2018 Year End Party for the Orlando Ring and Assembly

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

December 2018  Meeting

Mike Matson, our President  brought the December meeting to order. This was our yearend holiday party meeting, hosted by Mike and his wife, Noel.  Elections were held for the new board for 2019. Reelected was President Mike Matson, Vice President Craig Fennessy, Sgt-at-Arms Chris Dunn, Magic Historian Phil Schwartz  and Secretary Dennis Phillips. David Freeman is the Director at Large and Bev an Eloise Bergeron will share in the transition to a new Treasurer, Tom Parkin.

The party fun then began with a table full of potluck snacks and goodies. Ravelli provided tamales for all and no one went hungry.  Mike and Noel had a plate of spade shaped cookies.

Jacki Manna did the emcee honors during the festivities and began by introducing her comedic geriatric sidekick, Matilda. Jacki is a talented  ventriloquist and stand-up comedian. Matilda was full of wisdom and silliness and hilarious lines about ageing.  Jackie then conducted  a trivia game, for prizes from the gift pool, of “who invented the trick”, and “what is their off stage name” assisted by our magic historian, Phil Schwartz. The generational gap in magic history knowledge was evident but it was still fun. We then had a “sort the M&Ms by colors” game. Finally the pool of gifts were shuffled and opened and some exchanges were made according to the rules.

Food and fellowship continued as we gave thanks for all those who helped make the party and 2018 a great year.

Dennis Phillips

Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

January 2018

Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow”

-Psalms 144:4-

    
“You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes.”

-James 4:14-

Again, I face the all too frequent sadness of seeing another one of  my contemporaries pass on.  I have lost so many, I knew well: Paul Osborne, Charles Windley, Philip Morris, Joe Smiley and  Bob McAllister. There were others who I did not know personally but were also a big influence on me.  One was Johnny Hart, the English magician well known for his 60s-90s parakeet magic and classy stage act. He was 75. 

Now you know where I copied my sequin tailcoat wardrobe style from:  

He was a great act.

My Johnny Hart inspired sequin tailcoat

Johnny Hart on TV (image capture) 

See Johnny Hart:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tnlopTpbF8 

Johnny Hart was born in Lytham St. Annes, England  on August 29, 1943 

Although he worked hard at school and was working towards being a research chemist, he was always practicing his card tricks during and after school and would use his talents to entertain classmates. Johnny was a member of the Preston Magic Society, Blackpool Magicians Club and The Modern Mystic League in Blackburn.. By the age of 17 he was on the bill at the English Electric Co Ltd children’s party at the old Public Hall in Preston.  Foregoing a potential career as a research chemist, Johnny instead turned to conjuring up magical concoctions of a different kind. He was the first winner of the Magic Circle’s Young Magician of the Year competition in 1961.

Johnny was famous for producing parakeets  from thin air, and bought the birds from a local pet shop and breeder. His magic act also consisted of producing endless fans of cards from his empty hands as well as a live dove, cockatoo and a cat. At the end of the act the cat and cockatoo would vanish from a large box. All of these animals were his pets and were lovingly looked after during his career.

Johnny worked all over the world and had many seasons in the USA, including two years at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno before retiring to England. Johnny Hart’s funeral was on December 21 at St. Michael and All Angels with St. Mark Church in Ashton-on-Ribble. 

Johnny Hart always  looked like he was having fun and that he loved every one of his birds. His smile and facial expression pulled you into his magic and he filled the stage with excitement.

Hart at his peak
Johnny Hart’s final days

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D’Angelo’s Touch is different and uses a single person. Available from Penguin Magic.

Here is a fun and different take on Banachek’s  Psychic Touches. Here is the original version  fully explained.  https://www.freemagictricksandillusions.com/invisibletouch.html

You ask the volunteer to close their eyes and ask them if they felt anything. They will swear that they felt taps even though the audience, those who are watching see nothing.  Some versions use thread loops and I have seen Invisible Thread reels used on stage .

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One area of magic/illusion that seems to remain is the outdoor stage show.  Fairs, Festivals, Picnics and Park events remain as venues for stage magicians. Locally, Steve Marcus and Co. does a great job with festival work. I believe that Jeff Eaton just retired and Joe Eddy Fairchild is from that outdoor background. Still working is Philadelphia’s Al Belmont and he is a fixture of the yearly Tampa fair.

