It’s Magic, Man

adeliadeI’m not a magician.

I don’t even play one on TV.

But I do enjoy magic,

–especially the vintage posters
from the golden age of stage magicians —

There’s something very compelling
about them that I find irresistible.

In the history of stage magic,
there is this legend —

Well, ok,
it’s more like a curse —
a cursed magic trick .

catchthisThe trick is called ‘the bullet catch’ —
and it’s ‘curse’,
if you believe in such things, has killed

— you know, like DEAD —

at least 12 very talented
and skilled magicians
who have attempted to perform it.

Basically, the illusionists
keep getting killed by the illusion.


… some trick, huh ?

Harry Houdini was said to be considering
adding the trick to his repertoire,

when his friend and fellow magician
Harry Kellar gave him this advice:

” Don’t try the bullet-catching trick.
There is always the biggest kind of risk
that some dog will ‘job’ you.
And we can’t afford to lose Houdini.
Harry, listen to your friend Kellar,
who loves you as his own son, and don’t do it! “

torriniAnd he never did.

But plenty of others did try it.

Another one bites the dust.

What’s supposed to happen
is that the magician stands
on one end of the stage holding
some kind of fragile object in front of him,

while at the other end,

a marksman takes steady aim
with a loaded gun
and a specially marked real bullet—

—- and then fires,
from about 30 feet away.

herrman(That doesn’t sound at all dangerous, does it?)

Now, theoretically,
the bullet crashes
through the fragile object
( a plate, a glass, etc )
the magician is holding
in front of him,

but he magically catches the
offending bullet between his teeth.

(I’m not sure you need
all that lead in your diet… )

1920Of course,

if the Muscleheaded Blog was one
of your typical media outlets,

— you’d now get a 10 minute lecture
on how you should never
try any of this at home.

But my philosophy is that :
if someone’s dumb enough
to wanna try this at home,

— let’s let ’em go right ahead and do it.

The gene pool always could
use some chlorine, ya know.

I’m pretty sure that
none of that would apply
to the obviously intelligent,1920a
and very discerning readers
of this here blog, anyway.

enough kissing ass….

— back to the Bullet Catch Trick.

The fact that this trick
keeps going wrong,
and killing the magicians that try it
has obviously caused
some consternation among performers,

and as I indicated,
has caused the gag
to acquire a mystique,
— a mythology — if you will,
all it’s own.soo

The most famous example
of this trick going completely
horribly horrible was in London, in 1918.

A very popular magician of the time,

— an American by the stage name
of Chung Ling Soo
(no, he wasn’t of Asian descent)
decided to use the trick in his act —


guns being guns,chung

…. and bullets being bullets, well…

It weren’t pretty.

In front of a crowd of over
2000 paying customers, too.

All that blood ain’t good for business, ya know.

herrmannSo, the trick went pretty
much silent for about 70 years….

A couple people trying it here and there,
….. some hits, some misses ….

It was revived for a TV special in 2012,
by magician Steve Cohen.

Now, this guy IS really skilled,
very proficient–
a student and teacher of magic —

— so this ‘curse’ was finally
gonna be put to bed for good, right?

Well, sure,
think that if you want.

On a New York City shooting range,
with a small audience in attendance
and cameras taping every second of the event,

Cohen took his place
in front of a glass plate,
and a guy with a Glock 9 mm
about 30 feet away —

and when he dropped his handkerchief,
the shooter took his shot.carter


Screaming in pain,
(actually, the word
‘squealing’ comes to mind)

Steve Cohen hit the floor,
and was quickly taken to the hospital —

He had been hit by glass shards from the panel,
— as the bullet shattered it.

He ended up bruised,
and swearing off the trick.

The curse continues ? ?



Give me the lady
with the disappearing dress
trick every time.

(Keep the boots, please)

It’s magic, man.

HOY !!!!!



Gabbing About Gestalt

legsOne minute you see it,

One minute you don’t.



It’s hoodoo —
or voodoo —
or witchcraft,
or something…..animals


It’s way more
spooky than that.

It’s about human psychology–
and how we perceive things.

Gestalt is a funny thing.

