Magician Changes Show Title After Concerns of Insensitivity

Box-Bottom The MarshMagician David Hirata has changed the name of his show, now playing in Berkeley, California, in response to objections from Japanese-Americans as reported on The Mercury website.  The show was originally called “The J*p Box” and is now called “A Box Without a Bottom.”

Mr. Hirata is a Japanese-American whose mother’s family was interned in a “segregation camp” during World War II.  He posted news of the new title on the theater’s website in an essay titled “A name change and an apology.”

“I deeply regret the pain that my choice has caused,” he wrote.

Mr. Hirata received complaints that his use of the term “normalized use of a slur” and was “harsh and degrading.”

His show will run through the first of December and features the story of the 19th-century Japanese magician, Namigoro Sumidagawa.  The original title reflected the mocking the magician received.  The new title references one of the magician’s effect,  Soko-nashi Bako (the “bottomless box”).  Mr. Hirata noted that American magic manufacturers appropriated the trick and sold it under the derogatory name.

Mr. Hirata said the show traces Japanese-American history, told through magic.  “We start with Namigoro Sumidagawa and his story and his interaction with Wellington Tobias, which says something about attitudes towards race in America, and weave that with my own personal history as a magician and my interest in the magic of these men. And my own identity as a Japanese-American then weaves in the fact of the internment as part of my family history.”

Mr. Hirata said that he “was extremely nervous when I considered the title.” He discussed the title with friends in San Diego as he premiered the show before bringing it to Berkeley.

In his post on the theater’s website he wrote  that“[t]he higher-profile run of the show here in the Bay Area exposed the show to a broader audience. Subsequent discussions with the Japanese-American community have led me to realize that I have simply underestimated the raw pain of the ‘J’ word. The title itself provides insufficient context to justify its use.

Though I have a real connection with the account of the Soko-nashi Bako, the raw pain of the ‘J word’ is not my story to tell.”

Read more about Mr. Hirata, his show and the decision he made on The Mercury’s website here.

Visit The Marsh Theater’s website and information about Mr. Hirata here.

Letters to the Editor

Inside Magic EditorFrom time to time and when required by the standards of decency and regulations, we publish letters to the editor.  If you have something on your brain you would like to share, please send us a note at editor@insidemagic.com.  We won’t use your last name so ask anything  – related to magic.

Dear Inside Magic:

A long time ago or maybe last week you said you were going to do podcasts.  When will they start going?

  • Unnamed

Dear Unnamed:

We are going to be doing podcasts and have already had two guests who have volunteered to discuss the history of magic, some of the greats they’ve seen and from whom they learned much.  While we are very talented in the double-lift and second deal, we are still learning how to hook-up the electronics necessary for a podcast.  We have been researching everywhere.  We started reading Popular Electronics magazines from the 1960s – just because we still had them, holding up part of our dining room table, also from the 1960s by coincidence.  The table fell down and scared our 12 cats but we were determined to learn the technique of what the kids call “pod casting.”

Our research showed that the technique did not exist in the 1960s (from 1964 forward), the 1970s (the only “pod” reference dealt with the American space program and did involve microphones and receivers but seemed far too expensive to build), and the 1980s.  We figured we would just break down (not emotionally – that’s what the 12 cats prevent) and go to Radio Shack to get a ready-made kit.  But you know what?  There are no Radio Shacks any more.  They’ve gone the way of Good Humor trucks and regular milk delivery to your front door.

Undeterred, we went to the Internet (capitalized to meet the current style guide here at Inside Magic (pronounced, “IN – side mAGIC” – the .com is silent.  We found many things on the Internet but few things on pod casting until we figured out that we should search for something more specific.  We modified our search in the “search bar” to something other than “pod” OR “casting.”  Each word on its own brings up results that are unhelpful.  The latter brings up many results that are not safe for work but we work from home so all we had to worry about was offending the cats and they don’t do much during the day.

