Saturday, January 14, 2006

Copperfield Does Fearson's Laser Illusion - UPDATED

I'm not normally a fan of David Copperfield, but this performance of the now-famous Laser illusion is awesome (once you get past the lame dance intro). Leaving aside his big "TV effects" like the vanish of the Statue of Liberty and the float across the Grand Canyon, this is one of the best illusions Copperfield has ever done.


The inventor, Steve Fearson is one of magic's great creative eccentrics. Some years ago, he set about to invent "anytime, anywhere" versions of three great standard illusions. The first of the three was a wacky levitation, Fearson's Fantastic Floatation. Next up was the sawing in half illusion (originally named Splitting Image) that became the Laser, for which Copperfield promptly purchased the worldwide rights for a rumored six figures. The final effect was the much maligned but nevertheless fabulous Goodbye Vanish, which is about the best cheap and dirty solution to a one-person impromptu vanish imaginable. My Friday Night Magic cohort and I have probably used the Metamorphosis presentation of the Goodbye Vanish about a hundred times on unsuspecting guests; it's a blast!

Fearson is also a legendary weirdo/showman, and he frequently comes out with effects alleged to have been extracted from the dark underbelly of magic, psychological black ops, hypnosis, and the psychic underground. One of these, The Station Manager Document, was accompanied by an entertaining line of bullshit (the life of the "anonymous" tipper would supposedly be in danger were his identity known) that many took seriously.

A couple of years ago, Fearson announced that he would be selling his online magic business and starting a church. The blogoshpere buzzed, but to date Fearson is still selling magic online. He's currently in the crosshairs for giving away a number of magic ebooks for free that contain effects and secrets that are not his to give away. He's also shilling a hypnotism course for an alleged master hypnotist called "Taylor Starr" (who might just be Fearson himself).

[UPDATE - 2/21/06: See the Comments to this post. "Taylor Starr" himself claims he is not Fearson and in fact doesn't even know Fearson.]

Fearson's status as a magical creator is pretty solid, but his tendency to overhype his products has made him a controversial figure in the magic community. My own take of Fearson is that I'm happy to have someone as colorful as he is to brighten the normally gray magic world!


Copperfield link via Magic Spank.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Matrix: Omnigendered

From Rolling Stone, here's the wild story of Larry Wachowski, one half of the Wachowski brothers duo who brought us the Matrix trilogy. Seems old Larry has intriguing sexual proclivities and may or may not have undergone a sex change operation -- perhaps to bring him closer to his former-dominatrix girlfriend Ilsa Strix.

Intriguing read. The publicity surrounding such a high-profile transvestite (transsexual?) can only help shine a flashlight on these extremes of consensual sexual behavior -- and perhaps help diminish some of the prejudice faced by those with non-mainstream-hetero tastes in our society.

Plus, it sounds like a pretty good idea for a zany romantic comedy. Do you think maybe it's a little bit ahead of its time?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Did Bush Wiretap Amanpour?

John Aravosis' excellent AMERICAblog is covering the developing story about whether Bush's gang wiretapped CNN's Christiane Amanpour. This all began when NBC's Andrea Mitchell specifically posed that question to James Risen, the New York Times reporter who first broke the story about domestic wiretapping. NBC has now changed the transcript to delete the question, but here's the original transcript:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

It's not clear why Mitchell would ask such a specific question, but the blogs are all over this story and it will not be allowed to die quietly. Speculation is that Amanpour's husband, former Clinton administration senior advisor Jamie Rubin, might have been the intended target. Check out Aravosis' analysis of the situation. Scary.

But -- almost as sinister a question -- why did NBC edit the question out of the transcript? Their stated reason is they removed the lines in question "so that we may further continue our inquiry," but, as Aravosis says,

Since when is NBC in the business of deleting entire paragraphs from their official transcripts? What's going on here?

Stay tuned, folks. I predict that this story will not go away. Even the mainstream news media will take an interest when the civil liberties of one (possibly more) of its own are under attack.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another New Hero: David Letterman!

Wow! The previously apolitical Letterman sharpened his critical sword after his 2000 quintuple bypass. That brush with death, along with the extraordinary outpouring of love and support from virtually the entire media spectrum, seemed to have lent him a new fearless streak. For instance, shortly after his post-surgery return, he had a startlingly fierce toss-off line about George W. Bush's upcoming appearing on Leno: "Oh yeah, there's a real summit of the minds."

I don't watch Letterman very often anymore, so I was pleasantly thrilled by this clip from yesterday's show, in which he opens a can o' whupass on Fox mega-creep Bill O'Reilly. Letterman really strips away O'Reilly's bullshit on such issues as the alleged "liberal war on Christmas" and the war in Iraq. He seems especially angry when O'Reilly tries to claim that bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan is controlled by far left elements. Letterman: "I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan. Honest to Christ."

It's lovely to see O'Reilly squirm, especially when Dave delivers the the coup de grace, after a particulary caustic exchange: "Bill, it's always a pleasure," followed by his hand extended for a shake. Translation: "Thanks for coming on the show. Now get the fuck out of my studio."


Thanks - again -- to Salon for the link.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Hero: Keith Olbermann

I never watch MSNBC, so I'm only vaguely aware of Keith Olbermann as a former sportscaster and occasionaly nemesis to Fox pitbull Bill O'Reilly. What a delightful surprise, then, to see him taking down a Fox News hatemonger named John Gibson. Gibson, (who I'd not previously heard of) is the author of the heartwarming The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, October 2005). Olbermann, a former friendly collegue of Gibson's, had named him one of the "World's Worst People" for comments Gibson had made about "people who practice the wrong religion" (non-Christians).

What makes this so delicious is that Gibson, along with O'Reilly, promptly denounced the "smear" and claimed to have been taken out of context. Thanks to the Web (and specifically, the excellent Crooks and Liars site), Olbermann's fiery response, with proof, is available for everyone to see. This is an energizing seven minutes and a terrific way to ring in the new year!


Link via Salon.