Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Soma

Well, the results are in for FISM. Congratulations to Shawn Farquhar for winning the Grand Prix in close-up! Han Seol-Hui tied for first place in the "Manipulation" category, and Julius Frack won in the "Stage Illusion" category. For the list of other award-winners, head on over to Tim Ellis' blog entry here. The Grand Prix award for stage magic went to a magician I haven't featured here: Soma. So, in honor of his accomplishment, the final "Stay-At-Home FISM 2009" entry is dedicated to him. Soma represented Hungary in the "General Magic" category. From his website:
Throughout the past decade Soma has developed a unique way of entertainment, which took him all around the world. His original phone-act, acclaimed by his peers as "magic as unique, and as original as it gets", appeared in gala-shows and magic conventions all around Europe, the United States and Asia. He has won many prizes in many countries.

The main objective of Soma's magic is to deliver an experience never seen before. A professional way of entertainment: That is the purest expression of what he does.

Here is the act with which Soma won the FISM 2009 Grand Prix for Stage Magic:

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Xavier Tapias

Xavier Tapias, of Spain, does recycling magic. His goal is to create magical events using ordinary objects, and to this end he has won a number of awards, including the "Silver Magic Wand" award at the Monte Carlo Magic Stars Festival in Monaco. In 1993, Tapias became the CEO of a toy company which produces automated toys for display windows. As a result of this venture, his magic act has become quite high-tech, employing many animatronics, and the company has shifted its focus away from toys, primarily producing electronic magical effects for magicians. Tapias is competing in the "General Magic" category. Here is his competition act, "The Robot."

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Shawn Farquhar

From Canada, competing for an award in the "Card Magic" category is Shawn Farquhar. I've been a fan of Farquhar for some time, now. He has the rare quality of being able to connect with an entire audience on an emotional level from the moment he walks out on stage. He's insanely likable and talented. From his website:
Shawn Farquhar has been entertaining audiences around the globe for over two decades. His magic has been seen on Television shows like the X-Files and Highlander, in Motion Pictures like Spooky House and the Fly II, for corporate clients like IBM and Konica, and on the most luxurious cruise vessels such as Norwegian Star and Radiance of the Seas.

The Canadian Association of Magicians awarded Shawn the MAGICIAN OF THE YEAR, the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians awarded him the GRAND PRIX D'HONNEUR and the International Brotherhood of Magicians awarded him both STAGE MAGICIAN and SLEIGHT OF HAND MAGICIAN OF THE YEAR, making him the ONLY magician in history to win BOTH world championships!

Here's a portion of the act Shawn competed with :

Update: Word on the street is that Shawn has made it to the finals of the Grand Prix contest.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Han Seol-Hui

I've tried to delay gratification on this find for a while, now. I can't wait any longer...I must share this act with you. Han Seol-Hui is representing Korea in the "Manipulation" category (stage sleight of hand). I think he's a real contender for the top prize. I've seen CD manipulators before, but he is head and shoulders above the rest. If anything, he's a little too fast. You miss a lot of what he's doing. Still, an impressive demonstration. I hope you enjoy Han Seol-Hui.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Yves Doumergue

In the second day of the close-up competitions, French magician Yves Doumergue drew a lot of attention. Competing in the "Parlour Magic" category, Doumergue's act involved a traditional plot with a not-so-traditional ending. As reported by Craig Mitchell:
3 volunteers are brought onstage and requested to selected a dynamite looking firecracker. 4 are real and one is a dud ( he lights one to prove it - literally shaking the CNCC convention centre to its core with an enormous bang ) The volunteers each take one - the last spectator inadvertently providing the magician with incorrect information as to what number he has selected. With the magician now reaching for one of the remaining sticks ( using incorrect information as to what sticks remain ) - he places it in his mouth and begins to light it. Some members of the audience are horrified - not knowing whether to intervene to prevent a ghastly accident. A scream is heard and the magician's face is covered in blood ... he had planned it all and knew exactly which one to choose.

I can't help but be reminded of this often-fumbled magic trick (not for the squeamish), except that, in Doumergue's case, the failure was staged. No video is available of Doumergue's fire-cracker trick, but here's his well-known version of the torn and restored card.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Julius Frack

Julius Frack is a veteran FISM competitor from Germany, usually competing with an act he calls, "The Mad Tailor." From
In this performance Julius Frack is manically dancing around his attic in an eccentric tail-coat, magically designing an exquisite dress for his mannequin. His thimbles move to the rhythm of the music and his scissors mysteriously float shaping his vision. With this act he won several awards in international contests and a high reputation in the world of magic. In 2005 the young magic pro’s new full-evening show “Imagi©nations” started on a tour around theatres in Germany.