Bottom line: we think we know what we need to do and we will do it, by gollly.  We hope to tape our first one in the next two or three weeks and it should go live within a few days after.  Thank you so much for asking.

 

Dear Editor: 

What is the best way to become a master magician? Is there a course I can take?

  • William

Dear William:

The appellation “Master Magician” is given to only one magician at a time.  Currently Lance Burton holds the title after he was given the status by Lee Grabell.  It is, therefore, a very rare honor and one that many of us will never achieve.

On the other hand, you can try to master magic by practicing before a mirror over and over until you fool yourself, perform for a trick for an audience only once (never do it again no matter what they say), and NEVER reveal a secret.  If you keep these things in mind, you’ll go far.  It is a wonderful art and we admire your apparent desire to learn more about it.

We had written a 15 volume set on “How to Become a Master Magician” but it is no longer in print and was the subject of, in our view, needless litigation.  Sorry we don’t have an old set we can give you but it is holding up the other side of our table.

 

Dear Magic:

Why do some magicians change their names to just one name? Like Cher or Sammy?

  • Elaine

Dear Elaine:

If that is your real name.  (See what we did there?)  Usually a single name (usually the first name although Penn & Teller are an exception) is something one takes on when they reach a level of fame but in the magic world, it helps to get promoted and adds to the mystery.

Would you want to see “Timmy Quinlan” or “The Amazing Q”? We hope it is the second one because we just bought 1,000 business cards saying “The Amazing Q” from Vista Print one night when we saw a commercial about a special offer just for those watching at 3:30 in the morning.

They haven’t arrived yet and we have no idea how we will distribute them – especially because we forgot (we were tired and that cats were doing their nocturnal running the length of the trailer and then running back) to put our phone number on them.

That means, if you pick up one of our Amazing Q cards, you’ll need to come to our residence and knock on our door – thus scaring the cats and causing them to hide but not before bumping into each other like furry pinballs (our first album name, by the way) – or write us a letter by US Mail.  Our landlord will not accept FedEx packages on our behalf because she worries they could be bad things.

We’ve asked what kind of “bad things” could be in a standard envelope with a FedEx logo.  She responds out of the corner of her mouth not holding her cigarette, “you wouldn’t know, would you?”

Great question but the bottom line is folks will have to send letters.

We don’t know why ordinary letters wouldn’t carry the same “bad things” but apparently they don’t.

So when the cards come (by regular mail) we will write our phone number on the bottom of each.  We wish we had chosen Comic Sans as the font so that when we wrote our phone number on the card, it looked like we intentionally were writing poorly.  But you know what they say, “if wishes were dishes, someone would have to take them out of the dishwasher just once in this dang house, how hard could that be?  You can put them in, no problem, but you can’t take them out?”

If you have a question for our editor, you can use the contact link at the top of the page or just send an email to us at editor@insidemagic.com.

Actress Accuses Magician Ex of Abuse

Inside Magic's Famous BunnyDiane Neal, a former  actress on “Law and Order: SVU” claims her magician ex-boyfriend physically and sexually abused her and her pets.   She accuses magician JB Benn of being a con artist as well as a “manipulative and maniacal fraudster,” according to  The Daily Mail.

The musician Moby posted his disbelief.  “I’ve seen JB do magic at least 250 times and each time I’m just as stunned as the last. Some of his magic shouldn’t be possible, and it makes my brain hurt in the best possible ways.’

According to The Daily Mail, the magician allegedly “defrauded her of millions” and “violently inflicted emotional distress” in a “campaign of isolation, terror and (physical and sexual) assault, and destroyed her reputation by doing so.”

According to Page Six, on Wednesday, Mr. Benn pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge resulting in a $200.00 fine and a two-year protection plan for Ms. Neal.

 

As in any story of this ilk, there are terrible claims and accusations; including injury to their pet.  Most of which we won’t print here because they turn our stomach and makes us sad.

