Monday, November 28, 2005

The Colored Bubble Story

Popular Science has a lovely article on Tim Kehoe and his 11-year quest to develop colored bubbles. It seems that the classic clear soap bubble, a perennial favorite toy for hundreds of years, has never been produced in color; trying to blow bubbles from colored soap yields clear bubbles with color running down the side and collecting at the bottom.

Kehoe succeeded in creating a beautifully colored bubble, but when it burst it stained everything in its path. Read the story to see how he overcame (with a little help) this "minor" setback to create the world's first colored soap bubbles.

Keep an eye out for these to break bigtime in the media when they come out. Zubbles probably won't be out for Christmas, but February or so these will be everywhere.


Thanks, again, to BoingBoing for the link.

Hip Hop: A Love Story

Beautiful. Salon has the best love letter to Hip Hop by a Hip Hop-hating white liberal I've seen anywhere. A masterpiece.

Okay, it's also about survival and poverty and racism and classism, about the social forces that shape our lives, and about paedamorphosis, evolutionary change happening in the young and moving upwards. There's a stunning moment in which the author, Camille Perri, realizes that her Hip Hop son is far more Progressive than she is. I realized then that all that time while we were thinking that Joe was moving off on his own, he had been moving us with him.

Said essay is excerpted from "Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves, edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses. Published by HarperCollins and coming out in paperback in January 2006, by the way.


You will need to watch a short ad in order to read the essay. Or, better yet, subscribe. Salon is consistently one of the most valuable sources for uncorrupted news anywhere, a diamond. I'm a subscriber, which means I pay my hard-earned money to read Salon every day. And I don't like spending my hard-earned money on nuthin.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Music from the End of the World

I haven't posted these last few days because I've been too busy working the Comments to my A Funny Thing post. The first comment took me totally by surprise, coming out of left field to accuse me of "stealing music" and thus setting a bad example for my son. Much back and forth merriment ensued, with an old friend stepping up to the plate in my defense.

An unrelated comment (unrelated to the Comment discussion, but related to the original post) led to my opining on filmmaker Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World, a flawed but intriguing film that somehow generated one of the greatest soundtrack albums in the history of film. If you haven't heard this soundtrack, I urge you to sniff out a copy. Take a look at these Amazon reviews if you don't believe me.

Go ahead, check 'em out. I'll wait until you get back.

Wow, that's a very moving set of Amazon reviews, isn't it? They really reveal the deep, deep reservoir of love and loyalty to this album. Count me among its devotees.

This haunting collection has been in heavy rotation in my life on and off since it came out. Until the End of the World doesn't quite come together as a film, in my opinion (apparently it was heavily butchered by the studio before release, and a redeeming five-hour cut may one day be released), but Wenders' tremendous gift for illuminating love and human connections in the midst of isolation and despair permeates this extraordinary album. The consistency of tone is extremely Wenders-like, despite the amazing diversity of artists contained within.

The Amazon reviews do a fine job covering specific tracks by the likes of U2, Talking Heads, Jane Siberry, Daniel Lanois, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, and many others; suffice it to say that all these talented artists seem to have been magically inspired to produce at a special meta-level for this soundtrack. Wenders asked the artists (in 1991) to produce the music they thought they would be making in 1999, the year in which the film is set. The result has the feeling of a dispatch both from and for the future.

Wenders cemented his genius as a filmmaker with Wings of Desire, but it is with the Until the End of the World soundtrack that his vision finds its perfect aural complement.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dispatch from 2014

E-buddy Rick Carruth of Magic Roadshow hipped me to this provocative documentary from the future about the breakthroughs introduced by Googlezon (Google merged with Amazon). It's quite a thought-provoking piece, although I'm not so sure about its conclusions. Of course, as (I believe) John Perry Barlow said, when it comes to predicting the future we're all amateurs.

