Archive for November, 2009

Ouch, that hurt

Tonight, while dancing East Coast Swing with someone, I led a move.  I held the lady’s hands – both of them – and did an outside turn to the left putting her into what is known as a hammerlock position.  I then untwisted her and wanted to then turn her the other way which would put her in a… er, what’s the name for it?  A cuddle position?  Something like that, basically my arms would be wrapped around her.

As I was untwisting her, her elbow smacked me in the chest.  Hard.  Well, it wasn’t so much hard as it was the the place in the middle of your chest where the ribs meet.  If you break that bone in real life, it’s quite serious.  Well, I got elbowed right there, and it took my breath away.  I silently grunted, but it hurt.  She said oops, but I didn’t say anything and pretended it was no big deal.  I made my way to the end of the song and then kind of staggered off.  Man, was that ever an unpleasant experience.  I’ve been hit before a few times, mostly in the chest, a couple of times in the shoulders, a couple of times in the face but this was the most painful.

I found that whenever I led that move from that point forward, I tended to lean away and lead it with my arms facing as far away from the lady as possible.  Paranoia has set in.

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On foreign policy

It’s been about a year since President Barack Obama was elected, and about 10 months since he was sworn in.  In that time, I find that I actually agree with some of his polices.

  • Foreign policy

    For the most part, I have agreed with Obama’s foreign policy.  In case you didn’t notice, his administration’s policy is almost exactly the same as the Bush administration’s… well, the final two years of the Bush administration’s.  He is drawing down in Iraq, a continuation from earlier.  He is refusing to recognize Russia’s sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union (Vice President Joe Biden basically told the Russians that their country was irrelevant in a June or July speech), and the US is applying pressure in Iran.  On all of these, I’m not against any of it.

    Where I break parts with Obama is on Afghanistan.  The Obama administration wants to escalate troop levels there, and I don’t think this is a good move.  There’s nothing of strategic value in Afghanistan; Al Qaeda prime has been disrupted sufficiently to make it nearly impossible to carry out another 9/11 style attack.  The funding out of the middle east has dried up.  The Soviets spent 9 years in Afghanistan with much looser rules of engagement, got no where, and withdrew.  I don’t see the value of escalating there and expecting to attain a different result.  It’ll quickly degenerate into a quagmire.

    The other place where I disagree was the withdrawal of missile defense from Poland and Hungary.  The United States’s commitment to these two states was not about missiles, but about the US’s commitment to the defense of these two states from Russia.  Flipping about on these two countries sends a signal to these countries that the US will not protect its allies.  Oddly enough, within a couple of weeks of this announcement, the US did say that they were going to transfer piles and piles of pieces of defense hardware to them.  That was weird.

  • Domestic policy

    On the domestic policy side, I don’t have as much in common with the administration.  I don’t think Congress should have passed a nearly $1 trillion bailout of various industries.  But while I don’t necessarily agree with passing a huge health care bill, I think that he has played it right by giving most of the work to Congress.  After all, domestic policy is the work of the legislative branch whereas foreign policy is the work of the executive branch.

    I don’t understand Cap-and-Trade enough to make a comment on it, passing Credit Card legislation will result in credit card companies charging huge rates, and one thing I think that the admin missed the boat on is Wall Street reform after the financial crisis.  But again, I haven’t followed domestic policy enough.  I’m not sure it matters, because for whatever reason, ever since Obama’s election the Republicans seem to have gotten their act together and campaigned actively against prolific spending.  It’s about time.

So, that’s my two minute summary of my views to date.

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Tonight, I answered an ad on Craigslist.  They are a magician’s talent agency, looking to book magicians.  They take care of all of the advertising and booking, I just show up and do the show.  They collect a fee and I get the rest.  From my perspective, it’s win/win.  I don’t have to do any of the stuff I don’t like doing and instead get to concentrate on performing, my favorite part.

I’ve been contacting the guy through email and it looks like I already have a gig booked on New Year’s Eve (the last time I performed on New Year’s Eve was in 2005).  And, it has the potential to be booked for a regular series of shows.  I’m really looking forward to this.  I am going to get to do a whole big chunk of my mentalism routine and try out some new effects.  I think this will be a lot of fun!

Now if only I could figure out a way to drive a car around the place while blindfolded.

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My friends sometimes comment on the fact that I don’t drink alcoholic beverages.  To that end, I have to correct them.  It’s not that I never drink alcohol, it’s that I almost never drink it.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. I hate the taste.  This includes wine, beer, marguerites… well, pretty much anything with alcohol in it.
  2. It upsets my stomach.  I have discovered over the past few years that my stomach is getting more picky about what it will agree to digest.  Excessive or concentrated amounts of sugar make my stomach protest by feeling queasy, and even experience pain.  Alcohol is one of those things which my stomach doesn’t like. 

So you see, I’m actually not against it.  I take the occasional sip here and there but on very rare occasions.  For the most part, (1) is what drives it.

Well, a couple of weeks ago condition (1) was overcome.  I was at a friend’s place and he made me a white Russian – a blend of vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s.  I tried it… and I liked it!  All I had was a small amount but I thought that I had discovered a way around my dislike of alcoholic beverages.