If you want to read more, see pictures of the couple and their home, you can read The Daily Mail‘s coverage.

Tour with the Cat Circus – A History

IMG_7836

We heard of the famous Cirque Mexicain Los Gatos Caballistas in our much younger days.

It was a time when cat circuses were all the rage.  Small towns like Mystic Hollow, Illinois would anticipate the shows for weeks; stoked by the colorful cat circus poster (like the one pictured to the left) that promised excitement and danger.

Cat circuses have all but disappeared today.  Some say it was concern for the animals’ safety, or the heavy cost of feeding an ever growing group of felines (this was before mandatory spaying and neutering of feral cats came into law).

Some say the cat circuses were taken over by human-centric circuses where audience members could understand the ringmaster.

Kit shows (as they were called by those in the know) usually had a cat ringmaster and while his meowing had some meaning to his fellow show members and the roustabouts setting up and tearing down the acts as the show progressed, it was lost in translation for the mostly human audience.

Many a kitten, though, was entranced by the circus life and there are tales a plenty of kittens (as young as 15 weeks – we don’t know what that is in metric) leaving their mothers and siblings to join the exciting world of circuses.  A few became entranced by string or yarn as well — but this post isn’t about them.

Humans were needed not only as audience members but also logistical help.  Our father’s chief assistant, Paw Lawton, worked several cat circuses in Canada and South Texas.  He would help set up the tent and the double rings for performances.  Once the scene was set, he would work the ticket booth and occasionally fish for the large dinner needed to feed so many of the very hungry performers and workers.

The cat circuses reached their nadir in the US in 1973 when they appeared as a novelty on ABC’s Wild World of Sports.  In fact, the circus featured was the one pictured above and the star of the show was the cat pictured.

Cuidado was the star of the Cirque Mexicain Los Gatos Caballistas from 1966 through 1974.  He was reckless and never backed down from a challenge.  Ride a horse?  No problem.  Wear boots whilst riding a stallion? Easy for Cuidado. Hold a cat-sized rifle whilst riding? Everyday for the spry, enigmatic star.

Cuidado allegedly came from McAllen, Texas, not far from the border with Mexico.  His understanding of Spanish and English was fostered by his family and, later, the folks he met along the way.

He began as a schlepper.

He would carry equipment and help Paw Lawton set up grandstands and occasionally make popcorn and cotton candy.

He loved children and it is rumoured he was the father of hundreds throughout Mexico, the US and Canada.  He tried to keep in touch but the life of a cat circus member is hard and communicating with loved ones without a written language made it even harder.

Cuidado got his big break in Davenport, Iowa, when the star of the show came down with a horrible stomach pain that turned out to be a seven kitten litter.  Cuidado leapt into the ring, a hat was tossed to him as he jumped on to the silver horse and away he went.

The audience loved him.

Paw said he extended his performance because of the standing ovations and demands for encore after encore.

At the end of his first performance, he gave the crowd what became his trademark sign-off: he would hiss, jump to the ring, remove his hat and bow.  He held the bow longer than most and when he lift his head to the thunderous applause, he smiled and walked off into the darkness of the circus tent.

The Des Moines Tribune Circus Critic, Monty LeClaire wrote, “We’ve seen cats, we’ve seen circuses, we’ve even seen cat circuses.  But what we saw last night at the fairgrounds was none of those.  It was the birth of a star we hope will shine for many years to come. Cudado (sic) has something special and the audience provided thunderous applause in appreciation for what he offered them last night.”

Continue reading “Tour with the Cat Circus – A History”

Rapper Macklemore Now a Magician Too

Inside Magic Image of Ask Alexander LogoWe’re not big into the Rap scene.  Sure, there are a couple of Rap artists that we enjoyed but they hale from what now seems to be decades ago – because they do – like Sugar Hill Gang and . . . okay, so the Sugar Hill Gang really is our last real affection for the genre.  But to be fair, how could anyone top “Rapper’s Delight” with the memorable rap opening:

I said a hip hop
Hippie to the hippie
The hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it out
Bubba to the bang bang boogie, boobie to the boogie.