I think this little media project does capture just how amazing the last ten years have been, and its ideas about where we're going are mind-bending and startlingly plausible.


Thanks Rick!

A Funny Thing

The other day, as my nine-year-old son Daniel sat on the couch leafing through a book called Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections, I began ripping Marianne Faithfull's 2000 CD Vagabond Ways onto my iBook.

For readers unfamiliar with Faithfull, she was a beautiful but vapid teenage folkie with a string of minor (and quite ghastly) hits in the mid-sixties who became famous as Mick Jagger's girlfriend, got heavily into drugs and alcohol, wound up a homeless junkie, then somehow re-emerged in the Eighties with the most extraordinarily poetic whore and whiskey voice ever heard in rock and roll (she also sings Kurt Weil, brilliantly).

I had gotten Vagabond Ways out of the library and I hadn't actually listened to it yet. As the eponymous first song was ripping it began playing -- a haunting, plaintive lament delivered with fifty-four-year-old Faithfull's world-weary grace.

Oh, doctor please, oh, doctor please.

At this point Daniel looked up from his book and said, "Dad, can we listen to something else?"

Well, there's no accounting for taste, I thought. I said, "This is great stuff..."

I drink and I take drugs, I love sex and I move around a lot.

At this point, I was looking right at Daniel, and he at me. I think I managed a slight comic roll of the eyes as I made my way calmly to the laptop to pause it and find "something else."

I had my first baby at fourteen.

Picture the scene. The music has stopped. Daniel and I are looking at each other. He has obviously heard this lyric, but I see no particular reaction -- though no particular disinterest, either. So I start laughing. And he starts laughing. And next thing we know we're both in hysterics, I because I have no idea what he's making of what we just heard, and he for some unknown reason -- perhaps because he's smart enough to know transgressive when he hears it.

Beautiful moment.


We spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Beethoven's Wig.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Jaw-dropping Technology -- Follow-up

I'm not sure if I communicated the point I was trying to elucidate with my Jaw-dropping Technology post. I closed it with the line:

I long for the day I can buy a petabyte iPod for $50.

I was going to say "terabyte" iPod in the sentence above, but then I figured, why skimp? A terabyte is one thousand gigabytes (the biggest capacity iPod at the moment holds 60 gigabytes). A petabyte is one thousand terabytes, or one million gigabytes.

It turns out I'm glad I changed it, because already today some prognosticator predicted the release within five years of a terabyte iPod. I wouldn't have wanted my own vision to be so pedestrian.

It's now perfectly clear that powerful new technologies empower us in ways we absolutely can NOT predict. A terabyte iPod would be cool, but a petabyte iPod would be a fundamentally different device. In New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly says:

Count on more being different. A handful of sand grains will never form an avalanche no matter how hard one tries to do it. Indeed one could study a single grain of sand for a hundred years and never conclude that sand can avalanche. To form avalanches you need millions of grains.

Kelly is talking about the power of networks (or swarms), but his rule applies to storage as well. I already have over 46 gigabytes of music alone on my computer, too much to fit on my 40 gigabyte iPod. If I wanted to store photos and movies, I could easily see my current needs hitting 1000 gigabytes, or one terabyte. I'm sure the advent of a terabyte iPod will make many new avenues possible, but my theoretical petabyte iPod is liable to launch a paradigm-shifting avalanche inconceivable to us small-minded humans in the current year of 2005.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blue Ball Machine

Strangely hypnotic.


Thanks to Grow-a-Brain for the link. The music is from Danny Elfman's brilliant PeeWee's Big Adventure soundtrack.

Who is Chris Morris?

I recently updated my old Sarah Suicide post with the news that the magician in question is a young U.K. artist and filmmaker named Sarah Sumeray. In a bio I found online, Sumeray cited caustic British comedian Chris Morris as a major inspiration, so I decided to go searching a bit to see what I could dig up on this virtually unknown (in the U.S.) performer.

