Monday, 28 March 2016

Lessons from the Way of the Showman - 70

The Illuminated Showman wears his heart on the sleeve, displaying it for all the world.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Between The Folds

This is a very inspiring documentary about Origami. It is directed by Vanessa Gould who manages to get an extraordinary depth to her story. The people she introduces are an eclectic mix of fine artists and eccentric scientists who have devoted their lives to a Craft as unusual and obscure as our own Craft as Showmen. It carefully describes the passion behind such an obsession, and it shows the artists who all in their own way struggle to make something which on the surface seems like a childish past time, into an art. Yet, the documentary also goes on to demonstrate the surprising real world applications of Origami in engineering and biology and medicine.

As you watch this, if you keep our own sacred Craft in mind I think you will find it is like the documentary is describing our own Way.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Clown Truth

Since the dawn of humanity clowns have danced a closely intertwined dance with truth. This dance is a fundamental feature of their timeless attraction. Truthfulness is, behind the mask of grotesque ridiculousness, what makes a clown. When a clown comes from a place of authenticity the clown can say things others wouldn’t dare. 

The clown is a liminal character, polarized between the lowest social standing and a unique position of receiving attention, which in and of itself is a form of social status. Attention not just from common people but also from the rich and powerful. In medieval times the court jester was a clown in service of a King or some other elevated noblemen. In this role jesters had unique access to, literally, the most powerful persons in the land. On top of that he had a unique permission to speak the truth.
The jester’s freedom to mock or contradict rulers is described in records from all over the world, throughout history. India, Persia, China, and Europe all had their own versions of it. Aztec regent Montezuma II (1502-20) said of his jesters: “They frequently pronounced some important truths,” and in Erasmus’ (1469-1536) Praise of Folly he writes: “They’re the only ones who speak frankly and tell the truth, and what is more praiseworthy than truth?”
We must assume Kings were fully aware of this aspect of their fools role. So they would take great care in selecting their court jester. To gain the privilege, of being taken care of and to possibly assert influence, the clown had to deserve it. Only masters of their craft would have gotten the honor of becoming court jesters. They would have had to be able to improvise and have a broad palette of skills to draw upon and combine as they in essence would perform to the same crowd repeatedly. Obviously they would also have to be compatible with as well as being stimulating to the individual King’s humor, taste, and temperament.  
From the Jester or Clowns point of view an important part of their education and development is to discover and develop a truthful representation of themselves. A character which can fall down, juggle, sing comic songs, tell stories or what have you, and  come across as being truthful and himself through it all. They need to be able to pretend without pretense. 

“The clowns who are masters are themselves. They make something wonderful out of who they truly, deeply and simply are. They don’t hide or conceal themselves in clown character, to appear as someone else, or someone good, or someone right. Yes, they borrow routines, shtick, and ideas from one another and their predecessors, and, true, they frequently belong to a long performance lineage and have learned, as apprentices, specific techniques that perpetuate a certain tradition. And yet whatever material they perform, whatever character they present, they enter into their clown persona as a way of being more generously themselves than they might be under usual circumstances. Every time we watch one of them, we don’t view a form or a character or a concept. We see, simply, them.” (Ezra LeBank and David Bridel, Clowns: In conversation with Modern Masters.)