QED

But there is a rapper from Seattle who is hoping to steal our heart.  Macklemore posted on his Instagram page that he is releasing the “first ever Magic Rap album.”  We don’t have an Instagram page but we do have Twitter (@insidemagic) and that’s where we learned the news of this melange of magic and Rap.

It could be true that Mr. Macklemore (if “Macklemore” is his last name – we’re not sure) is releasing the first Rap and magic album but we aren’t sure.

We checked our always reliable Magic Guide book to see.  It is like Major League Baseball’s stat and history book but for magic.  It said Alexander (“the man who knows”) did an impromptu poem to ghostly hums during a performance in Detroit, Michigan.  The poem was about the dead (he was doing a “Dead or Alive” test effect at the time) and while it didn’t rhyme as well as modern rappers, it could be considered a Rap:

I ask who is dead
And who is alive
I’ll be able to discern this jive
Bubba to the bang bang boogie, paper notes to the Magi.

Apparently the last line is a traditional fourth line of any essential rap.  We didn’t know that until we checked Wikipedia.  The fourth line was obliterated by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s groundbreaking work in the 1970’s with “The Message (It’s Nasty).”

Mr.  Macklemore wrote “I’ve been working hard on this magic s—.”  He told a hip hop site that  he’s “been doing magic for about 2.5 years now.”

“A lot of people are already calling me mid-pack David Blaine,” he said. “One afternoon in my magic shed, I was doing some rabbit work when the idea hit me — ‘What if I combined my natural ability of wizardry and used music to genre blend!?’ I ran it by the local magician community in Seattle and one out of two of them agreed — it was a great idea.”

We embrace his ambition even if we think 2.5 years and the opinion of “one out of two” magicians (we think that is close to 50% but we don’t know what that would be in metric for our European readers, sorry) share our embrace may indicate he has not yet mastered his skills.  That said, we likely would not book him yet for our birthday party but that is only because we have already booked two rappers from the 1920s to appear via hologram.

“Psychic” Reveals Tricks of Trade

Inside Magic Image of Psychic SignThe Guardian newspaper had a great article this weekend about what it is like to be a psychic and astrologer.

The author of this fascinating piece quit the practice but leaves the reader – us in this case – wondering if she still believed she possessed some power to read the future or the inner-struggles of her customers.

“The range of problems faced by people who can afford $50 for fortune telling turned out to be limited: troubles with romance, troubles at work, trouble mustering the courage for a much-needed change. I heard these stories so often I could often guess what the problem was the moment someone walked in. Heartbroken young men, for example, talk about it to psychics, because it’s less risky than telling their friends. Sometimes I’d mischievously say, ‘Let her go. She’s not worth it,’ as soon as one arrived. Once I heard, ‘Oh my God, oh my GOD!’ as an amazed guy fell backwards down the stairs.”

She explains her start in the practice beginning with studying astrology and the tarot.  She signed up for a year-long course at the Sydney Astrology Centre, where she learned how the planets and their alignments vis-a-vis the birthdate of individuals could reveal much.

Her conclusion after studying the mystical methods of the astrologer? “Astrology is one big word association game.”

Her appreciation for the life of a fortune teller waned with the realization that no matter what she foretold and no matter how vague her readings, customers readily made all of the mental associations to give truth to her predictions.

“What broke the spell for me was, oddly, people swearing by my gift. Some repeat customers claimed I’d made very specific predictions, of a kind I never made.”

It is a fascinating article, in part, because she does not conclude the ability to read people is bunk.  She found a talent for evaluating what and how people asked questions that gave away what they wanted to hear.  In essence, she discovered cold reading but without an intention to defraud.