Fast forward to yesterday.  Another friend, who knows I don’t drink but knows I like the white Russian, decided to buy me one down at a pub where we go to play trivia on Monday nights.  He ordered me an entire glass.  Whereas previously I had a shot glass, this was a bigger glass.  I wasn’t keen on downing the whole thing.  While I do like the drink, I was leery about consuming the entire thing.  The white Russian is a “sweeter” tasting drink; it helps cover up the taste of the alcohol. 

I drank it over the course of the evening, though not quite finishing the entire thing.  I think that this one was made differently because it tasted differently than my friend’s.  I felt no ill effects going home and figured all was well.

Until 2:30 am, the middle of the night.

I was awakened to the feeling of deep pain in my stomach, like major cramps.  They were sharp, darting pains but they were not the throb-release-throb-release that grants you relief for a split second but starts up again.  No, instead they were pretty constant.  I crawled out of bed and headed to the bathroom, looking for an antacid.

I groaned for about 45 minutes until I was finally able to make the pain go away.  I retraced my steps.  It had to have been something that I ate.  The only things I ate in the previous few hours were a dish of pasta from this pub (which I haven’t eaten before with no ill effects, albeit I hadn’t ordered it for a few months) and the white Russian.  I decided that the white Russian was to blame, with an unproven theory that the high dose of sugar and alcoholic content didn’t agree with my stomach.  Perhaps it was the pasta, but pasta has never disagreed with me.  Alcohol has.

The white Russian from this pub has now made my list of banned foods.  Sure, I like it, but that didn’t stop me from banning milkshakes and cinnamon-flavored tea.

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Doggone it.  48 hours after the fact, I now realize what I should have said Saturday evening when the judge ruled against me in the ruling of the land in the mystery game.  He ruled against me and I demanded to see the evidence against me.  The judge then pulled out a set of marked cards.  I then willfully allowed myself to be taken into prison.

What was I thinking?  I should have fought harder.  For you see, the following is the sixth amendment to the Constitution:

Sixth Amendment – Trial by jury and rights of the accused; Confrontation Clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

I have spent countless hours watching The Practice and Boston Legal.  What I should have asked is if I am being taken to prison, what crime am I being charged with?  As a private citizen I have a right to be informed as to the nature and cause of the arrest.  I may be a cheater at cards which is certainly unethical, but it’s not against the law to cheat!  What law had I broken?

But not only that, I should have asked what witnesses there were to confirm that I had cheated.  There were only four people at that game; I was one of them and another was dead.  I should have said something like how could the judge know that they were my marked cards?  Why, they could have been anyone’s cards, even a duplicate set and someone set out to frame me after the fact.  I should have even gone so far as to get someone to step up and actually verify that they were, indeed, my set of marked cards.  That would have been a gamble, yes, but it was a chance that I’d be willing to take as I don’t think that the person who had them originally would have spoken up.

Even if someone would have spoken up, I could have said the following:

  • In the event that the cards were pick pocketed from somebody else, that is evidence that was collected illegally and therefore is inadmissible in a court of law.
  • In the even that the person voluntarily spoke up, I could have defended myself by saying that the cards are my property and were stolen from me.  Thus, someone stealing from me and turning them over to someone else (they passed hands several times) is passing stolen property and thus is inadmissible.

I then would have gone into the precedent of Kelo vs Keller, Texas Case Law of 1881 in which the State Supreme Court ruled that stolen evidence is inadmissible in court.

After all, if no one else was there to see, the judge must give the land to me.  The the story doesn’t savor, the judge must rule in my favor.  If the story doesn’t fit, the judge must acquit.

At the very least, I could have Plan B’ed my friend (to Plan B someone is to accuse someone else of doing it and framing the accused regardless of whether or not they were actually guilty.  This technique always worked on The Practice).  Or maybe the judge.

Argh.  I should have thought of it sooner.

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Yesterday, I headed off to another murder mystery free form game.  As you may recall from last year, the first time around I lied to a lot of other people in an elaborate attempt to get people to do what I needed them to do.  This year, I didn’t lie to anyone.  I collected information and drilled them, trying to elicit a response that would be to my advantage.  As such, I merely concealed information the same as everyone else.  It didn’t help that 5 or 6 people used their ability cards on me and revealed my secret (that I was a cheater at cards).  In the end, my character didn’t prove to be too popular; no one trusted me.  I started off strong in the game but faded in the middle.  I should have trusted my instincts and worked a bit harder on another character who I was reasonably certain had some “information” that I needed.  I figure I was out by about two minutes of having the judge rule in my favor.  Seriously, had that happened I was entirely prepared to get up and dance a jig.  Of course, the whole song and dance of trying to evaluate people’s motives and who stands to gain from what is a lot like international diplomacy.

But onto my better story.

Earlier in the day, I was talking to a friend of mine over the phone.  He played a character known as Slick O’Hare.  Part of my character was that I did some research on Slick and discovered that he was a notorious thug from out west who’s real name was Saul Jackson.  Now, part of his character was that he wanted to keep that information a secret from everyone.  So, while we were speaking on the phone, he mentioned that he was playing the character of Slick.  Without really thinking about it, I said “Oh, you’re a thug!”  I knew this from my character sheet but didn’t know his said to keep that a secret.  I kind of blurted it out when I probably should have kept it to myself.