There were of course particular, if unwritten, rules for the way these transgressive expressions of truth could be presented. Guised in silliness, displayed and expressed from a grotesque and lowly state of dignity, the King would be free to take from it what he wanted and discard the rest as jest and absurdity. If the King sifted out a grain of truth from the jesters rants and chose to take the it to heart it was more likely for the grain to fall on fertile ground. 
The jester could speak truths, but the telling of truth is not just a matter of stating facts.  “Earth is not the centre of the solar system,” might have been a fact when it was first uttered, but it was not experienced as such by the vast majority. The type of truth best expressed by jesters and clowns is not factual truth, what German film maker Werner Herzog calls “accountant’s truth,” but rather what he calls “ecstatic or poetic truth.” 
“If facts had any value, if they truly illuminated us, if they unquestionably stood for truth, the Manhattan phone directory would be the book of books.” (Werner Herzog. A Guide for the Perplexed.)
Facts might reflect objective reality, but they do not illuminate. Only truth illuminates. Poetic truth is an experienced truth, greater and more powerful than any fact. It is a process of communication where a recipient experiences someones expression as a deeper and more visceral truth. Poetic truth is not separate from human participation. It is not something which is, it is something which happens between humans. Poetic truth is artificial, meaning “made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.” (New Oxford American Dictionary.) A poetic truth is fact artificially crafted to make emotional connection.
For poetic truth to happen there needs to be trust between the presenter and the receiver. The King would have to trust his fool. For this trust to develop the fool had to express his self. If the King felt his jester spoke the opinions or truths of ministers or bishops, chances are the fool would have his privilege revoked, possibly by having his tongue ripped out or head chopped off.
 The process of telling truth is a delicate business. As a clown attempts to do so there is always risk. Risk of failure. Not the kind of failure which is mimicked in a clown’s performance, which in actuality is only imitation of failure so well crafted it really is a success, its rather a failure of communication, failure of connection and understanding. If any of these three factors fail; the truthfulness of the clown, the particular truth expressed, or the King’s experience of either, the clown risks death. The historical jester who’s truth broke down could probably face literal death. Todays clowns risks dying on stage. Certainly not as bad as death, anyone who isn’t a clown would say. Yet, the clown’s truth is the clown’s soul.  When a clown dies on stage the truth of his self fails, without which the poetic truth of his message can no longer happen. What dies, when a clown dies on stage, is his soul. Without it the clown is reduced to a soulless clown zombie. Wandering undead in greasepaint with a red nose being but an empty shell. A fate on par with death by royal executioner. (It’s zombie clowns like this, roaming shopping centers and birthday parties which is giving clowns a bad name.) 

 The truthfulness in the jesters persona is the key to his privilege as truth teller. When a clown successfully acts from his heart, the wellspring of poetic truth, truth can happen and rings true. In this subtle, yet powerful, process comes great power. Laughter and levity lowers the minds defense mechanisms, and as cynicism and distrust recedes, the listeners own heart becomes exposed, fertile ground. In such moments the heart of the jester can speak directly to the King’s heart and under these peculiar circumstances a lowly clown can plant a seed of poetic truth in the Kings heart. A seed which has the potential to sprout into governmental reform. If a clown whispers his truth to the King’s open heart, change becomes a possibility. Change of heart. Change of mind. Change of world.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lessons From the Way of the Showman - 69

Think of nervousness as excitement. With the alchemical powers of the mind you can create this transformation and a greater, more confident Showman will emerge. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Way of the Showman - III - Sideshow Part Two

Inspired by meeting John Kamikaze and getting invited to join his family of freaks, the Space
Cowboy, Shep Huntly, Tigerlil and myself decided we wanted to create our own sideshow.
The Kamikaze Freakshow was a hardcore experience for the crowds. John Kamikaze's art can be difficult to watch for even the most ardent sideshow enthusiast. So we wanted our sideshow to be a softer experience for the crowds. Personally I have always been drawn in the direction of laughter. A good laugh and gag can make the sideshow medicine go down easier. We wanted to create a show which could manage to convey just how fun and exciting we found the stunts and skills of the sideshows, and make the crowd feel that same excitement. In our talks we talked about wanting it to be a happy vibe show. Shep Huntly had, at the time a smiley face dyed into the hair on his head. He also played the Toothfairy song "You got to be Happy Now," at the start of each of his street shows. Eventually this idea of wanting to make a happy sideshow became our name, not just a description of what we wanted the show to be like.
This next episode in the Way of the Showman series shows glimpses from some of the early exploits of the Happy Sideshow, Australia's Premier Freakshow.
It shows a bunch of the madness arising when The Happy Sideshow opened for the extraordinary showbiz band Machine Gun Fellatio. It was some seriously good times. A deadly cocktail. Rock and Roll meets Shock and Roll.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Way of the Showman - I - 1 Day in Norway

