Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Back (For Some Reason)

Well .... I'm back.
It's been awhile. I'm not really sure if I wanna do this. But I'm going to.
You see, I liked doing my blog(s), and I liked sharing my various thoughts and idea's and opinions. But sometimes things become too much of a hassle to matter.
If you read down a bit, you will see that I got into this thing with this guy who didn't like what I said about his show. Now I don't take back anything, and I don't regret saying what I said because, and I cannot stress this enough, the show sucked.
I mean it blew big time.
And I would have taken it if the guy (Well, guy's actually) had said their bit and gone on with their lives.
But they didn't.
In fact about a year later I got another email, and started a conversation that ended with me being pissed off again. Not at anything he said about me, but about the situation.
So the blog became a hassle and I quit.

So why start again?
Because I am getting my own show together, and I find myself fighting with my idea's on what is magic and what is comedy and ... basically the whole mess that makes a show become a show.
I need someplace to get my thoughts in order, so I figure I'll re-start my blog and get my thoughts in order.

Now let me say this. I am not going to pull a punch here. If I see something that is bad, then I will say it is bad. I don't care if I piss you or anyone else off. And if you want to bring to my attention how I pissed you off, I may (may) call you out. I'm getting too old to care.
But mostly this will e about me and my quest for creativity. The number one person I will call out is myself. I proabably will write myself a nasty email about it, but I don't care.
So there.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the entries that follow will be more entertaining than this.
I hope.

Next Post: Can I watch myself? The answer may suprise you.

Monday, November 06, 2006



Many years ago, when I was in high school, I knew a girl named Irene.  If she had lived in the 60’s Irene would have been a hippy.  Not just any hippy, but one of those “Hey man, we can change the world through poetry” type of hippy.  But poor Irene wasn’t living in the 60’s, she was in the 80’s.
     Irene and I had a problem.  No, we weren’t enemies, but we disagreed on certain philosophies.  Irene was one of those irritating high school girls for whom everything had to have meaning, deep meaning, deep powerful meaning.  I, on the other hand, was one of those irritating high school kids for whom everything had to be funny, deep funny, deep powerful funny.
     And this is where we disagreed.  She believed funny was not deep, at least not my kind of funny.  Actually, in the five years I knew her I never found out what kind of funny she thought was deep and meaningful kind of funny.
     I, on the other hand, though that everything being deep and meaningful was boring and decidedly not funny.  The thing is Irene was not at all boring, just not overly funny.
     About a year or so after graduation, after not seeing each other for some time, Irene and I bumped into each other in a local mall.  We chatted a bit.  I asked what she was doing (I don’t remember what, but I’m sure it was deep and meaningful) and she asked what I was doing.  I mentioned that I was taking journalism but was having trouble with writing the stories.
     And she said “Why?  Because they’re too funny?”
     The answer was, by the way, just that I was having trouble writing like a journalist.  It’s an art that I just never got the hang of.

     To Irene funny didn’t matter.  To me it matters above all else.  (Ok, not above all else, but above a lot of things.)
     Let’s get to the basics.  Funny makes us laugh and laughter makes us feel good.  Having a bad day?  A good laugh can change all that.  Not only that a good laugh actually affects our brain chemistry making us feel good.
     There is nothing wrong with liking to laugh and there is nothing wrong with liking to make people laugh.  I like it when someone makes me laugh, if it’s a good friend or a comedian or even just someone saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  
     I love it when I am able to make people laugh.  It fills me with a sense of pride that I never had with, say, academics or sports.  Saying something, for example, offhandedly and having someone just burst out laughing gives me a feeling like no other.
     And I’m pretty good at it too.  That fills me with a sense of purpose that maybe someone above (God or whatever) pointed to me and said “This is your gift” and every time someone laughs at one of my jokes I am fulfilling a divine purpose.
     And I have in many, many ways.  But not in the most important way.  Important, that is, to me.  
     When I was younger I decided to become a comedian.  I worked very hard on material, I even tried to get into a few armature nights, but in the end I let it fall by the wayside.  I was unsure about my material.  I considered it sub par and I would not go on stage with less that great material.  Then I realized that comedy, in its stand up form, is pretty much dead.  Anybody who can spring a few lame jokes together can get a recurring spot on a stage, not because he/she are any good, but because there is a glut of clubs and shows and filler is needed.
     And then magic entered my life.  It took a while to realize it, but that was the final piece.  I had my means of communication.
     For the past year and few months I have been working on my funny magic show (I refuse to use the word “Comedy” as it is a swear word to me) and I may be working on it this time next year.  Who cares how long, as long as when it premiers it is perfect, magical and very, very funny.
Because whether you believe it or not, funny matters.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Meeting Magicians

