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I failed to make the chess team because of my height.
July 6, 2011 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Magician Derren Brown admits his chess game is shit. Nonetheless, he plays nine world-class chess masters, simultaneously, and wins more matches than he loses. But how? (via)

Issue #1: I'm not understanding how you can pair them against each other. For example, if you pair 1 with 5, and if the point is just to steal 1's moves to use against 5, and vice versa, wouldn't these two players have to make identical moves the entire game in order for this strategy to work?

Issue #2: Is he using slight of hand to switch the paper at the end?

Issue #3: Is #9 a plant?
posted by JPowers (62 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not understanding how you can pair them against each other. For example, if you pair 1 with 5, and if the point is just to steal 1's moves to use against 5, and vice versa, wouldn't these two players have to make identical moves the entire game in order for this strategy to work?

No, because one is black and one is white. As long as you play as black first, it's just like playing two instances of a chess program against each other. Sure, you'll likely lose one game, but you'll likely win one also...
posted by pompomtom at 10:46 PM on July 6, 2011


I'm not understanding how you can pair them against each other. For example, if you pair 1 with 5, and if the point is just to steal 1's moves to use against 5, and vice versa, wouldn't these two players have to make identical moves the entire game in order for this strategy to work?

You're playing white. Mathowie is playing black. I'm the man in the middle. I'm not playing each board synchronously; I may observe a play without responding before going to the next board, as long as I actually come back and play a response at some point in order to keep things moving.

Your opening move is e4. I don't have a response. I walk over to Matt's board and play e4. I wait for him to respond either by standing there or going to Jessamyn's board for a few minutes. I come back to Mathowie's board. He has played e5. I walk over to your board and play e5. Repeat until both games end.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:46 PM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I remember this show. Didn't he start some rounds and have the opponents start others? So players #1-4 started and he duplicated those moves to #5-8. He also has 5-8 do their rebuttal, which he then duplicates to #1-4. He said he legitimately played #9, but who knows...
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 10:48 PM on July 6, 2011


(Don't worry, pb/cortex/vaca/nomad/intern, you're all invited to my chess game, too.)
posted by Mikey-San at 10:48 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was, I swear, in a kids' book on clever tricks I read in the early 80s. Please tell me this Derren Brown guy is rich and famous from other, better tricks.
posted by codswallop at 10:51 PM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is an old, old trick, and it is impressive in inverse proportion to what you know about chess.
I think there was a "Magnum, P.I." episode that used this as a plot point.
posted by thelonius at 10:52 PM on July 6, 2011


The trick is so old that I am surprised (and suspicious) that none of the other chess players saw or guessed what he was doing. This makes me think the whole thing was some sort of set up to produce the right result at the end.
posted by AndrewStephens at 10:58 PM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


a game of chess between two people is properly called a "game".
a series of chess games between two people may be organized into a "match", where the winner is determined by the overall score.

on preview! I am sure that any chess master knew exactly what was going on. If they feigned otherwise, it's most likely because they were paid to do so. These guys are not exactly earning bank, you know?

posted by thelonius at 11:00 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't this be in the green?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:02 PM on July 6, 2011


We could post it to the green and copy the replies here.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:11 PM on July 6, 2011 [28 favorites]


I once defeated nine chess players blindfolded. How I got nine people to wear blindfolds I'll never know.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:26 PM on July 6, 2011 [22 favorites]


How did he (almost) get the numbers?
posted by Flunkie at 11:40 PM on July 6, 2011


Please tell me this Derren Brown guy is rich and famous from other, better tricks.

I can put your mind at rest.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:40 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the answer to "But how?" is "because it's Derren Brown."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:40 PM on July 6, 2011


He's easy to scoff at I suppose, but I find some of the tricks he's done on TV to be funny, elegant, and thought-provoking. (Bonus: that last clip has Simon Pegg in it!)
posted by chaff at 11:51 PM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


How did he (almost) get the numbers?

Magic!

Rest assured, there's no such thing as "magic," at least in the supernatural sense. Therefore, there must be a more reasonable explanation. There are of course a number of ways a magician can "force" a predicted outcome, or failing that, to produce a "prediction" after the fact.

Sometimes, it really just boils down to an "educated guess." (predicting a seemingly random number based on a reliable, yet little-known statistic) Sometimes, it's as cheesy as having an assistant write down the real number, slip it to you during the chaos of a TV shoot (misdirection), and substitute it for the original prediction at the last second. (magicians are wont to employ devices like falsely sealed envelopes, etc.) Notice how awkward his hands become during the "unveiling" of the envelope. He appears to be very keen on just how & when the paper should be unfolded. My best guess is that the envelope contained a piece of paper with only the first number written, and he was able to either attach the remaining banner (with the correct numbers) or simply swap the whole thing during the awkward handling of the paper.