In this episode Carnival Cinema has dug up an old gem. Flesh hooks, clog dancing, extreme tattooing, and myself without a mustache.
Hamish McCormick and myself traveled to Norway in 2004. One of the days there we spent with my friends at Solid Tattoo and Piercing. It all seemed so normal and straight forward at the time. Looking back at it now I realise I used to be really tough. It was quite a day!

Links to the other episodes

CW Stoneking Film clip
Teaser Introduction
Part I - 1 Day in Norway
Part II - Sideshow #1
Part III - Sideshow #2
Part IV - Act Analysis
Part V - You Create Your Own Reality
Part VI - Confetti and Aardvarks

Monday, 27 July 2015

Invisible Thread

A short movie starring Penn & Teller? How sweet. A simple magic trick saves the world, it might just be plausible.
The movie is from 1987. Features a cameo from James Randi.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Pitchman

Mark Mason - Pitchman
This is a great short film spanning a life of using showmanship to pitch con games, towels, and
eventually magic tricks to magicians. He tells of working on carnival rides in Blackpool and numbers games. Very interesting and worth a watch.
"Mark Mason is "The Pitchman", magic's best salesman. He started out working as a carney, running mock auctions and pitching merchandise around the UK. Now he develops and markets effects for amateur and professional magicians, often hosting the most successful and entertaining booths at the world's biggest magic conventions."

Friday, 24 October 2014

Appalachian Show Folk

Alan Lomax recording before digital.
Watching Alan Lomax interview and explain the customs of story tellers, musicians, mountain whittlers, clog dancers, banjo players, ballad singers, coal miners, and bootleggers, set me thinking about this peculiar breed of showmen. 

Their style and Ways are less showy than most others ever featured on this blog. They do not rely on dazzle dazzle but rather on an immediate ability to connect. Hard working, hard men and women pouring their hearts out through their music and stories. Their stock in trade; a truthfulness and no nonsense. There aint no arguing with this kind of showings of the soul.

We meet men like Nimrod Workman who worked 12 hour shifts in the depths of coal mines, digging away at the hearts of those mountains to emerge singing ballads of black lungs. With the truth of each word knocking the dust off their helmets and overhauls. Its a simple truth, the most difficult to tell, because of its nakedness and directness. Telling us about how the coal seeping into their bodies, showing it like faint tattoos under his skin, and of course giving them black lungs. But somehow in his passion giving off the feeling that the coal inside them has been forged into a diamond, by the pressures of life and the alchemical process of refining life experience into truth told by art.

With Alan Lomax himself throwing in commentary like: 
"The huge crowds which applaud the precision cloggers represents the modern passion for spectacles of regimented movement." 
I love that sentence. He then goes on an Appalachian Journey for the individual movement and style and passion in the hearts of the mountain folk and how they express it through a stripped back practical showmanship.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

In Jesus' Name: Taking Up Serpents

I love this shot. The one armed man; deep faith resides there.
Mark 16:18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name . . .they shall take up serpents."

I find the fervour and enthusiasm of Crowds, Congregations and the Preachers leading religiously themed performances deeply fascinating. 
The quality of the recordings in the clip below, its candid and autodidact feeling makes it all the more intriguing. It is like you have stumbled upon a tiny church deep in some hidden away holler. You are drawn in by the honesty and heartfelt interpretation of religious bluegrass and walking up you peek through the cobwebbed windows. 

There are interviews with some of the participants, but for the main part we just get to experience the no frills, all emotion and commitment of the little congregation.