I can remember well the first time I met an actual honest to God celebrity.
Not a celebrity like a guy who played guitar on a local TV show each week. No, I'm talking about an absolute living legend.
His name was Henny Youngman. You might have heard of him. He was a legendary comedian.
He came to my home town as the headliner to celebrate the beginning of the artistic season of the Heritage Theater, and I was all a buzz. At this time I was a student of comedy, a collector of comedy albums (on vinyl) and to me the name Henny Yougman was like someone uttering the true name of God.
The night of the performance a man I know on the cities arts council, who knew I wanted to meet Henny, told there would be a signing after the show. Whooha!
So the show went on, and at the end Henny said he was selling books of his jokes and would sign them for charity. I stood up, got into line with my money, and prepared to meet greatness.
I will admit now that I ran through all the possible scenerios while standing in that line.
"Hello Mr. Yougman."
"How are you Mr. Youngman."
"How's the tour going Mr. Youngman?"
Meanwhile other people in line were yelling things out to Henny.
"Where are you headed next Henny?" Someone yelled. Notice this guy actually called him "Henny" while I was thinking "Mr. Yougman."
So the line moved, and I got closer, and finally it was my turn.
I handed him my money.
Henny took it, and wrote his name in a book, then handed it to me.
I took the book.
Then I nodded my head.
Than I left.
Did you notice that? Could you imagine that?
I didn't talk. I didn't do anything but nod my head. I left an idol of mine behind and all I did was hand him money and nod.
To this day I still go "Man I was so stupid." Because I was.

Years go by. I find myself in Vegas standing in line to meet Lance Burton. All I could think of was meeting Henny Yougman, and I promised myself I would not, WOULD NOT, do that again.
So I stood, and waited, and finally stood in front of the man.
"Hello." I said. So far so good. I am one word ahead.
"Hello, how are you?" Lance said in a calming southern drawl.
"I'm fine, thanks." I handed him a poster I had purchased for him to sign.
"What's your name?"
"Where are you from?"

"Ah, Toronto Canada. I hear it's a nice place."
"If you like that sort of thing." Aha! A joke! This is going great!
"What did you think of the show?"
"It was spectacular."
"Well thanks for saying so." He handed me the poster back.

I held out a playing card and said "Would you mind?"
He took it. "Sure. Are you a gambler or a magician?"
"what kind of magic do you do?"
"Mostly family stuff."
He handed the card back. I held out my hand to shake his and he shook it. My wife held up a camera and Lance saw it and stood.
"Oh, a picture. Let's do this right." He leaned in and so did I. Jen took a picture. He sat down.
"Thank You very much Mr. Burton."
"You're very welcome. Enjoy your stay in Vegas."
I joined Jen and we walked away. When I was far enough away so I didn't look like an idiot in front of a legend, I pumped my arm and went "Yesssssssss."

These days I am comfortable in front of the stars of magic. Most of he time I remember that I am, now, a contemporary of these men and women and therefore on a pretty level playing field. Sometimes I call them "Mr.", sometimes just by their name. Sometimes I have something to say, sometimes I don't so I just say that I enjoy their work and leave it at that. Most of the time I have been treated with respect and the person I am talking to is as nice to me as I try to be to them. Sometimes they are not (Yes, I'm looking at you Gaeton Bloom) and I walk away disappointed, but on the whole magicians I have met are all good people who appreciate a little talk with an admirer.
On at least one occasion my true assessing of a magicians column in a magazine started a great conversation that, unfortunately, couldn't go on as long as I would have wanted.
The secret is always be nice, be polite and be interested. Follow this and you will be rewarded.

Monday, July 31, 2006



More from Bill.  Apparently he wasn’t too thrilled with my last post about the upcoming movie The Prestige.

