The Road Not Taken

road

The picture above is one of my favorite optical illusions because it looks so simple. I don’t remember where I first encountered it, but the question it poses is not complicated: which of the two figures representing roads above are identical?

We’ll give you a bit of space here to consider before we continue

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Most people say that the two figures on the left are identical, and the figure on the right is the odd one. But that is incorrect. The two end figures are alike and the middle picture is different. It’s difficult to believe, but I did a little experiment with Photoshop that will help to convince you.

Using Photoshop, I cut the figure on the right, leaving only its outline behind, and moved the figure over to the left, overlapping the leftmost figure. Here’s what it looks like:

road1

You can see that the two figures are identical, and surprisingly even the road division lines line up, something not so apparent in the top picture.

Now let’s try the same thing, only this time we’ll cut the leftmost figure, and let it overlap the middle figure:

road4

You can immediately see that the middle figure does not match the leftmost figure as it appeared to do so in the top picture.

Now that you know what’s going on, go back to the top picture. Does it change your perception? Not mine. It’s one of the most disheartening things to me about optical illusions—even though we know exactly what is going on,  our perceptual apparatus is still fooled.

Magicians like to summarize this kind of realization by the simple statement: “Misdirection works.”

Apply to advertising and propaganda at your leisure. It works even when you know what they are doing.

Palisades Amusement Park, 1932

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If you grew up listening to AM radio in the New York City area during the 60s, you probably can remember the Palisades Amusement Park jingle:

Palisades has the rides,
Palisades has the fun,
Come On Over [….]

Ride the coaster,
Get cool,
In the waves in the pool.
You’ll have fun, so,
Come On Over.

Palisades Amusement Park opened in 1910, and didn’t close until some sixty years later.  The 1932 footage here is actual park footage with real sound, and not from a movie.  I had to laugh at the woman’s “disappearance.” Perhaps the vanish took so long because it took time to move the gorilla aside to make room? I wonder if there was a reason for making the trick so obvious. The roller coaster was called The Cyclone but it wasn’t the same as the one in Coney Island. Click on the video above for a carefree time.

Thanks to YouTuber guy jones

“And The Walls Came Tumbling Down”

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Monday morning, Mahalia Jackson suggests extra-legislative means to erase borders with “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho.”

Thanks to YouTuber Paulo LaPraga Vinhal

“That Was Not A Compliment”: The Smothers Brothers

 

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In 1969, CBS television fired the Smothers Brothers from their high-rated comedy variety show for being too outspoken against the Vietnam War. Among other things, they had on blacklisted guest Pete Seeger who sang “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy,” an anti-war song about a captain who orders his men into a bog despite the obvious senselessness of the command.

You can read more about that incident here:

https://portside.org/2018-03-02/recalling-pete-seegers-controversial-performance-smothers-brothers-show-50-years-ago

and I’ll post video of Pete’s remarkable performance in the comments.

Twenty years later, however, things had changed somewhat and the Brothers were invited to do a 20th anniversary special for CBS. Click on the video above to see how they opened the show.

Thanks to YouTuber Kehlog Albran

Online Ordering

gaming cards on hands

Photo by Midhun Joy on Pexels.com

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There are Third World Problems, First World Problems, and then there are Conjurers’ World Problems. This is to address one of the latter.

From time to time, a magician needs a deck of cards to be arranged back in the original factory order after it’s been all shuffled up and disordered. Magicians call that original factory order New Deck Order or NDO. Surprisingly, there’s no industry standardized order. It varies according to card manufacturer and even varies from brand to brand manufactured by the same company. So, for example, Bicycle brand cards are ordered in a different arrangement from Bee brand cards, even though they are both manufactured by the United States Playing Card Company. Next time you open up a new pack of cards, check the order. You might find it interesting.

The most popular brand of cards, Bicycles, are arranged from top to bottom in the following order (take a guess first before you read on):

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Ace to King of Hearts, Ace to King of Clubs, King to Ace of Diamonds, and King to Ace of Spades.

