because they think they’ve seen it all and the next thing you know ... when magic defies the laws of physics ... when that happens, cynics start to shake a little bit.”

Added Korn: “Some take longer to break than others. And for some it’s a certain type of magic that pushes them over ... it might be something more mind reading than say something appearing or disappearing. They need something deeper to really push them over the edge.

“The fun in performing is figuring out what their personalities are. But there might be five or six in the group, so your magic changes as you’re performing to pull them in so you can completely win over the crowd.”

Another aspect that favours these magicians is that they never run out of tricks and are able to keep it fresh for Mondo Magic viewers episode after episode.

“It’s brainstorming. It’s just like a scientist who comes up with a way of ... something he’s working on. Magicians are scientists in a way. Magicians sit around and think and think and experiment. One of the fun things about magic for me is to be creative and think of new ideas consistently,” said Korn.

Mondo Magic Singapore airs over AXN (Astro channel 17) on Tuesdays at 10pm, with repeats on Wednesdays (2am, 3pm) and Sundays (10.30am, 8pm).



Sopranos Get Rubbed Out

According to eCentral, the "Sopranos" will finally end its run next year.

HBO's multiple-Emmy-winning hit The Sopranos will be rubbed out next year, its creator David Chase said. Chase told The New York Times that he did not rule out a movie version if he or someone else could come up with a story that was "really good, concised, contained."

The show, which began in 1999, begins its latest season in March with a 12-episode run. A final batch of eight episodes will air from January 2007, an Associated Press report said.

Well, after waiting years between "seasons," and all the lackluster writing lately, I say, "Who gives a flying fuck?"


Sunday, February 26, 2006

My Hunting Trip


Thursday, February 23, 2006

How to Keep a Happy Marriage

As a society, we are not ready for this. Not even close. But someone was man enough to stand up for what he believed in and put together a marriage contract that is now being crucified by the media, even The Smoking Gun.

From the source:

Repulsive "Wifely Expectations" pact emerges in Iowa kidnap case

FEBRUARY 17--This country, as you know, is filled with the deranged. And then there's Travis Frey, a 33-year-old Iowa man who is facing charges that he tried to kidnap his own wife (not to mention a separate child pornography rap). Frey, prosecutors contend, apparently is a rather demanding guy. In fact, he actually drew up a bizarre four-page marriage document--a "Contract of Wifely Expectations"--that sought to establish guidelines for his spouse in terms of hygiene, clothing, and sexual activities. In return for fulfilling certain requirements, Frey (pictured right) offered "Good Behavior Days," or GBDs. Each GBD, Frey wrote, could be redeemed by his wife to "get out of doing the things" he requested daily. A copy of the proposed contract, which Frey's wife never signed and later provided to cops, can be found below. While we normally point out the highlights of most documents, there are so many in this demented, and very graphic, contract, we really can't do it justice. So set aside ten minutes--and prepare to be repulsed. (4 pages)





Barring the charges, what's really wrong with this contract? I think it's great! Click on each image to enlarge and enjoy.


Man Coughs Up Nail After 35 Years

In 1970, a bizarre gardening accident embedded a small nail deep inside Guy "Bud" Hart's body. More than 35 years later, the nail made an unexpected return, much to Hart's surprise.

The Placerville man was stunned earlier this month when a coughing fit expelled the inch-long sliver of metal, completing its decades-long trek inside the 84-year-old's body.

"I didn't think something like that could happen," Hart said.

The story of Hart and his unexpected passenger began in Minnesota back in 1970. While mowing grass one day, Hart felt a slight pain in his throat and saw a small trickle of blood.

"It was like a bee sting," Hart said. "But I didn't think much of it."

Hart wasn't overly alarmed, but just hours later, the discomfort began.

"The next day, when I coughed, it was like I had a hot knife in there, cutting me," Hart said.

His family rushing him to the hospital with a 105-degree temperature. There, doctors found the culprit, a small nail that had dropped down inside Hart's body cavity and nestled inside his ribcage.