“Well, yeah... but... c'mon! I've heard you say WAY more than that about movies you've never seen before!How about the term 'the prestige'? Does it mean what they say? Did anyone actually use it? Did you read the book the movie was based on?How about Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as magicians? I heard what you said about Criss Angel 'raising the bar' for how good a magician can look. What about Bale and Jackman?Or, if you must talk about OTHER movies, how about how magic is usually portrayed? Wasn't it you who told me the story about the special consultants brought in for the "magic" scenes in the 1967 Casino Royale?But yeah, you're right. I haven't seen it yet either and... it looks good.Billp”

Ok, I admit that I kinda glossed over the movie.  Pure laziness on my part.  So let’s set the wayback machine and start over, shall we.

The Prestige is an upcoming movie based on a book.
The plot is “In 1878, two young stage magicians clash in the dark during the course of a fraudulent seance. From this moment on, their lives become webs of deceit and revelation as they vie to outwit and expose one another. Their rivalry will take them to the peaks of their careers, but with terrible consequences. In the course of pursuing each other's ruin, they will deploy all the deception their magicians' craft can command--the highest misdirection and the darkest science. Blood will be spilled, but it will not be enough. In the end, their legacy will pass on for descendants who must, for their sanity's sake, untangle the puzzle left to them.”

The two magicians are played by Huge “Wolverine” Jackman and Christian “Batman” Bale.  Other roles are played by Michael “Will make movie for food” Caine, Scarlett “This shirt does bind, maybe I should take it off” Johannson, Ricky “Best damn magician in the whole freakin’ world” Jay and David “I’M BOFFIN’ IMAN” Bowie.

It is directed by Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us Momento, Insomnia, Batman Begins and Untitled Batman Begins Sequel.

Ok, so, what do I think of this movie?  Well, it looks good.  I like pretty much everyone involved and I like magic, so it’s win/win for me.  Truth be told I’d rather not get my hopes up on this one.  Magic and magicians have not really been treated well in hollywood.  They screwed up Houdini’s life story,  and the movie titled Magic was actually aboout a ventriloquist.  It is a sad state of affairs when the most posative protraial of magic and magicians is the character Gob on the late, great TV show Arrested Development.

So I’ll wait and see, and probably give you a review when the movie comes out.  In the meantime the movie The Illusionist opens August 18th, so let us focus our attention there, shall we.

Next Post: Damn it Bill, let me talk about something else!!!!!!!!!  

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Magic Movie Smackdown

My good friend Bill from the blog The Bill Pages posted this smackdown:

“Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Hey! It's Ricky Jay!
What I want to know is why Gord hasn't done a post about either:a) how excited he is about Chris Nolan's upcoming film "The Prestige"orb) how badly Chris Nolan's upcoming film "The Prestige" is going to suck.Aside from Christian Bale, Scarrlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, the trailer also affords us brief glimpses of Ricky Jay, one of the best card-slingers in the biz, and David Bowie who has the amazing magician-like power of scoring with Iman.What's up Gord? We're waiting...”

Right, not one to back down from a challenge, here is my reply.

The Prestige is a movie, based on a book, about magicians.

Seriously, what else is there to say?  It’s got a good director, a good cast and looks, well, good.  Not having seen the movie I can’t really say anything more than that.
But I can mention other magic movies.

First of all, there is another movie about an illusionist coming up.  It’s called The Illusionist and it stars Edward Norton, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti.  Its plot is as follows:

“A magician in turn-of-the-century Vienna who falls in love with a woman well above his social standing. When she becomes engaged to a prince, the magician uses his powers to win her back and undermine the stability of the royal house of Vienna.”

It’s based on Steven Millhauser's short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist” (A prize goes out to anyone who can tell me where the name “Eisenhiem” was attached to another fictional illusionist.)

There have been quite a lot of movies based on magic and magicians, and a few starring magicians.  Houdini, at one point, started his own movie studio in order to make “adventure” movies, all of which flopped.  
Many people don’t know this but Orson Wells was a very dedicated magician.  He even, at one point, had his own illusion show.  Later in his life, whenever he was to appear on a talk show, he would more often than not, perform an illusion before being interviewed.  There is a very famous story told by a magician whose name I can’t recall (I think its Jim Steinmeyer, but I’m not really sure and I’m too lazy to do research) about one time Wells was to guest host the Tonight Show.
Instead of a monolog, Wells decided to do an illusion.  (I think it was the Ashra, where a woman floats then disappears, but again I’m just too lazy.)  He got the illusion, an assistant, and another magician who was familiar with the illusion.
Here’s what he did.  He sat in the front row of the audience and told the other magician to perform the effect.  After he was done Wells would say something like “Now perform it as if you were angry” and watch the performance.  He would then tell the magician to perform it again different way, then again and again.  After a few times of this he said he knew how to do it and that was that.  Wells, up to this point, hadn’t rehearsed the thing once.
That night Wells performed the illusion perfectly, again without rehearsing it himself.
(As an interesting aside, the regular Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson, was also an avid armature magician.)