So suppose the cards are all mixed up, and you want to get them back into the original order—not that you are trying to do it secretly, you just want to do it quickly. What do you do? Well, yes, the logical thing to do is to make four piles on a table, one for each suit, and sort out the cards that way.

But often a performer doesn’t have a table available, so sometimes an in-the-hands-sort is useful. Here’s a method i came up with a few years ago of how to sort a deck of cards quickly into Bicycle NDO when no table is available. Later, I’ll talk about how to generalize the process to make it even more useful to magicians.

1) Hold the deck face up in the left hand, facing you. Spread through the deck without changing its order and, using your right hand,  as you come to each black card, upjog it about halfway. Then, with your right hand, swing out all the black cards to the face of deck.

2) Run through the deck again, upjogging all the Spades and Diamonds. Swing out this half to the face of deck.

3) Spread the bottom thirteen Spades and arrange them in order with the right hand as if arranging a bridge hand. That is, holding the deck facing you in the left hand, spread the thirteen Spades out in a fan so that you can see all the pips. Now with your right hand, fingers pointing down, palm facing you, thumb closest to your body, pick out the King of Spades from above; next scan the cards and pick out the Queen of Spades on top of that, then the Jack of Spades and so on until the Ace of Spades is on the face of that small packet. Then just cut those thirteen Spades to the top of the deck.

4) Repeat with the next three suits (remembering that for Clubs and Hearts., you will reverse that order, pulling out the Ace first, then the Two on top of that and so on up to the King). You are now in Bicycle NDO. You’ll see that after just a bit of practice you can arrange the whole deck quite quickly.

But here’s the part I’ve been saving for magicians. Getting into NDO is nice, but even more useful is to get into a memdeck arrangement like Aronson or Tamariz quickly in the hands. This can be done for any stack by generalizing the above:

To generalize for any stack:

1) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 14-26 and 40-52, and cut to the face of deck.

2) Upjog all cards within the ranges of 27-52 and cut to the face of the deck.

3) Spread thirteen cards at a time from the face and put them in ascending order, then cut them to the back of deck.

4) Repeat three more times.

The first step is the hardest to get down, but if you know your stack cold, you’ll soon get it. I find that by using this method, I can stack Aronson order in my hands as fast as on a table.

Done. Next job: Solving world hunger and the exploitation of workers by bosses.

Hint: threads, mirrors, and a good Double Lift.

That’s What They’d Like You To Believe

IMAG1171~2

(Click to enlarge)

That feeling when you’ve been away for a week and you come back to the country, and  it’s crazier than ever, though no one seems to notice.

Norwegian Airlines, JFK Airport,

New York City

Gold Dust At My Feet

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Monday morning, Nellie McKay and Friends heating things up on The Sunny Side Of The Street.

Nellie McKay – vocals; Dan Levinson – clarinet; Gordon Au – trumpet; Jim Fryer – trombone; Chris St. Hilaire – snare drum

Thanks to YouTuber Dennis Lichtman

Shin Lim Meets Larry King: Hilarity Ensues

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In a jaw-dropping turn around, it’s interviewer Larry King who stuns magician Shin Lim. You can actually feel Shin Lim thinking WTF is going on here. Who is this guy?

Larry King. Greatest. Spectator. Ever.

Reports that Mr. King was replaced in this video by a head of cabbage are still under investigation.

More of Larry’s magic at Larry King

 

The Times They Are A-Changin’

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Carson McKee joins Josh Turner on this one. I didn’t expect to like it,  but Josh’s harmonies and guitar, along with Carson’s straightforward singing, made the song seem fresh.

More at Josh Turner Guitar

 

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes

 

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Josh Turner and company with an audacious country/folk music take on the Paul Simon classic from the Graceland album that is every bit as good as the original.

More Josh Turner at Josh Turner Guitar