What I found was a gonzo, take-no-prisoners satirist with one of the sharpest comic minds anywhere. Morris seems to have created a scathingly surreal Daily Show type fake news show called "Brass Eye" back in 1997. He also had a sketch comedy show called "Jam" which ran in 2000 (and is the show cited by Sarah Sumeray). His style has been referred to as "radical subversion." Like Sacha Baron Cohen of the brilliant Da Ali G Show, Morris often traps famous people into endorsing or condemning fake products or causes, but where he differs from Cohen is in style. Where Cohen tends to be a bit over-the-top, Morris skirts a very fine line between absurdist truth and satire.

Here's a terrific clip about Morris, with bits and talking heads from famous (in England, I gather) public figures caught in Morris' web. There's some apallingly funny footage here, like Morris as TV host arm-wrestling a guy with AIDS ("Who says AIDS guys are puny? This guy has AIDS and he's about to beat me in arm wrestling. Ooo, well done!"). In another bit Morris, dressed in a huge red ball hat and a diaper, double-talks some drug dealers trying to ply their wares.

Here's another good profile, with discussion of Morris' radio shows (including one called Blue Jam, which the writer thinks is his best work) and links to download the shows. This site has a wealth of audio and video clips, enough to keep you well entertained for a few hours. And here's a hilarious overview from a 1997 Melody Maker profile on Morris:

"Brass Eye", the awesomely sacriligeous, fearlessly iconoclastic mock-ummentary series he made for Channel Four earlier this year, caused headlines before, during and after its six week run, and it wasn't difficult to see why. In one episode a scientist claimed that the disabled weren't really disabled at all but simply lazy. Another began with explicit footage of Morris shafting a woman from behind. In another a Kilroy-style debate show host drew a distinction between people suffering from "Good AIDS" (haemophiliacs, blood transplant patients) and "Bad AIDS" (homosexuals, drug users)....

Most spectacularly he subverted our implicit trust in "experts" by fooling a host of celebrities and politicians to denounce a made up drug called Cake and campaigned on behalf of Carla, an East German elephant with her head jammed up her anus ("She's got eyes... but she hasn't got any ears") And these were just the bits that got shown. Among excerpts considered too much for British audiences were: A children's board game based on the Holocaust, an American pro guns advert featuring Christ shooting Judas, and famously, a musical based on the life of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe....

Can anybody say BitTorrent?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jaw-dropping Technology

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I was at the Apple store the other day and saw the new Video iPod. That's gotta' be the wettest piece of technology I've seen in a long time, as jaw-dropping as, maybe, the original iPod itself. I hadn't really played with the iPod Photo either, so I was unprepared for the visceral shiver I got when I began playing with this new generation of iPods. The addition of a color screen that's useful for more than song-info display is a fundamental change in the nature of the iPod.

Seeing this new technology, and feeling that shiver of paradigm shift, made me think to the other times in my life in which a new technology gave me that kind of jolt. I can't really remember how hip I was to the effects of technology back in 1974, but I remember well the day when my parents bought their first portable calculator. It was about the size of a high-end Texas Instruments technical calculator today, with an LED (!) display and the basic functions -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and maybe a square root key or a percentage key. The price: a bargain at eighty bucks.

I remember playing with big multiplications and being delighted with how quickly I could get an answer to such probing questions as: what's 23,445 times 8537? Buckminster Fuller once said that the two years he spent figuring out all the mathematics for his geodesic domes could have been compressed into two days if he had had access to a modern calculator. How extraordinary that the tool I held in my hand back in 1974 was destined to change the world.

The next great technology I grokked was the cassette deck. By the late Seventies, I had a pretty nice stereo set up, and I was able to make myself mix tapes out of the one or two best-loved cuts per record. I also taped favorite songs off the radio. I became quite expert at starting and stopping the tape exactly where I wanted it, and also learned to drop the needle quite accurately into the little space between tracks.