As a final point (for now) another star who you may not know is an avid armature magician is Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame.  In fact, recently he dedicated himself to putting together a 40 minute magic show and performed it at The Magic Castle.  All indications were that he not only did a damn fine job, but he was extremely professional.

Perhaps some time in the future I’ll mention a few more famous people you may not know are magicians, as well as a bit more about magic movies good and bad.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Reader Mail.

Reader mail: Motta and Chance plus others.

It’s that time again folks.  Reader mail round up.
First, a letter from Bob Chance fro Motta and Chance Rock The House, the magic show I tore into a few posts ago.

“A bit harsh, but ever magician had to start somewhere, so as bad as you may have thought it was it was a learning experience. Not being able to perform's just not cool.As a magic enthusiast maybe u should try with constructive points rather than bashing points its a brotherhood of magic right!? But with everything there will always be people to bash out or lash out... could it be better of course. But u picked out 2 tricks that and 1 that didn't go well... I am disappointed and hope that the person who wrote that review invites me out to their show to for me to be a'll probably never happen but I'll keep hoping. Thanks for coming out and and I hope the $20 door didn't hurt your wallet too much. But we will keep coming out and it will only get better. Thanks for the feedback and please let me know when you perform so that I can watch you too! All the best...CHANCE of Motta & Chance Magic.”

Gord Replies:  Yes, you are right, every magician has to start somewhere, but your show was not a “start,” it was a public show, heavily advertised, with a couple of hundred people in a theater all of whom paid real money.
The fact is your show was un-scripted, under rehearsed, far too long and at one point insulting to a volunteer.  (Yeah, that bit with a plunger on the head, real mature.  Notice how few people wanted to volunteer after you did that bit?  I did.  Two.)
By the way, my view is not a rare one.  Someone you know, probably quite well, reviewed the show to me a few days later with the quote “Well, I’ve seen worse.”
As for being a magic enthusiast, therefore I should support your show.  Just because I am also a magician does not mean I have to support BAD magic.  That’s kinda like asking a priest to support Jim James because, hey, they are both men of God.  (Look it up.)
As for my show, I will make sure to send you a pair of tickets and you can feel free to enjoy or not enjoy it.  In fact, I’ll even let you post your review of my show on MY blog, that is how sure of it I am.
Why am I sure it will be good?  Well, I started researching and scripting it last June.  I rehearse it every day. (And yes, I have a full time job.  Do you know how hard it is to rehearse when you’ve been up since five in the morning?)  I have a friend helping with the scripting, I have a director. (That cost me nothing, sometimes all you have to do is ask.)
When my show, (Titled Magic With the Sleight-est Hint of Cheese, by the way.  Just so you’ll know it when you see the poster.) goes up, it may be bad, but at least It’ll be rehearsed, scripted, directed etc.  At least I would have tried to make it better then the rest.  At least I can say, proudly, that I worked my ass off for this bad show.
But it won’t be bad.  I wouldn’t dare put a bad show on.  I wouldn’t insult the long and illustrious history of magic like that.
Here ends the lesson.

Next, someone replies to my post where I reviewed three shows.  Kreskin, Copperfield and Friday Night Magic.

Anonymous said:
“Who the hell are you to comment on shows? You are just some lowly nobody who has nothing going for himself, a crappy magician that will never amount to anything but and internet junkie....”

Hmmmm, I wonder who this could be?  Mark or Paul, Mark or Paul?  I’m going for Paul here since Mark isn’t afraid to put his name to his insults.
You want to know who the hell I am?  I am a magician, but above that I am a fan.  And as a fan I demand a certain amount of professionalism when I see a public show.   I expect to see well rehearsed, scripted material.  I do not expect to see people “winging” it.  “Winging” it is unprofessional and insulting to the audience.  PERIOD!!!!!
We deserve better.
I, by the way, am also a human being that lives in a democracy, and that gives me the right to air my views on ANYTHING, much like it gave you the right to post your reply.  Don’t like it, go to Cuba and see what a free idea gets you.
As for being a nobody.  Yeah, I’ll give you that.  My name is nothing in the world of entertainment, and I don’t care.  At least this nobody cares about the art of Magic.  At least this nobody knows well enough to say “no” when not prepared.  At least this nobody can hold his head high and say with confidence “I give a damn!”
BTW: Next time have the balls to sign your name.

