Monday, March 27, 2006

From the NYT: A School for Magic

Today's New York Times has a lovely article about a college of magic in a poor area of Cape Town, South Africa. Although the article mostly avoids any serious discussion of the art, it does focus a spotlight on the way the school and its program helps disadvantaged kids to gain confidence and life skills.

It's nice to see magic represented in such a generally positive light.


Presto! A School for Magic Creates Hope Out of Thin Air

KHAYELITSHA, South Africa — Life is hard for the 750,000 or so people crammed into this shantytown, one of South Africa's largest and toughest. In the last census, in 2001, 6 in 10 adults here said they had no steady income. What little money they have tends to vanish quickly, spent on essentials or stolen in the break-ins and robberies that are endemic here.

The way Phumile Dyasi makes money vanish is rather less common...


For six years, 16-year-old Phumile has studied prestidigitation at College of Magic in Cape Town, a sort of kindergarten-to-baccalaureate institution for aspiring conjurers. Making coins disappear is the least of the tricks he has picked up.

From a shy 10-year-old who knew only Xhosa, South Africa's principal indigenous tongue, Phumile has grown to speak fluent English and handle audiences with aplomb. In 2004, he was chosen the best young magician in Western Cape Province. In March 2005, he was in Las Vegas, honing his skills with some of the world's top magicians. He hopes to make entertainment a lifelong career.


Link (may require free NYT registration)

TOTH to my buddy Tim for the link.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Google Mars

Holy shit. This is for real.

And here's a very cool JPL-created flythrough (High res. version available here). Take your Dramamine!


Percival Lowell's 1895 map shamelessly appropriated from Google, too.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Awesome Magic Clips -- Tim Ellis & Sue-Anne Webster

Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster are a pair of super-talented (and, by all accounts, super-nice) Australian magicians who've earned themselves quite an international reputation among the cognoscenti. They also run an excellent blog called Magic Unlimited, which is a reliable source of fun, clever ideas, and spot-on advice from a couple of busy professionals. Tim is a two-time FISM winner, which should give you some idea of the level he's working at.

I'd never seen any of their material until today, but I just discovered that they have some fantastic clips online:

It starts with Tim's famous Runaround Sue routine. This is a beautifully constructed piece of magic, tightly executed. Next up is Sue-Anne's Jeannie act. This one's charming but needs more material, in my opinion, since not enough happens to justify the setup. The Floating Table's always struck me as painfully obvious, and the audience's delayed, lukewarm reaction would seem to support my instincts on this one. But the premise is terrific, and Sue-Anne's a delightful presence ("Lucky Tim!" seems to be a common reaction among their male fans, including this one.)

The third clip is Tim's presentation of the classic Razor Blade effect, and it's also tight, funny, extremely clear, and very deceptive. The last one is their presentation of Houdini's Substitution Trunk. This is one of the most overused illusions in magic (here's a dull but servicable version) and I've always felt that, for the most part, there's no reason to do it now that The Pendragons have taken it to such a high degree of polish.

Tim and Sue-Anne turn it into a raucous party; it's one of the most entertaining things I've seen in a long time (and makes me wish I was there when they performed it). Highly recommended!


Tip of the Hat to Brendan Croft of the Magic, Illusion, and Data Managment blog, where I first saw these clips. They load a lot faster on Ellis and Webster's own site, so that's the link I provided above.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Earliest Supporter

I still remember when I first heard about this. I was flying on cloud nine all week!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jason Latimer on Craig Ferguson

Yes, it's Link Week here at PeaceLove's Musings. Thanks to Pagliacci, here's Jason Latimer doing his clear Cups and Balls routine on Craig Ferguson's show. I had heard about this routine but it's nice to finally see it; it's a whole new approach to an old classic. Beautiful!

(And he's only twenty-three, grrrr...)

Kudos to Ferguson for giving this talented magician a spot. Late-night talk shows, once a prime venue for magicians, have become harder and harder to crack. Johnny Carson was an amateur magician himself so he featured a variety of top pros over the years, including Michael Skinner, Michael Ammar, and Lance Burton. When Leno took over, the magic came to an end (I once heard that neither he nor his booker likes magicians).

Thanks to the Web, some of the top magicians in the world, even ones who never perform in the U.S., can now be seen online. But it's still great to see an up -and-comer like Latimer get his shot on network TV. Check it out and see why he was named the "Grand Prix World Champion of Magic" at the 2003 FISM competition.