We couldn’t help but be reminded of a great book by Ian Rowland, The Full Facts of Cold Reading.  While the author of The Guardian article apparently stumbled upon the tricks of honest and dishonest practitioners of Cold Reading, Mr. Rowland provides a crash course chocked-full of secrets and methods.

Check it out in The Guardian here.

The Man Behind the Carbonaro Effect

Derrin Berger.pngSo, we were reading through the on-line version of The Poughkeepsie Journal and came across a great story about Derrin Berger, the man behind the wondrous magic performed some of the Carbonaro Effects.

In case you are not aware of the Carbonaro Effect, you need to get a television, stat.  It is one of our favorite shows  on cable television next to 90-Day Fiance but for different reasons.  Although both deal with deception and trickery but we are rather sure that Mr. Berger does not create the effects for 90-Day Fiance unless he practices in that very niche area of our art entitled “Catfishing Magic.”

Back to our story, though.

Mr. Berger has been interested in magic since he was just six and shared his joy of the art with his dad.  He performed for parties and attended a magic camp with his dad.

He decided as he grew in age to pursue magic full-time.  His father was supportive but very father-like in his questioning of the move.

“I asked him, ‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing?'” Marc Berger said, noting his son has a master’s degree in engineering and computer science. “He told me, ‘I’ve been doing magic all my life.’”

He is 40-years-old now and has performed in some of the greatest venues for a magician including The Magic Castle here in Hollywood and the Chicago Magic Lounge, in Chicago, we believe.

As if that was not enough — and by our standards it would be — he has also become a contributor and part of the consulting team for truTv’s “The Carbonaro Effect.”

He’s been with the team for five years which coincides with the five years Mr. Carbonaro’s show has been on the air.  He estimates he has created more than 700 effects.

“I tell people all the time, the 12-year-old me could not even comprehend doing what I’ve been doing,” Derrin Berger said. “When I was 12, TV magic was mostly David Copperfield, David Blaine and as a kid and teen, you think ‘I absolutely want to do that when I grow up.’ And, cut to 20 years later when I’m actually doing it, it’s pretty amazing.”

And his dad is a proud watcher of the show — he claim to have never missed a single episode.

“He knows so much magic and people will come to him to ask about tricks,” His father told the reporter. “He rattles the answers without thinking twice. He is more knowledgeable than I ever know.”

The #CarbonaroEffect begins its new season tomorrow (Thursday, November 7th) on truTV at 10 p.m. 

Make sure you check out the full interview and article at The Poughkeepsie Journal here

You can visit Mr. Berger’s website here.

Check out the Carbonaro Effect’s page here.

Magician’s Equipment Gets Swiped But You Can Help Him

Tall Paul and Vern the Bird.jpegAlbuquerque’s KOB-TV reports that magician Paul Cochrell a/k/a “Tall Paul” has been in the birthday party biz for more than 20 years.  Usually the birthday party is a cause for celebration and fun.  Nice people hiring magicians for a nice gift for a son or daughter.  We never performed for an angry crowd at birthday parties.

Mr. Cochrell saw  the other side of humanity when someone broke into his car and swiped his props.

“It’d be nice if people weren’t terrible. I mean I guess the weirdest part is they don’t know what they took,” Cochrell said. “Yeah there’s some puppets and some sound equipment they may recognize but the rest of it—they don’t know what to do with.”

The good news is that he has found the car and replaced the window shattered in the break-in but was not able to recover the stolen items.

He particularly misses his puppet, Vern the Bird. “He’s like family. I’ve been using him for over 20 years,” he said.

He hasn’t given up on people though.  He sees this incident as an aberration rather than the rule.

“Bad things happen, but people are good so you know I haven’t lost faith in humanity,” he said. “Just bad things happen occasionally so just gotta pick yourself up and keep moving forward.”

Mr. Cochrell set up a Go Fund Me page to seek help from fellow magicians and fans and anyone who cares about helping with the victim of crime.  You can visit the page here.