Again, someone without the balls to put his name to his reply said:
“Who are you to be able to have the audacity to even try to critic Copperfields are pathetic.”

Wow, I didn’t think my Copperfield review was that bad.  Well, my coward, I state again that I am a fan, and in this case I was a fan that invested quite a bit of money into this show, and those little bills with the Queen’s picture on them allow me the right to say if I was dis-satisfied with Copperfield’s performance, much like I have a right to complain about a meal at a restaurant that I have to pay for.
But hey, I guess were not allowed to have opinions, are we.  I guess we are supposed to blindly applaud disappointing and just plain bad performances and let those crappy magicians believe that they are good because we live in a time where hurting others feelings is bad.
Sure, I could look at you, whoever you are anonymous coward, and say “Yes, your performance was good,” when it sucked, but for what end?  So that you can stay bad?  So you never grow?  So that you live your life in a delusional state that you are good?  Is that what you want?  To be bad and stay bad?
I won’t do that.  There is a long and wonderful history associated to the Art of Magic and I am not going to sully it by pretending bad is good.  I am not going to rape magic by allowing crap to go unnoticed.
At least I care, which is more than I can say for you.
Oh yeah, just so you know I have received my fair share of bad reviews over time, and yes I get pissed, but I listen and take notes and try to better myself.  Don’t believe me, ask my friends.  (Yes, I have friends.)  Being that they are all artistic types (Actors, writers, directors etc.) they are never afraid to tell the truth and you can be damn sure after so long of this I can take it.

But hey, you can’t say I don’t put my money where my mouth is.  Much like I did for Mr. Motta above, (Notice he had the balls to post his name, you coward) if you post you real name I will make sure you get a pair of tickets to my upcoming show and will allow you to post a review right here, on my blog, unedited.  (Hell, I won’t even check for spelling and grammar.)  THAT is how sure I am about my show.  THAT is how sure I am that I am doing the right thing.
It’s up to you, anonymous stranger.  A public airing of your name for a chance to put me in my place.  What do you say?

Oh yeah, this is the last free pair I will give away, just in case you think all you have to do is bad mouth me to get free tickets.

Next Post:  I’m sure I’ll get some more reader mail, but I’ll try to think up something else to write about.  (Us uncreative nobody’s have trouble with original thoughts, don’t you know.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006



Last Friday, the CBS network presented to North American audiences the new star of magic, Keith Barry and his special Extraordinary.  The one hour special featured Barry performing for big name stars such as Jessica Simpson, Mathew McConaughey and the hosts of Entertainment Tonight.
So, what did I think?
I liked it, kinda.

Let me explain.  (No, it will take too long, let me sum up.)

First of all, Barry’s personality for most of the special was of a “regular kind of bloke.”  This is quite refreshing in this day and age, since “regular kind of bloke” seems to be the last thing magicians these days seem to want to be.  I hope somewhere, somehow this influences young magicians who seem to think to be a magician means you mumble a lot.
Then there are the tricks themselves.  Some were outstanding (Like the triple prediction with Mathew McConaughey), some were weird (like the spider prediction with Jessica Simpson, although it was Ms. Simpson that made it weird.  What exactly was she on?) And one trick was, well, confusing (What exactly was he doing with The Divinci Code?  It was really badly done and confusing.)
And then there was the “Big Finish.”  The hanging bit.  I had a problem with this in that the lead up (The picking of the nooses, the deciding of where he stood) took far too long and was far too wordy, but even with that the visual of a guy on the gallows, possibly ending his life but then plunging downwards to safety was an outstanding visual.  (A hell of a lot better then a guy jumping into cardboard boxes.)
So, what is the end result?  Well, it was mostly good.  If they had taken out the Davinci Code trick it would have been better, but for a first special I believe it was really good.
Rumor has it that Mr. Barry has signed for two more specials.  I for one look forward to what he does next.
And no, I am not going to compare him to David Blaine’s latest special.  Comparing the two is like comparing apples to really boring mumbling kind of oranges.

Next Post:  Finally, I am going to address the hate mail I’ve gotten.