This year, he is competing in the "stage illusion" category, leading me to believe that he will probably be presenting a different act. His unique suspension illusion (seen below) could do him well in this category!

Stay-at-Home FISM 2009: Jeremy Pei

Jeremy Pei is representing Singapore in the "parlour magic" category at FISM. Yesterday, Craig Mitchell reported that Pei's competition act included a high-energy combination of rope magic, the classic cups and balls effect (seen multiple times on this blog), and a miniature linking rings routine. According to Pei's website:
Since 1997, Jeremy has made several milestones for himself. He won several local and international awards for his performances. Jeremy is the First and Only Magician in Singapore’s history to win the Singapore Association of Magicians “Magician of the Year” Award for 3 consecutive years! He made appearances on local and foreign television broadcasts, newspapers and magazines. He was also invited as special guest speaker, lecturer and consultant in Singapore and overseas.

Here is a portion of his act featuring a re-thinking of the "Professor's Nightmare" rope trick.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Politics

source: the Taipei Times

Uh oh. It looks as if things have taken a turn for the worst at the FISM competitions in Beijing. From Tim Ellis at MagicUnlimited:
There was one incident that was so unexpected it left the room literally in shock.

After a contestant did an act featuring a travel theme where he gave a list of the countries he wanted to visit (which included Taiwan) a Chinese registrant leapt up from the audience, raced back stage and literally dragged the contestant back on demanding that he apologise because “Taiwan is not a country!!!”

Some of the other Chinese in the audience (including some of the cameramen) cheered, but the rest of the room sat with jaws gaping... and in one moment the beautiful veil of happiness FISM Beijing had woven over the last few days was ripped aside.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Kiko Pastur

The wonderful thing about FISM is that it provides a venue for lesser-known magicians from outside the US to gain worldwide recognition. This is the case with one of Spain's competitors in the close-up category. Competing for a prize in card magic is Kiko Pastur. I don't speak Spanish, so I have had a difficult time finding any information on Kiko other than video clips of his act. From his website, I've been able to glean that he's collaborating with a jazz composer to develop a show marrying illusion and jazz. In the close-up setting, there is indeed a strong relationship between magic and jazz, with the trajectory of a magical effect being easily modified in real time to fit the mood of the audience (and the performer). Enjoy Kiko Pastur.

Stay-At-Home FISM 2009: Timo Marc

Today is the first day of competition at FISM, beginning early in the morning with the first round of stage magic competitors. Magicians compete for awards in a number of different categories, including "general magic," "manipulation" (which is essentially stage sleight-of-hand), and "stage illusion." Competing in the "general magic" category, representing Germany, is Timo Marc. Since 2005, Marc has been winning competitions all over the world with his "21st Century Magic." Notably, he received the prestigious Siegfried & Roy SARMOTI prize at the 2008 World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas, in recognition of his creative, high-tech style of magic.

Friday Magic Showcase: Norbert Ferré

In order to get you excited for next week's "Stay-At-Home FISM 2009," this week's Friday Magic Showcase is Norbert Ferré, winner of the 2006 FISM Grand Prix award for stage magic. This will give you just a taste of what to expect from the FISM competitors I profile in the next few days.

"The Noam Chomsky Show"

FISM 2009 Profiles

The competitions of the Federation Internationale des Societes Magiques begin in Beijing on Sunday. This is the most high-profile magic competition in the world, with past winners including people like Johnny Ace Palmer, Daryl, and of course Lance Burton. In lieu of shelling out the cash for a trip to China, next week I'll be profiling some of this year's competitors here, including video of the acts they're likely to be competing with. I hope you'll join me for my stay-at-home FISM 2009.

Update: Tim Ellis, a FISM jury member, is doing a FISM play-by-play over at his blog, Magic Unlimited. I've added his blog to the sidebar.

Friday Magic Showcase: Jay Mattioli

One of my peers from Tannen's Magic Camp is doing pretty well for himself on this season of "America's Got Talent." Jay Mattioli has won awards in both the International Brotherhood of Magicians annual competition and the Society of American Magicians annual competition with an act that's technology themed. You'll see some elements of it in this video montage from his stage show.