Observing how your mind
takes a single line,
shape, color, or contrast–
—  or a group of them,

and turns it into a
whole concept
is not only interesting,

…… but can produce
some really startling

For example…..gestalt

Do you see a pretty girl,
or a guy playing the saxophone,
in this picture?

Look again, man.

Anybody who’s ever gone to a psychologist….

( and as a child, I went to many —
— surprise, surprise, huh?

…… knows what a
Rorschach ink blot test is.

You’re supposed to look
at a blob of nothing —

….. and tell them the
first thing that comes
to mind.

Of course,
a reasonable
person would think —

But no, that’s nota
how it’s supposed to work.

And with me,
it seemed
to go rather badly.

The guy would hand me
one of those
ink blot things,

and I’d say it looked like a naked lady.

He’d hand me another one,

….and I’d say that one
looked like a naked lady,

After a couple rounds of this,
he finally remarked :

It seems like you might have
an obsession with sex, young man.

I was shocked,
mortified, stunned …

( ok… not all that much, really )

Hey,”, I said ..

You’re the one that keeps showing me dirty pictures, man.

It’s all a matter of perception, ya see.


Look at this picture.


Maybe it just looks like
a bunch of blocks to you.

And really, that’s all it is.

But your mind wants to put
it all together into a unified package.

So, back up a bit from the screen,
and presto — you’ll get the message.

I’m not sure it’s all that accurate, mind you …

I’ve been wearing glasses
all my life and …. wait .


Next slide, please.


I’m gonna give you a little task to perform.

No— not that.

Later, perhaps.

Quickly– I want you to tell
me the color each of these words.



Not what the word says
but what color the word is.

not all that easy, is it ?

You look at the word ORANGE,
and it’s hard to say BLUE,
…. even though you see it IS blue.

That’s because the brain
stores color information,
and language information,
in two different parts of the brain.

And the information from
one part is overriding the
information from the other part.


Welcome to my world, baby.

Often, an image or representation won’t give you a lot of information.

And your brain will try to
fill in the blanks, as it were.

Observe the simple cues in the picture —
color, shape, and a few letters.

Yet, very few people
would fail to come
to a quick conclusion
of what this image is.

Corporations use this concept
a good deal to their advantage,

………….. in everything from logos to advertising.

After all, why tell you stuff
about their product that
might be true, or might not….

…. when they can lead you
to draw your own assumptions/conclusions.

And since all the parts necessary
to make an accurate decision aren’t provided,
well, it’s not hard to see the
potential errors that can be made.

Harmless or not, these kinds of ads
are very persuasive, and appeal
to the deepest reaches of the mind.

But it’s not the only technique they use on you.

Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Take this example —
the new Wendy’s logo. mom

See the word under the girl ?

Why is it there?

To give you a
subliminal impression —
home, apple pie —
and, of course, MOM.

Again —
‘they’ don’t want you
to notice it consciously.

They’re playing upon a
necessary function of your brain —
— the ability to make
sense of the world around us –

but, of course,
using it for their own purposes.

Me, I prefer more recreational uses.


Tell ’em, Frank.



Spotting the Spin

1I grew up thinking that the media in a free society was supposed to present a neutral picture of politics, news, and the world at large.

Of course, I knew that in totalitarian regimes, that control of the media was essential for control of the society, so a free, unbiased press was right out of the question.

It wasn’t until I was about 13,
when I realized that was completely wrong…..

erichewsThat media in any country is subject to control by one or more cabals of interest,

and that they use it to manipulate the public perception…..

…. whether those special interests be politically, religiously, or commercially motivated.

It is, for better or worse, endemic to institutional media.

In totalitarian regimes, news items may be totally fabricated, exaggerated or expunged.

Usually, the cabal of interest in a totalitarian regime is the regime itself…

…. and it uses it’s control of state media to promote itself and prop up it’s own agenda.

bWe call this kind of thing “Propaganda” ,

and Nazi Germany’s propaganda machine was an obvious example of this.

World events were reported in the German media in such a way as to manipulate public opinion at home,
and to camoflage the truth overseas.

Some of this propaganda was overt and relatively easy to interpret.

In 1939, the Polish army was large, but badly under-equipped, with low morale and in a completely defensive posture — the Nazis rigged up a border incident at a radio station that, in it’s propaganda, made it sound as if the Poles were starting a war, and that Germany would have no choice but to defend itself.