My first experience with illusion magic was with Joe and Georgi Smiley, a delightful classic illusion act in the 1960s.  I have mentioned him before and my Virginia friend, Gary Ponton, knew them well and kindly sent me photos that I did not have of their work in the 70s and 80s. These photos were made at Ocean View Amusement Park in Norfolk. Joe and Georgi were from Central Pennsylvania and toured the East Coast as well as doing theater work.

I will try to give you some tips on working outdoors, if you ever face that challenging environment.

Know these things when you sign a contract!

– can you act be done surrounded and if not can you get partial shielding from minimal stable backdrops.

– can be performed in any kind of lighting situation. Can you bring some lighting and have access to electric power. (notice Joe Smiley’s homemade flood lights above)

– can pack down small and be easily moved on and off elevated stages and if not, do you have easy access to your travel vehicle.

– do not require a “pre-load” that the audience cannot see. That may require enough solid flats to have a “loading area” near or as part of the stage backdrop flaps

– will wind and rain destroy your act. Big silk production props that can blow over are not to be used.

Because you probably cannot control exactly where people are seated or standing during your show, you never will have the perfect angles to do illusions that rely on them. Of course, full black art is out but some limited black art can work, as Ralph Adams demonstrated in his outdoor shows.

Some Fair performers like Al Belmont, Jeff Eaton, Joe Fairchild and Lance Gifford simply towed a trailer-stage combination, opened the sides and were ready to go with only the audience area preparation needed. In some cases, they made extra money by letting the Fair use the stage for other shows.

What big props to use?  You can stay with the older classics: Temple of Benares, Cutting a Girl in Sixths, Sub Trunk, Sword Basket, Chair Suspension, Broom Suspension. All of these can be done surrounded with just one assistant.

The key is to think and anticipate your playing conditions and be prepared for the challenge.

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A magician seems to do “the Supernatural”.

Is that really a good definition?

I propose that it may be unhelpful to use that word in terms of magic and elsewhere. I prefer using the word “Mystery” and seeing the unexplainable as  a process that is pointing toward the infinite of unknowns rather than a puzzle to be immediately and anxiously examined and explained. If we could explain everything in terms of predictable-scientific “cause and effect”, we would live hopeless trapped in a dull universe without freedom.  Imagination and Intuition would be eaten up by pure math formulas and , as a math discipline, Statistics and Probability would no longer be needed. We could simply compute the future. There would be no uncertainty and you would know, today ,the very day and hour you will die. Not even Mathematicians accept that concept of determinism.

Kurt Gödel, established his Incompleteness Theorem which denies that Math can “know everything”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems   

My understanding is that, historically,  there was not nearly the bifurcation between the “natural and the supernatural” in western natural thought until the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science. Thomas Aquinas in his (1285)  “Summa Theologica” Book 4 seems to suggest that a magician was using natural means to trick you.  He did postulate a “Natural” and Supernatural” to explain church theology in terms of “reason”. His whole goal was to show that religious faith was not in conflict with reason. His synthesis was severely tested in Christianity ( and all religion)  in the 1800s and that led to the Christian Existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard and later Karl Barth( and others) , when the break between faith and reason was complete in popular thought. This is much of what Kierkegaard’s “Leap of Faith” and “Barth’s  “God is totally other” is about. Some who rejected this uncertainty became, in the Abrahamic Faith group, Fundamentalists, who find certainty in their perfect religious texts.

If you think about it. In the thought process , the “Supernatural” is just an upper story of the Natural. Literally the world means “beyond natural” (“Super” implies “above” or “over” which is typically interpreted as “an extension of”! This is where the understanding goes off the rails)  . Aquinas would not have asserted that you can understand or manipulate the supernatural but it was the beginning of a disastrous direction the Western philosophy/ theology. The Supernatural becomes an extension of the Natural and thus can be manipulated just like the Natural. All “Mystery” ( read this as “uncertainty” ) disappears. The world is merely God’s Cosmic magic trick on you. God knows the secret but you don’t. Well, maybe you can buy the secret, find it hidden in mystical religious texts or work to find it in a laboratory. Recall the CERN scientists finding “The God Particle”! We found the Higgs Boson , the “God Particle”. All it did was lead to many more uncertainties along the asymptote of human thought.