“What the?  How’d you find that out?  No one is supposed to know that!” he exclaimed.

In that instant, I realized that I may have made a mistake.  I decided that I had to recover quickly by thinking fast.  Now, this friend of mine knows that I am a magician and mentalist, and that I am good at deciphering body language.  I played off that fact.  “You just told me,” I said.  “It was a lucky guess.”

He “realized” that he had been had.  “Oh,” he groaned, “**** you and your lucky guesses!”  He knew just then that I had been fishing around for information and that I had, by chance, figured out an important part of back story that he was supposed to conceal.  “That’s unfair!”  It is unfair, I suppose, that I use some of my abilities to my advantages.

Later on, while driving both him and another friend to the party, we talked about it again.  He bemoaned the fact that I tricked him into revealing information.  But on the way home, I explained what really went down.  “So, remember earlier when I tricked you into revealing that information about yourself being a thug from back west?”

“Yes?” he responded.

“It turns out,” I explained, “that I already knew that information.  What actually happened is that I tricked you into thinking that I tricked you into telling me.”

“Argh!” he exclaimed, realizing that he had been had a second time.  “I can’t believe you did that… again!”  The fact is that I recovered quickly from my earlier error and utilized my own reputation to my advantage to misdirect away from my error.  I think that’s pretty clever.  That, in itself, makes up for getting my behind handed to me at the game.

The game was a lot of fun.  And I won best costume.  And I got to trick my friend.  All in all, a good night.

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This past Sunday, I had a close-up show at a restaurant.  It was a fundraiser for a senior center, or something.  My job was to go around table-hopping, keeping the people entertained as people donated money for a private auction and waited for their brunch.

Table-hopping is one of my favorite types of performing because it is pretty easy.  I do the same tricks over and over again.  In reality, I have a bank of about five tricks and perform one or two and rotate them in and out.  The ones I performed on this day were the following:

  • The Vanishing Deck
  • The Invisible Deck (without the watch)
  • The Ambitious Card
  • Twisting the Aces
  • Coins Across

So, I was going and doing my thing.  Some people responded positively, some were somewhat neutral, but nobody was negative.  Before I got there, I was asked to be the character of a con man.  I planned for this and incorporated it a little bit.  I was going to do it a lot more but found it wasn’t necessary because I didn’t have time.  I stepped up to a table, introduced myself, gave a story that I was on my way to the Klondike Gold Rush and was paying for it by playing games of chance.

It went well.  I got plenty of practice in for each of my tricks and refined them.  It’s one thing to practice in private but doing it in person hones your performance and gets the rhythm and timing right.

But that’s not the story I want to get into.  As I was saying, I was table-hopping and performing one to two trick sets.  I finally approached this one table of five women ranging in age from young to old.  I spotted the table earlier in the morning and one girl sitting at the table was pretty cute.  I made a mental note of it.  I came to the table and something interesting happened.  The one girl who was pretty cute instantly moved into a position of receptiveness.  I just said “Hi, I’m a travelling gambler!” and BAM!  Right then, she leaned forward and put her head on her arm but her wrist was exposed and facing towards me (a sign of openness) and she displayed a genuine smile (lips pulled towards cheek bones and slight crows feet around the eyes).  I was reciting my routine but I was paying clear attention to this because it was so obvious.

I ended up using her in the trick, which I was planning on doing anyhow even before I read her body language.  One thing I do quite a bit of now is use the sensation of touch.  I handed her the invisible deck and placed my hand on shoulder over and over again.  That’s something I do quite often, place my hand on the spectator’s shoulder or arm while motioning with my other hand.  Anyhow, I had her think of a card, pulled out the deck and revealed that hers was the only face down card in the deck of face up cards.  It was pretty sweet but then again, the trick itself is pretty sweet.

The instant receptiveness struck me.  I’m not sure if it is because she likes magic and was looking forward to seeing a trick or two, or because she was taken with my natural charm.  If I weren’t on the clock, I certainly would have probed that further.  But I was doing a paid show and I had work to do, so I moved on.  And I didn’t get a chance to follow up later.  Bah.

But I think that it is a good story.


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My plan to predict the outcome of the mayoral election didn’t work out.  That’s too bad, because it could have been a really cool trick.  It doesn’t matter, however, because I have an idea for a new publicity stunt!

This one is more dangerous, here is how it is going to work: I am going to cover the windshield of my car with newspapers so that I cannot see out.  I am then going to blindfold myself.  I will invite a local reporter down to ride with me.  When he arrives, I will allow him to sit next to me in the car as I get inside, blindfolded and him unable to see out of the car, and drive around the block.

I think that this sounds pretty awesome.

One way of pushing the envelope on this is to partner up with a local car dealership and have them publicize it.  That way, I don’t have to handle any of the marketing.  They can deal with the press and it will get a lot of people talking and coming down to their dealership and check out cars in the meantime.

That’s my plan for my next stunt.

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