Thursday, March 30, 2006

Future of Magic

Our Future of Magic installment continues with this jaw-dropping levitation that should be viewed by all magicians... of what NOT to do.



Nice leg. I wonder HOW he does it???

MM

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jason Garfield VS Chris Bliss


TOTH to Cory Doctorow:

Jason Garfield, a juggler, has posted a video of himself juggling five balls in time with The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End." While he does a great job, what makes this especially noteworthy is that it's a response to another juggler's routine that synched up with Golden Slumbers. A video of Chris Bliss juggling three balls to the song made the rounds a couple of weeks ago, prompting a lot of comment, both kudos and scorn. Penn "Penn and Teller" Jillette was pretty harsh about Bliss's performance on his FreeFM radio show/podcast, and Garfield's response is pretty amazing.

Link!

MM

South Park Gate



TOTH to Xeni Jardin:

Supporters of South Park who've launched a web petition and protest-letter campaign say:

Comedy Central suddenly switched out episodes of South Park -- replacing the previously-scheduled "Trapped in the Closet" without any explanation. According to a friend of mine (secretary for a certain company that owns Comedy Central), Tom Cruise has blackmailed the company into not showing the episode, which portrays him as a homosexual and his religion (Scientology) as a cult.

Update, 522pm PT: Here's a new url for the protest site: chefgate.info.

From Hollywood Interrupted:

"Sources from inside Paramount and South Park Studios report that parent company Viacom pulled last night's scheduled repeat of the high-rated "Trapped in the Closet" episode after the humorless Scientologist movie star Tom Cruise threatened to cancel all publicity for Mission Impossible 3 if Comedy Central aired the episode that satirizes Scientology and mocks his sexuality again. Not only is this the first time that the South Park creators have been officially censored in their ten hit seasons with Comedy Central, Viacom officials also reportedly ordered Matt Stone and Trey Parker not to discuss the reason why their episode was cancelled."

The creators have yet to comment, but Comedy Central has offered this explanation:

"In light of the events of earlier this week, we wanted to give Chef an appropriate tribute by airing two episodes he is most known for."

THINK ABOUT IT: What if everyone that was offended by an episode by an episode of South Park -- or any other satire -- could suddenly have an episode taken out of circulation? There wouldn't be a lot of show left...
We have to teach Tom that censorship is wrong!

Link to petition, and to video of the banned episode. (Thanks, sekrit Hollywood informant!)

MM

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Local Charges Dropped Against Debra LaFave



OCALA, Fla. -- Local prosecutors have dropped the charges against Debra LaFave, the Tampa school teacher accused of having sex with her 14-year-old student.

The decision came only hours after a Marion County judge rejected a second plea deal in the case.

Lafave held a news conference with her attorney shortly after the prosecutors' decision to drop the charges became official. She apologized, blamed her actions on a mental illness, saying she was bipolar, and she said she now wants to remarry, move on and be left alone.

"As you can see, my face has been plastered on every Internet address, every news outlet and that's not easy. It's not easy feeling the guilt and the remorse and having my own family suffer for my actions," she said.

Prosecutors promised the mother of the victim in this case that her son would not have to testify. But because Marion County Judge Hale Stancil rejected this second plea deal, the only other option for prosecutors would be a trial, which would force the teen to testify.

Stancil doesn't believe the teen would be damaged by his testifying in court. Nearly two weeks ago in court, the prosecution tried to convince the judge otherwise, but a child psychiatrist damaged the case, according to the judge, because he didn't show the victim's alleged mental stress.

"It is the opinion of this Court that accepting the proposed plea agreement would undermine the credibility of this Court, and the criminal justice system as a whole, and would erode public confidence in our schools," Stancil wrote in his rejection order.

"Accepting the proposed plea agreement would likewise send the message that if enough publicity is generated, and the media's interest continues long enough, and because of that interest the victim does not wish to testify, a defendant can avoid an appropriate sentence. Quite frankly, if the allegations against the Defendant are true, the agreed-upon sentence shocks the conscience of this Court."

LaFave's case has attracted media attention from near and far, a reason why State Attorney Ric Ridgway said the victim would be further harmed if he was forced to take the stand.

"In my estimation, the harm to the victims in forcing them to testify and go through what they were going to be put through, primarily by the media, was simply unconscionable and I'm not willing to do that to them," Ridgway said.