There is great power in the shadow lands between performance and religious ecstasy. Real emotional healing and transcendent experiences has been created in settings like this for aeons. Here we get a rare unpolished and raw glimpse of it.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Prophet of the Third Reich

Psychic Erik Jan Hanussen leads
a seance in prewar Germany.
The Jewish-born mentalist improbably
became an advisor to Adolf Hitler.

Born to a family called Steinschneider, Erik Jan Hanussen arrived in decadent Berlin, and became the prophet of the Third Reich.
I first learnt of the existence of Erik Jan Hanussen from a magic manuscript by Bob Cassidy, a fabulous mentalist. The very peculiar tale, certainly more strange than fiction, was woven into a mentalist routine. I then looked into him and lo and behold his tale is a peculiar one.

"The story of Erik Jan Hanussen, the Viennese-Jewish psychic who befriended Adolf Hitler and became known as the “Prophet of the Third Reich,” is one of the most peculiar in modern European history. Few twentieth-century historians have acknowledged Hanussen as a factor in the dissolution of the Weimar Republic. That the Führer had engaged a wily Jewish clairvoyant might seem the stuff of mocking political fantasy or occult make-believe — but the story is true."
 "Hanussen’s yacht was the scene of lavish feasts, where drugs were offered that even sophisticated Berliners — who were quite familiar with the enchantments of cocaine — didn’t know about. Naked women and exotic boys performed shocking revues. Sometimes, after midnight, Hanussen demonstrated one of his specialties: his ability to hypnotize women into sexual frenzy and then sustained orgasm. A Swedish baroness, Barbara van Swieten, otherwise known on the nightclub circuit as La Jana, often hosted these events and sometimes acted as a willing participant. Even for a Berlin accustomed to debauched nighttime displays, Hanussen’s were considered phenomenal, over the top. 
"A debate over the veracity of Hanussen’s omnipotent powers was on every fashionable Berliner’s lips. But still he capitalized on public interest by purchasing a Breslau printing firm in 1931, and then launching an occult journal, Hanussen Magazin, and a biweekly tabloid, Bunte Wochenschau. Prominent writers and artists such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Hanns Ewers, and Conrad Veidt furnished pieces on their experiences with the paranormal. Thomas Mann, the leading novelist of the day, was a regular contributor. Subscribers were encouraged to apply for memberships in the Hanussen Society, where tickets to his stage productions were offered at a fifty percent discount. Clairvoyant workshops and discussion groups formed around the magazine, and its circulation rose into the hundreds of thousands. But as the psychic’s fortunes grew, Germany’s fell.  

The excerpts above are from a superb article by author and scholar Mel Gordon. The authority on the life and peculiar times of Hanussen. A well worth read.

For further reading there is an interesting article, if oddly presented, on the Steinschneider (Hanussens birth name) Family's Genealogical website.

This blog article by Chet Loggins is also great for its pictures and historical reproductions.

Mel Gordon talking about Erik Jan Hanussen, Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant. Unfortunately not available on Kindle, but here'a link to used copies.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hitler the Judas Showman

In the annals of the Illuminated Showmen we hear of Judas Showmen. People who use the skills and techniques of Showmanship for bad. As we all know there comes great responsibility with great power and every once in a while we Showmen create a super villain. These peculiar and intimate pictures shows Hitler practicing and preparing his Craft. His gesture work is something awesome to behold and now we know it was not an accident or from an innate ability to express himself gesturally.

The following short article is from Dangerous Minds. If you are not checked in over there you should be.

"In 1940, in a review of Mein Kampf, George Orwell (!!!), who was not yet the famous author he would become, wrote
But Hitler could not have succeeded against his many rivals if it had not been for the attraction of his own personality, which one can feel even in the clumsy writing of Mein Kampf, and which is no doubt overhwhelming when one hears his speeches. I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler. Ever since he came to power—till then, like nearly everyone, I had been deceived into thinking that he did not matter—I have reflected that I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him, but that I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs—and I recommend especially the photograph at the beginning of Hurst and Blackett’s edition, which shows Hitler in his early Brownshirt days. It is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself. The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds.