[On a side note, I recently got a good laugh while hanging out with some friends in their early twenties. They had inherited an old cabinet-style record player and some records from their parents, and I impressed them with my dazzling ability to nail the chosen track. It was a bit of a shock for me to realize that these kids had never used a record player growing up!]

Making mix tapes was an early step in the personal empowerment of the music lover. For a while, I had two tape decks so I could dub songs from other people's mix tapes onto my own. All through college, I collected unusual alt rock and punk tunes, and I guarded them jealously. With the technology of the day, where could I ever hope to find another copy of seminal punk band Wire's Dot Dash?

Back around '79 or so, I also got my first inklings of a new, portable cassette player that was due on the scene. My orthodontist (!) first told me about the little Walkman he had picked up in Japan. "It sounds really good, just like you're listening to a great stereo," he had said.

This is one of those examples -- and there have been several others in my life -- in which the description of the technology didn't communicate (to me, at least) just what powers it held in store. I thought, "Huh, that sounds cool," and left it at that. Sometime later, while hanging out at Myer Emco, a moderate high-end stereo store in Bethesda, MD, my buddy Mike (who looked like Doug Henning, right down to the long hair and gap teeth) hooked me up with a Walkman to test out. The demo tape (which I still have somewhere) was of an airshow, with airplanes roaring past overhead.

Freaked the shit out of me. I actually yanked off the headphones and accused Mike of cranking up some big speakers in the background. When it became clear that I was in fact listening to the little tiny Walkman I knew I had to have one.

Although I used my cassette Walkman occasionally (on the bus on my way to work at Al's Magic Shop, for instance), I discovered that the device had one fatal flaw: it ate batteries. The batteries had to move that big old motor as well as amplifying the sound, so if memory serves I would get only about two or three hours on a set of batteries. I recall now that I also had an outboard battery pack that ran on two Ds, but then you needed to have both things hanging on your belt and that got a bit unwieldy. At some point I sprang for a set of rechargeable batteries, but by this point I was "over" the glamour of carrying music around with me for the time being.

I'm humbled to admit that much of the important technology that followed went right past me, at least as far as grokking the significance. I started using computers in college but had no idea how critical they would become. Senior year I wrote all my papers at the computer center and walked three blocks to pick up the printouts. When a friend who was a computer geek told me he was buying himself for graduation a computer with "one megabyte" of storage, I thought he was a bit too nerdy; who needed that?

[My vision was similarly cloudy back in 1995 while I was living in Prague. A guy I knew told me he was moving back to the U.S. and buying a computer with a whopping one gigabyte of storage. Again my major question was "why?"]

I think the first time I really felt the need for better technology came when I first returned to the U.S. in 1996 and tried to get online with a 386 PC. It failed miserably, jammed up, and was functionally useless. The day I got my first Pentium PC and went online was the beginning of a new consciousness, for me.

Tracking the Web over the last ten years has taught me as much about the future as the past. I now have, to borrow a term from the late FM2030, a "deep nostalgia for the future," and I long for the day I can buy a petabyte iPod for $50.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Time Delivers - Part 2

This post has been in draft form for over a week, and it's starting to get stale. So I figure I'd better post it before it's completely obsolete.

Part 1 described how Time magazine presented a surprisingly progressive view of gay teens. In Part 2, I review (briefly) the surprises of the next three issues.

The issue after Gay Teens contains a cover story featuring alternative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil on Living Healthier Longer. It's not the first time Time has featured him on the cover, and it's a pretty generic story, but still it makes Time look more like Alternative Medicine than the bland corporate magazine it has always been.

The next issue (October 24, 2005), which features a cover hagiography on Steve Jobs, also contains a well-balanced article on the fluoridation debate, the first such article I've seen in a mainstream magazine to actually present both sides of the argument with open-minded respect. Remember when fluoridation opponents were generally branded as sociopathic kooks?