LaFave Blames Actions On Mental Illness

LaFave said on Tuesday that she suffers from bipolar disorder and she thanked her attorney for showing that mental illnesses can cause "good people to do bad things." She also apologized to her victim.

"I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology," she said.

LaFave, 25, has already been convicted and sentenced on almost identical charges in a plea deal in Hillsborough County. That means any trial would have likely meant the same or similar sentence that she is already serving.

Because of that, prosecutors and the mother of the victim said they could not justify forcing the young man and his 15-year-old friend to testify, especially since this case has drawn worldwide media attention and Court TV planned on covering any trial in Marion County.

In Hillsborough County, LaFave pleaded guilty to two counts of having sex with her student, who was then 14. In exchange, she has to serve three years of house arrest followed by seven years of probation.

LaFave was asked on Tuesday about what she thinks of critics who say she will not serve any jail time for her crimes.

"I believe that my mental illness had a lot to do with my actions, and my passion was teaching and that's taken away from me. I've lost family and I've lost friends," LaFave said.

LaFavre was charged with having sex with the teen in her classroom in Hillsborough County, in her townhouse and in her car on a trip to Ocala, which is why Marion County's court became involved in this case.

LaFave, who divorced after her arrest, is now engaged to remarry. She insisted on Tuesday that she will not reoffend and will obey the court's order to stay away from children.

She is studying to be a journalist, saying she loves to write, although the plea agreement keeps her from profiting on her case -- for now.

MM

Monday, March 20, 2006

Channing Pollock Dies at 79


Channing Pollock with Guy Hollingworth

CHANNING POLLOCK, age 79 died of cancer. He was one of the most influential magicians of our time. When he walked out on stage his charisma electrified the audience. Handsome and with his technical perfection, he began the trend of dove magic as we know it today.

He became a movie star in Europe and later retired in California where he mentored some of our best magicians, like Shimada and James Dimmare. He was a strong influence on Johnny Thompson, Lance Burton and so many others.

He was above all a great friend to all those who were close to him and an outstanding human being. We will all miss him. He is survived by his wife, Joann and his son, Russell.

TOTH to Norm and Lupe Nielsen.

MM

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hanks Magician Comedy Gets Financing

Bristol Bay Productions has come on board to fully finance The Great Buck Howard, the Colin Hanks-Tom Hanks magician comedy, says Variety.

Kevin Kline is in talks to join the cast. Sean McGinly will direct his script, and production will begin in July in New York. Playtone's Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman will produce.

Kline is negotiating to play a renowned illusionist whose career is on the wane. Colin Hanks will play a kid fresh out of school who becomes the magic man's assistant. In a smaller role, Tom Hanks plays Buck's father, who is not at all enthused about his son's career choice.

Bristol Bay, the sister company to Walden Media in the Anschutz Film Group, will fully finance the film, and make distribution deals later.

MM

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pamela Anderson Roast Review



In a world full of political correct rhetoric, there’s only one thing that brings me hope and joy in this day and age: roasts. Roasts are the last vestiges of a world where people didn’t care about offending others, and boy is it refreshing (and a miracle) that they are still around.

Take, for example, the new Pamela Anderson Roast DVD, the newest offering from the folks at Comedy Central and M80. Let’s face it: Pamela Anderson is known for only one thing. Make that two things. If it weren’t for her bobbling DDs, no one would know who she is. And the best part is that she knows it. Deep down, she knows, and she’s a real good sport about it.



Jimmy Kimmel plays host and does a nice job getting things started and making the most serious viewer crack a smile or two, utilizing such lines as “Pam has screwed more musicians than Napster,” and “her love of horses is what attracted her to Tommy Lee,” and many others…



The first "star" out of the gate is Greg Giraldo from Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, who spends more time reading from his script and roasting the other celebrities than Pamela Anderson. He’s a bit on the rough side and is excellent when it comes to cringe humor, but the viewer can tell he’s a bit uncomfortable. But hey – they gotta start somewhere, right? NEXT!



Next up is the always funny Nick DiPaolo, who just massacres just about everyone: Pam, celebrities, the crowd, viewers; no one is safe when this man steps on stage. If you don’t laugh when Nick is on, you should seriously consider a lobotomy. I won’t reveal any of his lines here; you need to go buy the DVD and prepare to laugh your ass off.