As Orwell points out, Hitler’s appeal was largely symbolic, and, just as with every American president from FDR to Nixon to Reagan to Obama, he understood that public presentation has to be carefully staged and place a premium on non-verbal, one might even say precognitive aspects to politics and ceremony. In the preface toMein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to orators and not to great writers.”
Hitler understood the power of oratory, and his success in that arena was not accidental; it was the product of a great deal of practice and careful adjustment. Heinrich Hoffmann was Hitler’s personal photographer, who took an astonishing two million pictures of the Führer. Here we see a series of photographs by Hoffmann of Hitler practicing his exaggerated hand gestures to be used in future speeches. Hitler actually characterized different effects for the various poses, such as “gebieterisch” (domineering) or “kämpferisch” (pugnacious).
After he saw the negatives, Hitler ordered that the photos be destroyed, but Hoffmann hid them away. After the seizure of his archives, they were released to the public." 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Little Candle & the Meaning of Life

Magritte: Le Principe du Plaisir
Every thinking person will at some point in their life find him or herself asking "What is it all about?" 

Many of us meet types of people who believe they have an answer. But as it is said: "Listen to those who seek answers and beware those who claim to have them." (I guess I should mention here that I do not claim to have found the answer, I'm merely divulging interesting finds in my own exploration of the matter...:-)

Often those who have answers found them in religious texts. I, and more and more of humanity with me, seem to agree that this is not a fruitful place to find answers about the world. The ancient texts, written in a more violent, misogynistic and scientifically ignorant time is, both in broad strokes and in details misplaced in our time. It makes perfect sense in texts written long ago that slavery, stoning and "scientific facts" such as "the bat is a bird" are presented as true, and proper knowledge. They describe an understanding of the world prevalent at the time of writing. But in today's society we know so much more. As a result black people and women are considered sentient enough to vote and govern their own futures. Owning another person is thought morally despicable. Executions are abolished in all civilized countries but where they do happen they are, to be humane and are no longer considered suitable punishment for children who disobey their parents or those who gather sticks on the sabbath. The bat, even though it can fly is no longer classified as a bird but as a a mammal and birds are now understood to be avian dinosaurs. 
It is time to face the music: If the world does not fit the book, it is the book that is wrong.

We find ourselves in a universe, on a planet not created by anyone. We are not dictated by a creator for what to do. We are, as Sartre said; "doomed to be free." We must find our own way in the world. We must choose what is right and wrong and there is no one, but ourselves, that can tell us what is right in any definitive way.

the Quest for Meaning

I find it strange that those of a religious bent can find meaning in believing that we are here to fulfill a god's plan. A christian, for instance is happy in their belief that we are created by god and that he knows what our purpose is. We are all just players in this directors play, merely following his predetermined script for us. They have accepted this and apparently finds solace in that. They also seem to think that those who cant find solace in this needs to alter themselves, since the divine plan is infallible. I can't fathom the attitude of: "if the world doesn't fit the book - the world is wrong." I believe they have gotten it all wrong.

Julian Baggini raises an interesting point about this "solution" to the quandary of meaning.
Frankensteins monster was a person who knew his creator and his creators purpose for him, but knowing his creator and his purpose for him, did that make him content and satisfied?  
If I, like in the novel Never Let Me Go, was the cloned creation, grown, payed for, and owned by some rich person, I don't think the knowledge of
me being purposely born/created as spare parts for my “creator" would give me peace. Living out the purpose of someone else is not meaningful to me. Whether that being is a rich dude or a god. 
To all those children who dies from cancer just to fulfill some obscure plan of god is nothing but wrong and repulsive. It is exactly like the spare part clones from Never Let Me Go

From a story by Alexander Hemon we learn in great detail what the human consequences are for such strange delusions. (He describes in harrowing poetic ways the death of his daughter from cancer.)
One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world. We learned no lessons worth learning; we acquired no experience that could benefit anyone. And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no place better for her than at home with her family. Without Isabel, Teri and I were left with oceans of love we could no longer dispense; we found ourselves with an excess of time that we used to devote to her; we had to live in a void that could be filled only by Isabel. Her indelible absence is now an organ in our bodies, whose sole function is a continuous secretion of sorrow.
From The Aquarium, by Alexander Hemon, (The saddest story I have ever read.)