The same issue contains some amazingly forward-thinking prognostications about the future from superstar futurists like Esther Dyson and Malcolm Gladwell. Most notable, for me, is the discussion with tech publisher Tim O'Reilly about the "collective intelligence" of the web (what he refers to elsewhere as the architecture of participation). This includes such user-created databases as Wikipedia, a massive online encyclopedia which anyone can add to or edit.

I have a little bit of experience with this particular site, having contributed in small ways wherever I've found a hole. For instance, after my recent reminiscence about Ormond McGill, I checked over at Wikipedia and found (to my surprise) that there was no entry on this legendary hypnotist. I promptly added a brief entry, and also added him to the Deaths in October, 2005 page under "October 19th." I also sent this information to Ormond's closest colleagues with the invitation to modify or expand the entry as they saw fit.

The Architecture of Participation, the structure of the Internet that allows millions of people all over the world to contribute to the ever-growing database of human knowledge, is only beginning to reveal itself. How progressive of Time to give such a concept even a little bit of room in its pages!

But nothing could have prepared me for the cover story of the October 31, 2005 issue. The headline is The Great Retirement Ripoff, and it has the subheading: Millions of Americans who think they will retire with benefits are in for a NASTY SURPRISE. How corporations are picking people's pockets--with the help of Congress. Hello! When's the last time you saw Time magazine take a specifically anti-corporate and anti-government position? Beautiful! And that's the cover; you don't even need to read the article to get the message of the story. "Picking people's pockets" -- that's a crime! Time is accusing big corporations and Congress of engaging in quasi-legal but nevertheless criminal behavior! Is this Time or Mother Jones?

I can't prove this (and I'm unwilling to go digging to do so), but I believe that, oh, five years ago this story would have looked something like this: "Is Your Nest Egg Safe? How bottom-line pressures may be jepardizing your retirement benefits." In other words, a nice alarmist story about economic pressures and a changing world rather than a hard-hitting indictment of corporate greed and Congressional malfeasance.

What changed? The Web. Blogs. Free Speech. Time is a follower, not a leader, but at least it now looks like the leader they are following may just be the truth.

On Stooges, Camera Tricks, and Strong Magic

In a comment to my last post, Mike from The Wizards Ball remarked:

The key difference with [Cyril's] tricks and the Angel window stunt (and his levitations) is that half the spectators are not stooges. To my mind that is really lazy magic.

Notwithstanding the fact that, to my eyes and experience, almost none of the spectators in the Angel video are stooges (or need to be), I have to take issue with Mike's general point. I used to parrot the standard magical purist line, that using stooges is somehow "cheating," or "lazy magic." A related viewpoint with regards to magic on television, is that the use of camera tricks -- or what has euphemistically been referred to as "creative editing" -- is unacceptable to "real magicians."

I have now come to understand that all magic is cheating; in fact, a pretty good definition of the magical arts (with apologies to Darwin Ortiz), would be the judicious and subtle use of cheating to create the illusion of impossibility. If you're a magician, cheating is your job! Assuming you accept that premise (and if you don't you're going to have trouble with that "illusion of impossibility" thing), it becomes obviously silly to try to make some determination about what is and is not acceptable cheating.

As far as I'm concerned, anything is permissible as long as it helps create the illusion of impossibility. Camera trickery, stooges, an entire fake set -- everything is okay as long as it contributes to the power and believability of the illusion. The great mentalist Ted Annemann once said (I'm paraphrasing), "If you need to use nine stooges to fool a tenth person, then go right ahead."

"But," he added, "it had better be one hell of a trick."

This brings up a more serious concern with the use of stooges and creative editing; there is an increasing risk that your audience will catch on and cease to trust you. Ironically, even though they know you are cheating to create the illusion, if they catch you, or even suspect you, you're dead in the water as far as your effectiveness goes.

The risk that my audience might lose faith in me is one reason why I never use camera trickery; the other reason is that I never perform on TV.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Cyril Slays Again!