Doses of penicillin helped Hart heal, but since removing the metal would require major surgery and doctors suspected the nail would seal itself off in Hart's body, the foreign object was forgotten for years.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Hart said.

Years later, the nail turned up again on a doctor's x-ray, but again, the unobtrusive item was left alone.

Then, three weeks ago, an internal camera captured an image of the nail during a routine doctor's office visit. But it wasn't in Hart's ribcage area as he'd always thought -- the object was actually in Hart's lung. As Hart and his doctors made plans to remove the nail once and for all, natural physiology took over.

Hart was in the bathroom, brushing his teeth last week when the 35-year partnership finally came to an end.

"I'd been having this tickle in my throat," Hart said. "Pretty soon, I started coughing. And it plopped right out."

Since the pair were separated, Hart's been feeling fine and doctors have no reason to think the nail had any lasting impact on his health.

Hart keeps the nail in a small plastic bag but doesn't have any long-term plans about what to do with the strange artifact.

"Sell it to the Smithsonian Institute?" Hart laughed. "No, I never gave it much thought."



Monday, February 20, 2006

The State of Magic Today, Part 2

This video sadly sums it all up, doesn't it?


Thursday, February 16, 2006

The State of Magic Today

This photo sadly sums it all up, doesn't it?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Winter Cleaning!

Check out the updated blogroll. There are some new blogs worth checking out.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy VD!


Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney Shoots Lawyer with Shotgun

TOTH to Xeni Jardin:

Harry Whittington, 78, was alert and doing fine after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong. (...) The vice president's office did not disclose the accident until nearly 24 hours after it happened.


So this is bad why???





Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Illusionist

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - An old-fashioned entertainment set in 1900 Vienna, "The Illusionist" features a standout performance by Edward Norton as the magician Eisenheim, who may or may not have supernatural powers.

Outstanding production values and mysterious subject matter give the film a surprisingly opulent feel for an independent Sundance entry, which could work to its advantage in some mainstream markets.

Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser and written and directed by Neil Burger ("Interview With the Assassin"), "The Illusionist" is like a dreamscape existing between sleep and consciousness, the old world and the new. It's no accident that the story, with an undercurrent of inexplicable psychic phenomenon, takes place in Freud's Vienna.

In a prologue we see the young Eisenheim (Aaron Johnson), the son of a carpenter, having a chance encounter with a traveling magician and finding his calling. As a young and novice practitioner, he attracts the attention of the lovely Sophie, scion of an aristocratic family. Their bond is indeed one of those magical things that cannot be explained. Then, when her family forcefully separates them, Eisenheim travels the world learning his trade.

Years later he is back in Vienna and the talk of the town. Sporting a distinguished goatee and displaying a great inner stillness, Eisenheim commands the grand stage. There always has been an undercurrent of mystery about Norton, so he was an excellent choice for the role, and after a relatively low profile for the past few years, he reminds you what a powerful performer he is.

One evening a beautiful woman volunteers for a trick on stage and Eisenheim is stricken: it's Sophie (Jessica Biel) all grown up. Unfortunately, she is now the mistress of the power-hungry Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Consequently, Eisenheim falls on the wrong side of the law, enforced by chief inspector Uhl. As the inspector, Paul Giamatti is never really sinister but with an accent and hat he is able to convey a darker side to go with his innate likability. As Eisenheim violates the laws of the land, and perhaps the laws of nature, the story is told through the inspector's sometimes incredulous and misleading eyes.

Sophie and Eisenheim consummate their relationship, and in a fit of jealous rage the Prince slays her -- or does he? This turns out to be the central mystery of the film, which tests whether Eisenheim is a mere illusionist or possessor of some secret power. Sharp audience members may figure out the answer long before the ending, which somewhat diminishes the fun of the film.

Still, with Ricky Jay as the magic adviser the stunts themselves -- an orange tree that blossoms onstage, a sword that stands upright in the ground, spirits from the dead stalking the theater -- are performed authentically as they would have been done at the turn of the last century. Burger purposely used little CGI for the magic and tries to follow a trick from beginning to end without cutting away, so the illusions can be experienced as they would have been by the audience at that time.