Living my life so that I will gain benefits after death is not meaningful to me. The meaning of life is to be found in life, by yourself. It is to do something that makes your life feel worth living. It is what gets you out of bed in the morning. 
When advice is given about life, in schools, self help books and seminars this is where they need to direct us: What do you really want to do? If money, fame, family expectations were no object, what would you do? If prestige was not your aim, what would you do, just for you? All things set aside what turns you on? What makes you feel good? Let this be your guiding light.
This is the most important question. Once you know that, everything else will fall into place. There will be money to be made when you truly master what you love. There is enough people out there, no matter how obscure your area of enthusiasm is, there are others out there that care for the same. Money and prestige will come if you don't make them your goal.

My compass

When I began following the flickering of my pilot light in the direction of the Carnival people often asked when I would get a real job, and fair enough, what I do for a living begs that question. Making people laugh at you by contorting and falling over has little dignity and, you would think, not such a great earning potential. But even when I left home and the regular gigs of my fathers magic show and became a street performer, doing shows just made me happy. It made me wake up in the morning with a desire to improve, explore and develop. Now that the shows I perform in take London, Sydney and Paris by storm people don't ask when I'm going to get a real job anymore, now they ask: so you must make a decent living from this. And I answer that I do, now - but I feel like I'm being paid back for money I didn't make when I traveled around Scandinavia in a Fiat Uno doing streetshows and sleeping in parks.

At no point on this journey did I feel like I was missing out. Because I was doing what I loved. If I had given up after spending a week sleeping in the car waiting for a sunny day so I could do a show to make enough money for petrol to get to the next town or festival, those that questioned my choices would have been right; you cant make money or a good life from being a clown. But since I never gave up, since that never felt like an option, and I stuck it out through the hard times, I find myself comfortably able to enjoy my life, support my family in my own house. 

When I write about it here it seems like I was some intrepid explorer daring to follow the fire in his heart venturing out onto the white pages at the back of the atlas into the unknown. But the truth is it wasn't hard and it didn't feel like a sacrifice because I was having too much fun. If anything it felt like I had found a loop hole in life that would completely bypass the rat race. (Ironically I think you could make a decent living beating the rat race by staging rat races. If pubs in Far North Queensland can make money racing cane toads, there is a living to be made from rat races...) 

The Little Candle

Happiness comes from choosing wisely. It comes from finding the little flame on the little candle in your heart that flickers when you find something that interests you. It is the fire that burns in your enthusiasm. It is the little candle in the dark world of chaos. 
But to discover the little light in this brightly lit and flashing world is not always easy. It is simple and complicated at the same time. 
As a child the little candle is in all but rare cases far to dim to see. The world is so bright that its modest little shine is drowned out. But it is there. Often it takes solitude of some sort to see it, sometimes meeting someone who's candle has become a torch makes you notice your own. The discovery of your own passion is the most important discovery a person can make. When you have found your tiny candle it will illuminate your compass and guide you through the dark. The world is filled with maps but you need your own compass to navigate them and light to see them both.

The journey through life is not about getting to the end. We are all inevitably stepping closer and closer to the end, to death eternal, so the important thing is to remember to dance.

Our parents created us, no doubt for reasons of their own, with hopes for our future, but their hopes and expectations are not enough to give us purpose and meaning.