Next, we are graced with Bea Arthur. Yes, THAT Bea Arthur. Bea takes a stab at Anderson by reading excerpts from one of Anderson’s novels. To have an older woman reading sexual escapades and talking about elicit, titillating events is pure brilliance. You’ve got to see it to experience the uncomfortable funniness of it all.

Jeffrey Ross is next, and his stabs at the high/drunk-off-her-ass Courtney Love is funnier than anything he has to say about anything else. Also, the pretentious antics of his are all too reminiscent of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield. ‘Nuff said



Andy Dick is next, the only person able to feel up Anderson (for obvious reasons) as he plays the role of Pamela’s plastic surgeon. There's not much more as Dick proves once again that Hollywood is certainly grasping at straws with their latest celebrity offerings.



Tommy Lee’s penis, er musical interlude is presented next by Adam Carolla, and I didn’t want to watch it at first, but it turned out to be a pretty good tune, although Tommy could use a few good lessons in lip sync 101. The music, however, is worth a listen.



It becomes painfully obvious that the bloated and high Coutney Love is on her last legs. She’s hit rock bottom and is going to die very soon. That's my prediction. It’s worth watching her slovenly antics throughout the DVD.

Sarah Silverman is cute and tries her best to be edgy. That’s about it.

Tommy Lee does his best to try to be funny but inevitably falls on his ass.

The writers saved the best for last. For the record, I don’t like female comedians. In my opinion, man-hating jokes and continuous jargon of menstrual periods only go so far after a while. But Lisa Lampanelli is a different breed of comedienne. She is super hard core, and I love her for that! No one is safe when she speaks at a roast or does her stand-up, and she is unapologetically brilliant! She takes swings at everyone, including celebrities who aren’t around and even at herself. She even had the hilarious Nick DiPaolo rolling around in his seat (see below). She makes racial jokes, sex jokes, gay jokes, anti-semetic jokes, fat jokes, and that’s just the beginning! She is easily worth the entire admission fee for this DVD, and if you aren’t a Lisa Lampanelli fan now, you will be soon enough!



The Pamela Anderson Roast is an unapologetic, fun-filled, 90-minute, uncensored romp into the private and professional life of one of America’s most prominent sex symbols. I've already viewed it 3 times, and it is easily worth your consideration. That is, if you can take a joke…

TOTH to the nice folks at M80!

MM

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

MIT Origami Competition



TOTH to David Pescovitz:

The winning entries of MIT's Student Origami Competition are now on display at the school and online. Seen here is freshman Jason Ku's model of a Nazgul from the Lord of the Rings.

Link!

MM

Judge Quotes Adam Sandler Movie In Court


TOTH to Cory Doctorow:

A Texas bankruptcy judge replied to a Defendant's motion with a ruling that concluded, "The Defendant's motion is accordingly denied for incomprehensibility1." With the following footnote:

1 Or, in the words of the competition judge to Adam Sandler's title character in the movie "Billy Madison," after Billy Madison had responded to a question with an answer that sounded superficially reasonable but lacked any substance, Mr Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. Deciphering motions like the one presented here wastes valuable chamber staff time, and invites this sort of footnote.

Link!

MM

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Magic Circle Backs Inmate

In a related article posted yesterday, a maximum security prisoner has won the backing of the Magic Circle in attempt to overturn a ban that stopped him buying magic books in case he taught himself escape tricks.

The convicted murderer, who is behind bars at Frankland jail, Co Durham, complained about the Prison Service ruling in a letter to the prison newspaper, Inside Time.

Shaun Tuley was jailed for life in 2001 for murdering 20-year-old Kellie Mallinson, a prostitute, on a Middlesbrough trading estate.

He said he had been "refused permission on grounds of "operational security problems" to buy a selection of books on the subject of magic, sought in order to be able to pursue my hobby while serving a life sentence".

Tuley has performed tricks inside prison, to entertain his fellow inmates.

He said: "Magic is my hobby, I've been performing since I was a boy."

In his letter to Inside Time, Tuley wrote: "For well over a year now, I have tried to purchase a selection of books on the subject of magic. I have completed all the necessary paperwork yet all requests were given the same negative response

He asked other prisoners with a "like-minded passion for magic" to correspond with him. A prison source said: "We are all big fans of Harry Houdini but I don't really think prison is the right place for his successor."

A Magic Circle spokesman, David Beckley, said: "I can't understand the Prison Service's attitude - unless he asked for books on escapology. Magicians do have skills which enable them to deceive but that is only in an environment controlled by the magician himself.