Phineas Gage Photograph Discovered

Photograph collectors in Maryland have discovered what appears to be the only known photograph of Phineas Gage. Gage is a legend in neuroscience and psychology. Here's why (from the Boston Daily Courier, September 20th, 1848):
Horrible Accident. Phineas P. Gage, a foreman on the Rutland Railroad at Cavendish, Vt., was preparing for a blast on Wednesday last, when the powder exploded, carrying through his head an iron instrument, an inch and a fourth in circumference, and three feet and eight inches in length. The iron entered on the side of his face, shattering the upper jaw, and passing back of the left eye, and out the top of his head. Singularly enough, he was alive at two o'clock the next afternoon, in full possession of his reason, and free from pain (Macmillan, 1986, p. 77).

In many ways, the story of Phineas Gage has grown into a myth, and the legend surrounding Gage's condition probably began with the newspaper article above. There is still a pervasive view that Gage recovered fully from his injuries in a very short period of time. While it was amazing that Gage survived having a tamping iron travel through his brain, by no means was he ever the same person following the accident. For more information on Phineas Gage, I suggest you track down two great articles penned by Malcolm Macmillan at the University of Melbourne:

  • Macmillan, M. B. (1986). A wonderful journey through skull and brains: The travels of Mr. Gage's tamping iron. Brain and Cognition, 5, 67-107.
  • Macmillan, M. (2008). Phineas Gage - Unravelling the myth. The Psychologist, 21, 828-831. (link)

h|t BPS Research Digest

Follow-Up: The Marmoset Thatcher Illusion?!?

You knew this was going to happen.

Click the image to see its upright version. It's too hideous for me to post on the mainpage.

The Marmoset Thatcher Illusion?!?

An experiment in press in Current Biology reports the not-so-surprising finding that monkeys also fall for the well-known Margaret Thatcher effect (Thompson, 1980). For those of you unfamiliar with the illusion, here's the gist. Have a look at this image of Margaret Thatcher.

Although something is obviously not quite right about the image, it doesn't look terribly out of the ordinary. It's difficult to pinpoint the abnormality until the image is rotated right-side up.

Right-side up, the image is grotesque. You can now readily notice that although the relative configuration of the eyes and mouth has been maintained, each element has been flipped upside-down. The illusion suggests that we are relatively insensitive to the specific features of a face during recognition (otherwise, the upside-down face would look abnormal). Instead, we rely on the overall configuration of said features. Here's an even more compelling demonstration of the effect using the faces of celebrities (and a little bit of creepy music):

Adachi, Chou, and Hampton (2009) created "Thatcherized" images of rhesus monkey faces.

The researchers presented their monkey subjects with un-Thatcherized images of normal and rotated monkey faces over and over, habituating the monkeys to the images. They then presented a series of Thatcherized images, reasoning that if monkeys perceived abnormalities in the images, they should become dishabituated, spending more time gazing at the new photographs. Just as predicted, only the upright Thatcherized images captured extra attention, replicating the Thatcher effect seen in humans, and suggesting that monkeys use face recognition strategies similar to those used by humans.


Adachi, I., Chou, D. P., & Hampton, R. R. (2009). Thatcher effect in monkeys demonstrates conservation of face perception across primates. Current Biology, 19, 1-4.

Thompson, P. (1980). Margaret Thatcher: A new illusion. Perception, 9, 483-484. (link)

Friday Magic Showcase: Doc Eason

In 1977, at age 30, William H. "Doc" Eason took a 2 week motorcycle vacation from his home in California and journeyed to Snowmass, Colorado to visit some old fraternity brothers. These friends co-owned the Tower Restaurant with John Denver. As fate would have it, one of the first people he met in Snowmass was legendary bar magician, Bob Sheets. This chance meeting changed the course of Doc’s life forever. The two week vacation turned into an incredible run of over 27 years. He never returned to California and to make a long story very short, Doc had Bob’s old job as the magic bartender and featured entertainer at John Denver’s World Famous Tower Comedy Magic Bar and Restaurant until it closed its doors on April 10, 2004.

Below is one of my favorite Doc Eason bits. This was the only video I could find of the entire routine. Although the video is less-than-perfect, it's the story that makes the trick.

Follow-Up: TV Magic

As promised, here is the segment KTVK Phoenix Channel 3 aired on the psychology/neuroscience of magic.

Friday Magic Showcase: Banachek

Banachek gained fame for his role in James Randi's "Project Alpha." He is now one of the most well-respected, knowledgeable mentalists in the field. Banachek will be presenting a lecture for magicians and mentalists in Phoenix on July 19th. Feel free to contact me for more information.