It was obvious to everyone that this was not the case, even to most Germans.

Still, the big-shouted-lie won out over the little-whispered-truth.

How much of this can be credited to the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda is still being debated, but one thing is certainly true……..

That a system of lies, running from 1933 on, gradually wore down the average German’s credulity and expectation of being told the truth — until he would swallow, or choke down at the very least, any pap the regime wanted to feed him.

One part of the Nazi methodology toward this mind-set was the technique of the big lie…. telling a whopper of an untruth and simply repeating it over and over until it is adopted by rote in the subject people’s memory.

This was particularly effective in generating a kind of collective paranoia that would prove useful in preparing the people for war.

Studies have shown the very negative psychological and physiological effects of forced belief… when a subject is convinced to accept something as fact that he himself doubts actually is.

dA more subtle approach involves the careful selection of words to create a desired emotional response….

Over time, these responses become part of a person’s belief system and effect the way he perceives his environment.

Sounds a bit like brainwashing, doesn’t it?

Well, in a way, it is.

Let me show you how this works.

I’m going to use several examples from a government publication on the subject.

I will give you some words that all have the same general definition.

Take the list of words, and rank them in terms of your positive perception of the concept –
……….. the most favorable first, and the least favorable last.


How would you rank them ?

Actually, most people rank them the way you probably did.


The reason I know this is because the U.S. has done many studies on the subject.

Let’s look at another set:

unlawful gathering,

How would rank these ?

Or this set —

freedom fighter,

One more —-

internment camp,
detention camp,
assembly center,
concentration camp,
relocation center,
prison camp,
temporary detention center

I think you’re starting to see the idea, and how it could (and IS) put to practical use.

And it’s easy enough to spot the more negative words when they’re grouped altogether like that.

Not so easy when it’s used in a news item, government release, or editorial.

Now, you may be saying that these words are different, in terms-
not so much of their definition –
as in their meaning .

Yes… the definition of a word is called it’s “denotation” —

— while the ‘reactive meaning’ —-
……. your emotional response to the word, is called it’s “connotation”.

We all use it in our day to day lives …

Once you start paying attention,

the very choice of a word like ” ginger “,
instead of a word like ” redhead ” —

or ” egghead ” over ” intelligent ” —

………… will tell you something about the speakers’ point of view.

aMore importantly,

one cannot help but observe the same techniques being utilized by special interests in the Western media today…..

much more tactfully to be sure, but the same general techniques.

When an administration official says ” professional interrogation technique ” , instead of ” water board torture ” , it would certainly be helpful for us, as a progressive society, to know exactly to what he refers, namely – something straight from the Spanish Inquisition.

After all- what a free society will allow, or not allow its government to do – speaks volumes about what kind of citizens belong to it, don’t you think?

When a conservative media pundit refers to labor unions as “declining” — does this reflect a simple trend of membership, or the larger corporate sales pitch that the need for unions is also declining?

This is part big lie, and part creative connotations —

Before any working person buys into them, they would be well to remember in what economic condition the average American worker was in, before the unions came into play.


When a black sports commentator (Robert Parker) on national TV (ESPN) makes a remark about a black sports figure (Robert Griffin III) like: ” He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really … ” , exactly what was he saying?

Who is US? and how is making that distinction helpful to understanding football ?

Or– maybe it wasn’t about football at all?

Is it that black Americans should be expected to act a certain way?

Who determines what that way is?

Isn’t that the same crap racists have been saying for two hundred years — that black Americans are ‘different’- and as such deserve different treatment ?

Are we two countries- one black, and one white?

When a politician chooses a term like ” entitlement program ” instead of ” social benefit ” ,
…. you can be sure it’s for a reason.

Unfortunately, most people take what they hear and see in the media at face value…

So, the fact that people who have paid into a system all their working lives are still implied to be taking ‘handout’ money from Social Security is lost in the morass of the negative connotations of ” entitlements “.

It’s those damned 47%’ers again.

What does it say about a society, I wonder, to be more concerned with the profitability of it’s corporations than about the well being of citizens who have contributed their sweat and blood to building the society in the first place?