You might remember the crazy hamburger trick I posted about back in July. The magician's name is Cyril Takayama, and he's a former L.A. kid, F.I.S.M. winner, and member of Magic X Live who moved to Japan and became a star. Here are a couple of other killer routines, and one certifiable stunner.

Cyril dresses like an old man and loses his head.

Cyril does something very cool with chopsticks.

And now, one of the craziest magic routines I've ever seen, a series of penetrations involving a glass table.

I have absolutely no idea...


Thanks to John B. for that last one.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Criss Angel Window Stunner

Criss Angel is a hot goth magician with his own series of specials on A&E. The magic blogosphere is full of ignorant naysayers who bash Angel right and left (many magicians bashed Blaine, too), but I think he's got real talent. He actually comes across as a sweet guy, too. I've seen only one of his specials (the one in which he zaps himself with a giant Tesla Coil), but to my mind he shows a lot of promise.

Whatever you think of him, however, this clip is pretty cool.

I think Angel is riding the coattails of David Blaine just a bit too much, but at least he's hip and sexy -- two qualities not often associated with magicians. Also, I heard him on Loveline the other day and he seemed intelligent and down to earth, too.

Magic needs more superstars and I'm rooting for Criss.

Tip O' the Hat to Russell for the link.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Google AdSense

You may have noticed the Google AdSense ads to the right. In theory, if you click on any of the ads it sends some minor sum of money into my Google AdSense account. Bloggers with large readerships can apparently do pretty well with this program.

I signed up a while ago, mainly because I was interested in seeing what came up. I'm obviously not trying to make any money off of them (I don't even remember my login for their home page, or where it is) and I'd be quite shocked if they sent me a check even for fifty cents. But it is amusing to watch the ads customize themselves according to the content of my posts. I'm sure for "single issue" blogs this could be a very effective way to reach customers. If I were the leading blogger about bicycle technology, bike manufactures would wet themselves to reach my readers' eyeballs.

What's brilliant about Google's system is that the blogger himself does nothing but sign up. Once you've put the Google source code into your template Google's automated system does the rest. The advertiser pays only for clickthroughs, so it costs them nothing to have the ad up on my blog -- or anyone else's, for that matter -- unless they get a response. This is what enables a small company (a custom bike manufacturer, for instance) to get closely targeted results for very little money; like much of the Web, it helps level the playing field considerably.

With my blog, the ads range from magic themed to (now) gay-targeted ads. I'm sure by the time you read this there will be a bunch of hypnosis-related ads in their place. The power of the web to target both ads and information is being harnessed by Google like never before; it costs them virtually nothing to place an ad in every single location where it might be relevant. Since they only get paid if the ad gets a response, they have a huge incentive to continually improve their algorithms to increase their effectiveness. The benefit to you, the consumer, is that you don't have to read through a whole bunch of ads for products and services of no interest to you.

Maybe that's why Google is now trading, as of this writing, at $379/share. I read somewhere recently that uber-VC (venture capitalist) John Doerr invested $12.5 million of startup capital into Google, for which he received the pre-IPO equivalent of about 25,000,000 shares (at a then-theoretical price of 50 cents a share). I don't know if these numbers are exactly accurate, but if they're even close then Doerr (who previously invested in Amazon, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Compac, Genentech, and just about every other major tech-related company of the last decade), with $12.5 million times roughly 760, is doing just fine.

And Google, by figuring out how to harness the extraordinary architecture of participation engendered by the web, is in fact changing the world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Internet is God


UPDATED: R.I.P. Ormond McGill

After initially reconsidering, I have edited this post slightly.

Ormond McGill, the "Dean of American Hypnotists," has died. Born in 1913 in Palo Alto, California, Ormond (as everyone called him) became interested in magic as a kid (he's also pretty legendary in magic circles), taking up hypnosis in 1927 while still a teenager. He wrote the seminal Encyclopedia of Genuine Stage Hypnotism (the acknowleged Bible of stage hypnotism) in 1947, and continued to teach courses and lecture right up until a few weeks ago.