"The Prison Service should change their minds. Having something objective which he can focus his mind on could actually help him become a model prisoner. It's a great hobby."

A Prison Service spokesman would only say: "The titles requested were not thought appropriate."

A maximum security prisoner has won the backing of the Magic Circle in attempt to overturn a ban that stopped him buying magic books in case he taught himself escape tricks.

The convicted murderer, who is behind bars at Frankland jail, Co Durham, complained about the Prison Service ruling in a letter to the prison newspaper, Inside Time.

Shaun Tuley was jailed for life in 2001 for murdering 20-year-old Kellie Mallinson, a prostitute, on a Middlesbrough trading estate.

He said he had been "refused permission on grounds of "operational security problems" to buy a selection of books on the subject of magic, sought in order to be able to pursue my hobby while serving a life sentence".

Tuley has performed tricks inside prison, to entertain his fellow inmates.

He said: "Magic is my hobby, I've been performing since I was a boy."

In his letter to Inside Time, Tuley wrote: "For well over a year now, I have tried to purchase a selection of books on the subject of magic. I have completed all the necessary paperwork yet all requests were given the same negative response
He asked other prisoners with a "like-minded passion for magic" to correspond with him. A prison source said: "We are all big fans of Harry Houdini but I don't really think prison is the right place for his successor."

A Magic Circle spokesman, David Beckley, said: "I can't understand the Prison Service's attitude - unless he asked for books on escapology. Magicians do have skills which enable them to deceive but that is only in an environment controlled by the magician himself.

"The Prison Service should change their minds. Having something objective which he can focus his mind on could actually help him become a model prisoner. It's a great hobby."

A Prison Service spokesman would only say: "The titles requested were not thought appropriate."

Link!

MM

Magic Utopia

Check out Magic Utopia, a brand new blog specializing in Bizarre Magic.

Link!

MM

Monday, March 06, 2006

AOL: Screw You; We're Taxing Email Anyway


TOTH to Cory Doctorow:

Following on from a coalition launched by dozens of campaigning groups who opposed AOL's plan to charge a tax to guarantee delivery of the email they send to their supporters, AOL has vowed to deafen its ears to their pleas and proceed with its plan to establish a two-tier email system. AOL's spokesman An analyst sympathetic to AOL even used the word "piffle" to dismiss the grave concerns of the organizations, which come from all points on the political spectrum and represent millions and millions of supporters:
"Balderdash and piffle," replies Jennings. "Nothing's really changed. If users are complaining about some e-mail, service providers will block the sender, whether or not they pay some sort of a bond or fee. There's no substantive change here. If you're an existing sender with a good reputation, you should have nothing to worry about . . . well, nothing new anyway.

Link!

A reader has a possible short-term solution:

My answer to AOL's two-tier email will be simple. Once they start doing this, this will be placed in my sendmail access file: aol.com 550 AOL doesn't pay me to accept their email

I'd encourage others to do the same. Should enough do so, AOL subscribers might get annoyed that large portions of the Internet refuse to even accept their email.

MM

Inmate Denied Magic Books



Prison authorities told convicted murderer Shaun Tuley he was not allowed to buy the conjuring guides on grounds of "operational security problems".

He told of the ban in a letter from his cell in HMP Frankland, County Durham, to prison newspaper Inside Time.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: "The titles requested were not thought appropriate."

Tuley, who murdered a 20-year-old prostitute in September 2000, said he had been "refused permission on grounds of 'operational security problems' to purchase a selection of books on the subject of magic, sought in order to be able to pursue my hobby whilst serving a life sentence".

Attitude

He asked other prisoners with a "like-minded passion for magic" to correspond with him.

Magic Circle spokesman David Beckley said: "I can't understand the Prison Service's attitude - unless this man has asked for books on escapology.

"Magicians do have skills which enable them to deceive but this is only in an environment which is controlled by the magician himself.

"The Prison Service should change their minds.

"Having something objective which he can focus his mind on could actually help him become a model prisoner. It's a great hobby."

Link!

MM

Pamela Anderson Roast DVD



I received an email a few weeks back from the nice folks at M80 and Comedy Central asking me to review their new Comedy Central Pamela Anderson Roast DVD. I have just received it and will post a review once I preview the DVD. Stay tuned and thanks to the nice people at M80.