In the end we, each and every one of us, must walk our Way alone. We must find our own way. It is not enough to have walked through life following others. Our challenge is to find what that makes every day a dance into the arms of death, that will be our rebellion. It will be our revolt against a universe which does not tell us what to do. When death comes knocking and the end is imminent we want to be able to look back and know that you gave everything your best shot.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Teller talks Tim's Vermeer

“The more you know about how much goes into a work of art, the more you love it.”
Teller of Penn & Teller fame has now directed a movie. The subject of the movie is about Tim Jenison's invention which aims to aid the inventor in being able to paint as the Dutch Master Vermeer of Girl with the Pearl earring fame...

Teller says the movie came about when Penn, feeling trapped in his own success, wanting to find a something non-showbiz that interested him through his friend Tim Jenison. The latter brought forth a video of a project he was working on. Hence Penn reqruited his co collaborator Teller and the search for non showbiz became a movie.

Penn Jillette and Tim Jenison.
Once we could hang all our complex ideas, and there are a lot of complex ideas in the movie, on
Tim's longing to paint a Vermeer, I was confident that we had a movie.
This he only discovered of in the editing process when placing two bits of interview, one to open and one almost closing it. That is the beauty of a creative process.

Below is a snippet from the movie about some of the techniques Vermeer might have used.

Another snippet - This one features Phillip Steadman professor at UCL. Steadman published a book in 2001 called Vermeer's Camera. This book was then given to Tim Jenison by his daughter. In many ways this could be seen as the seed of the whole project.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Vine Magic of Zach King

Zach King
Have you guys heard of Vine? My good friend David O'mer got right into it and he discovered this
quite stunning venture into magic. It is hypnotic and the 6 second limit makes it very fast paced and also impressive that there is actually 8 minutes of it.

This is a compilation of the magic video editing and creative skill of Zach King.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

History of Magic: Mentalism and Mind Magic.

A great current look at magic, this chapter is about Mentalism and Mind magic and features such luminaries as Marc Paul, Max Maven, James Rand, Eugene Burger, Lesley Hazlitt, The Amazing Kreskin, Luke Jermay, Uri Geller, Derren Brown.
The show was produced by BBC.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Ira Glass, great advice on Creativity

For those with nothing but a faint song in their hearts, a little candle with a fragile flame of enthusiasm telling them that the Way of the Showman is for them. For anyone starting out on their creative adventures the advice from Master Storyteller Ira Glass is awesome. I wish someone had told me. It might have saved me from laying in the dark nights of Norway wondering if I would ever make work I would be proud of. I did hundreds of shows with my dad. Kids shows in shopping centres and at christmas tree parties was were I cut my teeth but our material was not something I could bring with me to show my punk friends. It took a long time, but it did happen in the end.

You become a Creative because you have good taste, good enough to know that for a long time, sometimes a very long time, you can tell your work is not good enough for yourself to like it. Stay with it! The act gets better!

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Way of the Showman - IV - Act Analysis

Act Analysis

Here I delve into some of my thoughts and ideas, frustrations and triumphs surrounding my physical
comedy spectacle. I guess if I was a musician this would be on my greatest hits album.
Yet again this has been dug from the Archives of treasures in the studios of Carnival Cinema.

It is always interesting for me to watch these episodes, so expertly put together by my good friend and collaborater Hamish McCormick. Somehow he manage to surprise me every time, even though I am in the clips. I guess I have said and done all those things over the years but most of it was so in the moment I have all but forgotten it. Due to his persistent presence he has captured my life in all its ridiculous and glorious detail. Like how I almost loose my famous cool ":-)" as I struggle to come to terms with the changes imposed on my act by a television program I'm about to attend.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

38 years of Magic and Bullshit

Penn & Teller - Young and handsome.
Here at the Illuminated Showman we follow the exploits and thoughts of the dynamic duo Penn & Teller with great interest. For not only are these fine magicians great Showmen but also, at least one of them... is a great magic thinker. Teller has as refreshingly a thought on what the art of magic is as the tricks are which he dreams up. In this interview moderated by Matt Donnely the two Showmen shine in their respective ways.
"Magic can be an intellectual artform because it has a built in irony. The idea of magic is that there is trickery there. The process happening inside spectators is an unwilling suspension of disbelief."