Veteran cinematographer Dick Pope captures all the grace notes and dark corners of Prague sitting in for Vienna and Ondrej Nakvasil's production design, especially for the prince's palace and the theater where Eisenheim performs, has created a stage both real and fanciful where the human heart is the most mysterious thing.


Eisenheim: Edward Norton

Chief inspector Uhl: Paul Giamatti

Sophie: Jessica Biel

Crown Prince Leopold: Rufus Sewell

Josef Fisher: Eddie Marsan

Jurka: Jake Wood

Wiligut: Tom Fisher

Doctor: Karl Johnson

Director: Neil Burger; Screenwriter: Neil Burger; Based on a story by: Steven Millhauser; Producers: Michael London, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Bob Yari, Cathy Schulman; Executive producers: Ted Liebowitz, Joey Horvitz, Jane Garnett, Tom Nunan; Director of photography: Dick Pope; Production designer: Ondrej Nekvasil; Music: Philip Glass; Costume designer: Ngila Dickson; Editor: Naomi Geraghty.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fuck iTunes, Fly with Songbird

TOTH to Xeni Jardin:

A team led by ex-Winamp-er Rob Lord today released a preview edition of Songbird, a desktop media player that offers an open source alternative to services like Apple's iTunes and the Windows Media Player. Instead of connecting to one locked store full of DRMmed goods, it can connect to any and all available music (and video) on the internet.

Code brains behind the project include people who helped build Winamp, Muse, Yahoo's "Y! Music Engine" media player, and developers from Mozilla Foundation. Initial release is for Windows only, with editions for other OSes to follow in the coming weeks.

Built on the same platform as Firefox, Songbird acts like a specialized web browser for music. It sees the online world through MP3-colored glasses -- it looks at an archive of public domain sound files or a music store's catalog, and displays available media for you.

Click screenshot for full-size.


Update: If the Songbird site is overloaded, here's a download mirror, and another.


Tool of the Month: AOL

Companies will soon have to buy the electronic equivalent of a postage stamp if they want to be certain that their e-mail will be delivered to many of their customers.

America Online and Yahoo, two of the world's largest providers of e-mail accounts, are about to start using a system that gives preferential treatment to messages from companies that pay from 1/4 of a cent to a penny each to have them delivered. The senders must promise to contact only people who have agreed to receive their messages, or risk being blocked entirely.

The Internet companies say that this will help them identify legitimate mail and cut down on junk e-mail, identity-theft scams and other scourges that plague users of their services. They also stand to earn millions of dollars a year from the system if it is widely adopted.

AOL and Yahoo will still accept e-mail from senders who have not paid, but the paid messages will be given special treatment. On AOL, for example, they will go straight to users' main mailboxes, and will not have to pass the gantlet of spam filters that could divert them to a junk-mail folder or strip them of images and Web links. As is the case now, mail arriving from addresses that users have added to their AOL address books will not be treated as spam.

Yahoo and AOL say the new system is a way to restore some order to e-mail, which, because of spam and worries about online scams, has become an increasingly unreliable way for companies to reach their customers, even as online transactions are becoming a crucial part of their businesses.

"The last time I checked, the postal service has a very similar system to provide different options," said Nicholas Graham, an AOL spokesman. He pointed to services like certified mail, "where you really do get assurance that if what you send is important to you, it will be delivered, and delivered in a way that is different from other mail."

But critics of the plan say that the two companies risk alienating both their users and the companies that send e-mail. The system will apply not only to mass mailings but also to individual commercial messages like order confirmations from online stores and customized low-fare notices from airlines.

"AOL users will become dissatisfied when they don't receive the e-mail that they want, and when they complain to the senders, they'll be told, 'it's AOL's fault,' " said Richi Jennings, an analyst at Ferris Research, which specializes in e-mail.

As for companies that send e-mail, "some will pay, but others will object to being held to ransom," he said. "A big danger is that one of them will be big enough to encourage AOL users to use a different e-mail service."