The Guardian has a nice appreciation here. Here's SF Gate's obit. And Palo Alto Online has an archived story about Ormond here, dating back to 1998, when Ormond was a youthful 85. I'm sure Ormond was the last living person who could claim to have had an ice cream cone at Palo Alto's Penninsula Creamery on the day it opened in 1923!

I saw Ormond a few times at the local magic meetings, where he just looked like a sweet old man trotted out for display, the local boy made good. So I was truly blessed to have heard him lecture on hypnosis to an audience of hypnotherapists about eight months ago. At the time I was totally unaware that he was also a skilled transpersonal hypnotherapist and mystic. He gave a beautiful and moving talk on hypnotherapy, it's uses and abuses, and the ways in which it could transform individuals and the world. The highlight, for me, was when he did a demonstration on a woman in the audience.

The woman told Ormond she was scared to drive on the highway; could he help her with that? Ormond took her through a very gentle induction and then talked her through her fears. I was struck by the softness of his demeanor, the kindness of his heart, and his casual but absolute mastery -- the result of seventy-five years of practice. I and the rest of the room felt totally at ease with this man; any one of us would have happily volunteered to be the object of his attention.


I've known a lot of hypnotists and hypnotherapists over the years, and a very high percentage of them have come across as egotistical, insecure buffoons (apologies to any healthy hypnotherapists reading this). In my experience, hypnotherapists you encounter socially are more apt to offer unsolicited help (at bargain rates) than any other type of therapists. The field of hypnotherapy is frequently associated with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a quasi-scientific system that claims to be able to help people change by teaching them how to restructure their brain functions.

The Skeptic's Dictionary has an informative analysis of NLP which concludes:

It seems that NLP develops models which can't be verified, from which it develops techniques which may have nothing to do with either the models or the sources of the models. NLP makes claims about thinking and perception which do not seem to be supported by neuroscience... NLP itself proclaims that it is pragmatic in its approach: what matters is whether it works. However, how do you measure the claim "NLP works"? I don't know and I don't think NLPers know, either.

Just in case I haven't adequately communicated my discomfort with the cult-like aspects of NLP, here's a creepy 1989 Mother Jones article about megalomaniacal NLP cofounder Richard Bandler and the murder he may or may not have committed.

Because NLP emphasises self-hypnosis and behavior modification, it seems that many hypnotists either start out in NLP or pursue its study at some point in their careers. Hypnotism, like NLP, is an attractive field for those who like power (NLP-based systems for picking up women flower on the Net these days), and it frequently attracts those who have trouble making friends the old fashioned way -- through charm, intelligence, and shared passions.


What an honor it was, then, to watch a man with an abundance of all three. Ormond was sharp, smart, and sensitive and he brought an unexpected (to me) spiritual awareness to the proceedings. He was ninety-two at the time, but his teaching and lecturing schedule was quite filled up for months to come. His boundless energy and enthusiasm were an inspiration to everyone in the room.

After the lecture, I had the great pleasure of accompanying him and his friends to dinner, where several of us (magicians) entertained by performing magic for everyone. My friend and I even got to drive him home from San Jose; by sheer coincidence he lived four blocks from my work -- where my car was parked. What an honor is was to hang out with this guy, this legend who turned out to be better than the legend!

Ormond wrote somewhere between twenty-five and forty books (sources disagree on the total), including such titles as Grieve No More Beloved (about his afterlife contact with his deceased wife), Hypnotism and Mysticism in India, and his autobiography, The Amazing Life of Ormond McGill. A Google search on his name reveals 89,000 pages ("PeaceLove's Musings": 213).

Yes, the magic and hypnotism world has lost a giant. And a beautiful man, too.