I find this very interesting. Rather than the approach which Penn describes as the style of Doug Henning: This is a dream I had... and then they mutilate some girls. This approach of just come with me on this journey, suspend your disbelief and let yourself slip back into a state of wonder and childlikeness, is just not enough, they claim. Do magicians perhaps use this ruse as a get out of jail free card for not creating effects that connect with Crowds deeply enough for it to matter to them? Or is is a denial of what Teller described as the unwilling suspension of disbelief? The dynamic duo certainly seems to favour the latter. 
An style which does not deal with the fact that people expect trickery when watching a magician is simply delusional. Teller further thinks that this is one of magics greatest qualities that it deals with what truth is. Questioning truth and reality is a cornerstone of rational thinking and with it deeply important for all. If one treat magic in this way, which any one who have acctually seen Penn & Tellers work will know that they utilize this philosophy in all that they do, and with great results. Their magic is fresh and honest. You cant help but feel that even though they are constantly fooling you they are not treating you as an idiot. They believe their audience to be made up of thinking individuals. With these key concepts, laid out so well in this interview, one gets a powerful philosophic tool to apply to ones conjuring. With this simple idea you can make your magic both fundamentally interesting and promote questioning rational thinking.

"Watching magic you are always looking with your eyes whilst measuring it against what you know."

Steve Martin on the Power of tricks.

Teller believes that it is the way magic tricks stimulate the thinking process by showing seemingly impossible things whilst the spectators also knows that this is impossible is fundamental to the appeal of magic. He paraphrases Steve Martin:

Steve Martin magic is the lowest art form, something you can do if you have no talent elsewhere.
“I had loved magic tricks from the time I was six or seven. I bought books on magic. I did magic acts for my parents and their friends. I was aiming for show business from early days, and magic was the poor man's way of getting in: you buy a trick for $2, and you've got an act.”
STEVE MARTIN, Time Magazine, Aug. 24, 1987

"Anyone can do the crappiest magic trick and it still be interesting or have some sort of intellectual component... People get work doing terrible tricks with horrible narratives. "

If you have mastered tricks, be they magic or circus style skills like juggling or balancing or sideshow style tricks such as the human blockhead or swordswallowing you have an act even if you have no presentation. In many shows this would be all the performer had and the Management would hire a talker which could present the person with the tricky skills. But the point is tricks sell. 
When walking down a midway if you here that a man will be swallowing a fragile neon glass tube you don't ask who it is that will do it. If you hear a girl will get stark naked inside this tent you don't need to know who you just want to know how much the ticket is. This is the nature of tricks.

Here he is of course talking of what we here at the Illuminated Showman have written about as the Power of Tricks. The tricks in themselves has a power which truly captivates us. Even when done without narratives, as pure demonstrations of some new found skill, like finding a selected card, have some fascination for us. Thus we can buy a two dollar trick and with no skills of Showmanship go forth and if nothing else gain some attention and notoriety. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Nate Staniforth - Magician

Last night as I couldn't sleep I remembered I had been pointed towards a link to a clip about Magician Nate Staniforth by Brian Daly. SO I checked it out. And it was really great. His straight forward and articulate style captured me. He pulls no punches. He does not soften his magic by making silly jokes. Unapolagettically he sells mystery.

Then I watched this. It is the teaser trailer for a web series Nate is doing.

And finally here is a 15min talk he gave in 2011 for Tedx in Iowa. For some reason I cant link to it but you can click this link here.
"What is it about magic and magicians that draws us in? What makes us suspend and challenge our perception of reality? In this TEDx Talk Magician Nate Staniforth shares his passion for using illusion to create a feeling of astonishment and amazement, and how vital this emotion is to the human condition."