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A healthy mind should embrace “mystery”. A healthy imagination and appreciation of awe and intuition is good. Also, we should not automatically reject the experience that information can come to us from a seemingly external and unexplained source.  Young mathematician Ramanujan is a fascinating example of this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan  His life was dramatized in the movie, “The Man Who knew Infinity”.

I propose restoring Mystery. Mystery is like an asymptote. It is a process, a vector that points in an unknowable direction. It is not necessary to follow it to the end because if you grasp the direction, that tells you enough. Our finite-observation limit, restricts our ability at quantification and qualification. A perverted understanding of the  “supernatural model” of Aquinas has no mystery. Aquinas would reject it and so should all thinking people.

As finite creatures humans cannot fully grasp the totality of the physical world. We live in our own physics “locality”, between the seemingly infinitely small and the seemingly infinitely large.

Spacetime itself ( I am using a term from Einstein-Riemann-Minkowski-Poincare ) needs a better way to be understood in basic thought by those without a higher Physics education.  The GPS in your smartphone can not use Newtonian-Lagrangian-Hamiltonian mechanics. It is so Spacetime sensitive that the algorithms of the satellites and the software in your cell phone must use Einstein’s Relativity Field Equations to be anywhere near accurate enough for you! 

This is the differential equation ( an equation that uses multiple “rates of change” and “amounts of change”) . The space curvature tensor is on the left ( expressed in “R” which is in Ricci Calculus) the energy -stress tensor is on the right.

GPS works by triangulating the Spacetime of satellites to your position. The trigonometry of the relationships, corrected to the Spacetime changes, reveals your precise location within feet.

Our awareness of the infinities, on either side of our “locality”  keep expanding. We used to not think the universe was so big/old (get the “Space time” connection?). On the other end of infinity, we did not know that things could be so small! Now we know there are smaller things that make up atoms, fermions and bosons. Time can be so small that it is Planck Time which relates to Planck Length which is so small that it makes a “New York Minute” seem like an eternity. Our inability to grasp the concepts is why we use math models. Careful math analysis reveals that everything operates like a wave on the smallest level! (the de Broglie hypothesis) Paul Dirac implied that all spacetime is always coming in and out of being! This is a dazzling insight! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirac_sea   Is the fundamental physical reality just vibrating strings?

Because much of my undergrad work was in engineering and math, I frequently use math concepts as guidelines. 

Photo of Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein discussing Physics

Take Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty” principle. The word “uncertainty” is a misleading German translation of what should be “unsharpness”. It says that you cannot know the position and velocity at the same time when dealing with waves. Fourier analysis with some fundamental calculus demonstrates this issue.

I wish most modern people could look at performing magic like they embrace music or painting, sculpture, poetry, a play, architecture. It is not , at first, a presentation to be deconstructed into the methodology but the totality of an emotional impact that leaves a revelatory impression. Aristotle, in Poetics 1 explained the purpose of the play was to drive you to an emotional catharsis and balance your hubristic extremes. ( control both slothful pride and heroic pride. Both are different sides of hubris).  Magic should help audiences  feel “humble” and not challenge them to the arrogance of trying to explain the expression of mystery, which is precisely the opposite of  the demands of “The Masked Magician”.

We as performers ask people to give us their valuable time. In some way, they should be better, more “human” when we have completed our performance. Do they feel better? Do they learn better? Are they more linked to others?

In some cases they may identify with the heroic nature of the magic performer who makes national monuments and jet airplanes vanish and transverses cultural landmarks, like The Chinese Great Wall or does the person feel like they have been linked in an identity with a Messianic figure who comforts the poor on the streets, fills coffee cups with loose change, makes dead birds come to life and survives physical ordeal like 40 days in the Wilderness ( or in a glass box or encased in ice).

The magician/illusionist who can cultivate such mythic proportions and probe inward into your awareness and worldview (weltanschauung) moves closer to the ultimate role of “a magician” to enchant you to be a more fully connected constructive human and away from puzzles and tricks.

So, this is my way of encouraging you to embrace the Abrahamic Traditions of   Hanukkah and Christmas.  On a child’s level they are stories of the miraculous and adults should see so much more value in them.

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Have a great New Year everyone!

Dennis Phillips

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