In a broader sense, the move to create what is essentially a preferred class of e-mail is a major change in the economics of the Internet. Until now, senders and recipients of e-mail — and, for that matter, Web pages and other information — each covered their own costs of using the network, with no money changing hands. That model is different from, say, the telephone system, in which the company whose customer places a call pays a fee to the company whose customer receives it.

The prospect of a multitiered Internet has received a lot of attention recently after executives of several large telecommunications companies, including BellSouth and AT& T, suggested that they should be paid not only by the subscribers to their Internet services but also by companies that send large files to those subscribers, including music and video clips. Those files would then be given priority over other data, a change from the Internet's basic architecture which treats all data in the same way.

This Tuesday the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider legislation for what has been called Net neutrality — effectively banning Internet access companies from giving preferred status to certain providers of content. The concern is that companies that do not pay could find it hard to reach customers or attract new ones, threatening the openness of the Internet.

AOL and its parent, Time Warner, which also owns a large cable system offering high-speed Internet access, have not taken a public stand on the principle of Net neutrality. Neither has Yahoo, which has close relationships with AT& T and Verizon. The issue of e-mail postage has not yet come up in the debate over Net neutrality. In the next two months, AOL will start accepting e-mail processed by Goodmail Systems, a company in Mountain View, Calif., that will collect the electronic postage and verify the identity of the sender. Goodmail has tested the system with the participation of a few companies, including the American Red Cross and The New York Times.

Paying senders will be assured that their messages will be delivered to AOL users' main in-boxes and marked as "AOL Certified E-Mail." Unpaid messages will be subject to AOL's spam-filtering process, which diverts suspicious messages to a special spam folder. Most of these messages will also not be displayed with their original images and links.



Monday, February 06, 2006

Eyebrow-Raising Tattoos


Meet my pal, Jose Luis Gomez. The Iowa man, 20, is locked up in the Polk County Jail on robbery and assault charges. Nothing special there. What sets Gomez apart from other accused felons in the Des Moines clink (and nationwide, for that matter) are the distinctive tattoos above his smokey brown eyes. Gomez, you see, likes to make a statement without saying a word.


Tool of the Week: Lonnie Shields

TOTH to Mark Frauenfelder:

Police officers in Orlando, FL says a man found lodged in a convenience store oven vent had intended to burgle the business. Lonnie Shields, 37, "was banged up and crunched up and uncomfortable from being in that pipe for about six hours."



Friday, February 03, 2006

TTs R Us

Magicians are the only breed of human who will spend upwards of $300.00 for a half-dollars, $50.00 for a deck of cards, and apparently $35.00 for a thumb tip.

Since the thumb tip is supposed to be concealed 99% of the time, does it really matter what the hell it looks like? The best part about these is that they're made with 100% frog skin!



Dave Chappelle Update

CHICAGO - Dave Chappelle told Oprah Winfrey he was stressed out and not crazy or on drugs when he abruptly left his hit Comedy Central show last spring during production.

In his first television interview since ditching "Chappelle's Show" in May, the comedian said that after he signed a $50 million deal for the third and fourth seasons in August 2004, too many people were trying to control him and his show.

"I wasn't crazy but it is incredibly stressful," Chappelle, 32, said during his appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that aired Friday.

"I felt in a lot of instances I was deliberately being put through stress because when you're a guy who generates money, people have a vested interested in controlling you," Chappelle said.

Last May, with the premiere date looming for the third season, Chappelle stunned his fans and the entertainment industry by leaving the show in mid-production. He spent two weeks in South Africa before returning home to his farm near Yellow Springs, Ohio, about 75 miles northeast of Cincinnati. Chappelle has since resumed performing live standup.

The provocative comedian denied reports that his mysterious departure was caused by mental or drug problems. But he told Winfrey that other people were trying to get him to take psychotic medication when he decided to leave the show and country, without telling anyone except his brother before he left.

Chappelle stressed that the fame that grew as his show became increasingly popular wasn't the problem, but the environment he faced at Comedy Central.