You’ll even have a chance to see Vern the Bird right at the top of the page.  He has a goal of $3,400 and has already raised close to $2,000.

There really are good people amongst us – even non-magicians.

You can read the full article on Mr. Cochrell and even see a video of him performing on the KOB Channel 4 website here.

And be sure to visit Mr. Cochrell’s website here.

Magic and Law: Can You Copyright a Trick?

Blaine's Fame is Apparently a Secret
Our Secret

No.

It is a short answer and gets us out of writing a big, long-winded piece on the legalities but perhaps inadequate.

We are not alone in our opinion.  We direct you to a great article by great  Magician and Lawyer Guy Hollingworth from 2008 about an art designed to avoid laws of nature.

It is comforting to see that the country from which we have derived the greater part of our legal system, has not backslid into the easy but philosophically unsound world where an idea can be protected.  The United Kingdom wants to encourage innovation but draws understands it must draw the line somewhere.

In the case of magic tricks, one can patent the method to perform the effect or even copyright the patter used to describe and deceive; but one may not protect the idea behind the trick itself.

For instance, the secret behind our now-classic Marked One-Way Forcing Deck can be stolen by just about anyone.  Of course, some print critics of our invention have suggested “[w]hy would anyone want to steal the idea of a One-Way Forcing Deck that is marked as well?” Regardless, it is not being knocked-off or copied by folks looking to cash in on our genius.  We like to think that is because our brothers and sisters in Magic are ethical folk.

By the way, we will soon announce the follow-up to the Marked One-Way Forcing Deck, The Inside Magic Marked Billiard Balls.  No longer will you have to guess about the location of any particular billiard ball whilst you make them appear or disappear.

Continue reading “Magic and Law: Can You Copyright a Trick?”

Magician Tourshis Azad Works the Stars

Toushis Azad
Toushis Azad from website

Magician and Social Media Star Toushis Azad, the “Lyrical Magician” brought a deck of cards to a rap concert.  You never know when you’ll need to perform a trick.  And it’s a good thing he did.

He was at the concert to see Miami rapper Lil Pump perform – at this point he was not part of the show or even Mr. Pump’s entourage.

He went back stage for kicks and showed his card magic for a concert photographer.  The photographer was stunned.

“He was baffled by it … next thing you know I’m on the tour bus with Lil Pump doing magic for him,” Mr. Azad said. “It was so unexpected.”  His video of the bus show was posted to his Instagram account – like a TV but not really – and it how has over 15,000 views.

This wasn’t his first rodeo with stars.

In  addition to Mr. Pump, he has performed for wrestler and movie star John Cena, actress Bella Thorne, Marlon Wayans, Michael Strahan, and even DJ Khaled.

Mr. Azad says a magician doesn’t have to don the cape and carry a wand anymore.  He told the reporter for Torch Online that a magi is “someone who practices their craft for a number of years, someone who perfected the art of a craft. A magician could be anyone.”

He’s been doing it for more than 10 years and his first shot in the spotlight was a performance for his third grade talent show.

His first magic set was none other than the Criss Angel MINDFREAK Professional Magic Kit which contained over 400 magic tricks and video downloads of instruction from Mr. Angel.

“It helped me start somewhere,” Mr. Azad said.

He has an Instagram account, with about 7,000 followers and a TikTok account (his id is @toushis_54) with nearly 19,000 followers.

We have two followers.

One is a cat and the other is a man we assume owns the cat.  The cat follows us and the man follows the cat.  The cat takes non-linear or flat routes and the man will occasionally follow the cat’s route over trash bins, boxes, disposed of rugs, pizza boxes, crates and the top of our 2007 Nissan Eczema.  We don’t mind the cat but the man, he is heavier, and leaves marks on our car and stomps on our pizza left at our door – even before the cat can open the box.

You can visit his website here.

Read the full article in the Torch Online (St. John’s University)