MM

Hidden Dangers of Fundamentalism

TOTH to reader Jeff for pointing out this very poignant story:

A connection exists between disease outbreaks and extreme religious practice. Polio could pose as much of a threat as suicide bombers. Religious fundamentalism is bad for your health. There are, of course, the ill effects suffered by suicide bombers and their innocent victims. Consider also the sarin gas attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) sect, which killed 12 people in the Tokyo subway in 1995, and sickened 1,000 more. (Yes, I know the media reported 5,000 casualties, but 80% of them were the "worried well" who sought hospital emergency departments because of contact with victims, or consequent anxiety attacks).

What concerns me, however, is infectious disease. Consider these case histories:

The last outbreak of polio in Canada and the United States, in 1978–1979, was the result of travel from the Netherlands, where an outbreak was ongoing, to Canada by members of the Reformed Netherlands Congregation, a religious group that refused vaccinations.

In the fall of 1984 followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who had purchased the small town of Antelope in Wasco County in north central Oregon, plotted to take over the county. They tested a plan to sicken many of the county's voters on Election Day by contaminating 10 salad bars with salmonella in the county's largest town, The Dalles. Although no one died, 751 people fell ill. The commune panicked and gave up the plan.

In Uganda in 1998, an outbreak of cholera killed 83, and the resurgence of the disease was blamed on members of a sect in Soono Parish who hid patients from medical patrols. The sect was called Red Cross (not to be confused with the international relief organization), a group that collects dead bodies in the belief that resurrection is imminent.

When cholera broke out in Zimbabwe in 2002, it spread quickly among members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith sect who were resisting treatment.

Most disastrously, in March 2004 the Kano state government in northern Nigeria refused to take part in a United Nations-led campaign to vaccinate West African children against polio. Islamic clerics alleged that the vaccine had been filled with hormones as part of a US-led plot to sterilize African girls. As a result, polio has spread from there, by the end of September 2005, to 11 previously polio-free countries, mostly in Africa but including Indonesia, Nepal, and Yemen. More than 900 cases of paralysis have been recorded, and the outbreak has cost many thousands of dollar-equivalents in mass vaccination campaigns that they can ill afford. Mass campaigns are no longer needed once a country has eradicated polio but must be reinstated after an importation.

Also in 2004, the Iraqi Communist Party alleged that the Yazidi religious sect in northern Iraq was facing genocide as a result of poisoning. It stated: "Four hundred cases of poisoning have been recorded, most of which are in critical condition. ... The matter has gone as far as affecting the physician of the only hospital in the village, who died of poisoning." The World Health Organization has investigated and found that 50 cases of gastrointestinal illness (not 400) had been reported in Dohuk in northern Iraq. Thirteen of the cases were from a housing complex in Khanak inhabited by the Yazidi, who practice Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persians and Kurds. The water supply was in poor condition, and it was contaminated with sewage, not poison. This is particularly ironic because, according to the tenets of Zoroastrianism, in order to conserve the purity of water, fire, and earth, the dead cannot be immersed, cremated, or buried; Herodotus noted that the Persians do not urinate or spit in rivers. So the Yazidis would have been expected to take particular care with their water supply.

In May 2005, a rubella outbreak in a cluster of unvaccinated religious communities in southwestern Ontario, Canada, also probably originated from the Netherlands in the same way as the polio cases a quarter-century earlier.

The moral of this story: If you are a religious fundamentalist and care about your health, don't believe every rumor you hear, don't refuse vaccination or treatment, and keep your water supply clean.

MM

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Long Lost Penn & Teller Videogame for Download



TOTH to Cory Doctorow:

Frank Cifaldi has uncovered a long-lost Penn and Teller video game that was never released in stores, and Waxy is hosting a torrent of it. The game involves lots of tricks, shenanigans, and genuinely weird and improbable easter-eggs, and has cameos from Lou Reed and Debbie Harry. Penn mentioned the torrent of the game on his talk-show yesterday and sounded pretty cool with it! You'll need to install a free Sega CD emulator to run it (unless you actually have a working Sega CD).

The most infamous part was "Desert Bus," a "VeriSimulator" in which you drive a bus across the straight Nevada desert for eight hours in real-time. Then you drive it home. Also, I'd read the bus veers to the right, so you can't just leave the joypad propped up. The rumor was that if you won the game, you got one point.

Link!

MM