"I would go to work on the show and I felt awful every day, that's not the way it was" he said. "I felt like some kind of prostitute or something. If I feel so bad, why keep on showing up to this place? I'm going to Africa. The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching."

The comedian did not rule out returning to film the rest of the third and fourth seasons of "Chappelle's Show" but only under certain circumstances. For example, Chappelle said he would like to donate a portion of the proceeds from DVD sales to the less fortunate.

The status of his show has hung in limbo since May. Comedy Central announced in December that four half-hour episodes of "Chappelle's Show" — based on what Chappelle taped before leaving the production — will premiere in weekly airings this spring. A full season would have been between 10 and 13 episodes.


Amazing Randi & Penn Jillette Podcast

A new podcast features the proceedings of a conference devoted to scientific skepticism and political inquiry.

The Amazing Meeting is an annual science-politics convention hosted by the Amazing Randi, a stage magician and notorious debunker of charlatans and fraudsters, like yogic fliers and psychic healers. Speakers included Nadine Strossen, Randi, Carolyn Porco, Murray Gell-Mann, Penn Jillette, Michael Shermer, Leon Jarroff and others.



R.I.P. Magician X

Goddammit! It's a sad day for me; my favorite blogger has decided to call it quits.

"My only intention in writing a blog was to talk shit and have fun. Some took it a little too seriously. Now I'm off to catch the proverbial slow boat to China. Syanora!"

Thanks for the note, X, and best of luck to you.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Joe Rogan VS Wesley Snipes

Celebrity boxing did monster rating numbers a few years ago. It now appears a proposed Joe Rogan vs Wesley Snipes fight could do the same. There was buzz of this rumor on several forums today and has had this confirmed in the past hour. MMAWeekly Radio Host Frank Trigg talked briefly with Joe Rogan this afternoon to see if there was any truth to the rumor. "It's 100% true..." Rogan told Trigg via the telephone. "I want the fight and now it's up to Wesley Snipes to accept."

Snipes is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and has trained in martial arts for years studying Karate, Kung Fu and Capoeira. Rogan was a four-time state Tae kwon do champion before pursuing a career in show business. Rogan earned a black belt at 15 after just two years of training. At 19 he won the US Open Tae Kwon Do Championship, and later as a lightweight champion went on to beat both the middle and heavyweight title-holders to obtain the Grand Championship. Rogan also trains regularly with submission specialist Eddie Bravo.

Place yer bets!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Shirt Happens Review

You may or may not remember Criss Angel performing a variation of Shirt Happens on TV. Here's how it looked:

The performer is wearing a jacket, but no shirt. He turns away for a split second and when he turns to face the audience again, BAM!! He's wearing a shirt! If you saw this trick on tv, you know how good it looks. Wait until you find out how devilishly SIMPLE it is to perform!

Points to Ponder:

The shirt is a real, ungimmicked shirt. It can be completely examined! This trick can be done impromptu. Meaning you can set up secretly and perform it at a moment's notice.

Bonus Routines Included:

Angelo has included several bonus routines utilizing the same principle. Here's a few..

Color Changing Shirt - The shirt you're wearing changes color in a flash! Worried about showing your gut or ta ta's? This one's for you!

Vanishing Shirt - Yes, you can also VANISH the shirt off your back!

Dirty Shirt - Next time you're out to dinner, remove a stain from your shirt like magic!

Changing Room - This one is actually meant to be done in a clothing store changing room at the spur of the moment. It has the potential to DEVASTATE some poor soul. (View demo)

What's Included:

The .pdf downloadable manuscript (apologies to jer) detailing the performance and the very devious method. Clearly illustrated with photos. A short bonus video featuring the creator of the effect, Angelo Carbone! This is your chance to hear the inventor himself chat a bit about the effect and see him perform it.

All right. Now, with all the hype out of the way, what do I think? I like it. It's smart, it's easy, and best of all, it's practical. What's more, it's only $6.95.

You can purchase it HERE!


Derren Brown Clips

Just came across a page hosting a bunch of clips of Derren Brown in action. Very cool for those of us who don't get to see much of him in the States.