Another possibility is that he wrote out a series of numbers that had a statistically high probability of being correct (for example, he noticed that a lot of these players ended with 11, 10, 8, 6, or 5 pieces at the end) and based on the color of the tables, was able to conclude that White players were likely to end up with 10 or 11, while Black was more likely to end up with 8, 6, or 5. (or whatever the breakdown might have been) Since he knew what color each table would be playing, he could assign a number and (knowing it would be a winning or losing table) be able to assign it a number with a reasonable chance of accuracy. Perhaps he could even alter his game slightly toward the end, capturing an extra piece here and there, with no consequence to its outcome.

It's clear that the main trick isn't "he beat a bunch of grandmasters," since he explains the ruse, just as Penn & Teller might. The trick is in the prediction, which he is much more guarded about.

I love magic and will quite willingly allow myself to be mystified, but it's also a lot of fun to try to figure it out. The more responsible magicians these days seem to encourage it (Penn & Teller, The Amazing Randi, and yes, even Criss Angel) The real downers are the guys who still insist they have some kind of special "power."
posted by ShutterBun at 12:08 AM on July 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Educated guess" and "high probability of being correct" don't seem feasible to me. Even assuming that the number left for white uniquely implies the number left for black with 100% probability (which, of course, it doesn't), that still leaves five numbers he has to pick. Even if it's known for sure that any chess game will end with either ten or eleven pieces (which, of course, it's not), that's a 50% chance of getting any particular one of those five right, meaning about a 3% chance of getting all five right.

Getting 4 or more of 5 right would have a lot higher chance -- about 19% -- but (A) that's still nowhere near good enough to risk, and (B) that "19%" is based on the ridiculous assumptions in my first paragraph. In reality it's a whole lot lower than that.
posted by Flunkie at 12:50 AM on July 7, 2011


yes, the numbers things is the main point of the trick. but it's not just getting the number right, but getting them (almost) all right in sequence. He goes anti-clockwise from table 1 in the video, I believe.

I wonder what his mistake with the first number tells us about the trick?
posted by Bwithh at 12:57 AM on July 7, 2011


With tricks like this (the number reveal) I always think of ways the magician could have impressed me more. For example, I'd be way more baffled if he'd let the grandmaster take the envelope out of his pocket, open it, and spread it out himself.

But he didn't, and Derren is an excellent showman, so he certainly would have thought of that idea.

So it's part of the trick. Derren had to open the envelope for it to work.

I think Flunkie nailed it. The envelope had a big "6" on a card in it. Derren concealed the unfolding list of numbers (handed to him by an assistant) behind the big "6" and then unfolded it. That's why the first number was a mistake -- which makes great showmanship too. It's a lot easier to believe Derren was deliberately manipulating the games to get particular numbers of pieces left if he messed up on one of them. (of course, he didn't really play 8 of the games at all, so that was clearly bunk).

I think he might have actually played #9. He was only the president of a chess society. Not a master but someone with a chess-related title and good enough to have their rating published. Derren probably picked someone he could beat.
posted by mmoncur at 1:04 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Flunkie nailed it. The envelope had a big "6" on a card in it. Derren concealed the unfolding list of numbers (handed to him by an assistant) behind the big "6" and then unfolded it. That's why the first number was a mistake -- which makes great showmanship too.

That was my "best guess" theory, and on review, I'm sticking to it. The missed first number hints at both "a desire to make the prediction truly skill-based" via the slight imperfection, as well as maybe a bit of "playing the odds." But yes, the handling of the paper during the unveiling certainly leads one to believe that that's where the chicanery lies.

Derren probably picked someone he could beat.

Yep, he admitted as such during the explanation.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:23 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Solution:

1. Acquire the time-stamped notations of all 9 games.
2. Combine them into a spreadsheet. Column A contains the movement notations. Column B contains the game numbers. Column C contains the time-stamps.
3. Sort column C by ascending numerical order.
4. Analyze.

Ooh! Ooh! Do I get best answer?
posted by troll at 1:26 AM on July 7, 2011


He's easy to scoff at I suppose
If this was directed at me, I wasn't scoffing. I think he's great. I like the onion-layered nature of his tricks, and I wish I hadn't given up on magic largely because of magicians like him.
If it wasn't directed at me, well, everything I just said, but in a less defensive tone of voice.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:27 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


mmoncur: "
I think Flunkie nailed it. The envelope had a big "6" on a card in it. Derren concealed the unfolding list of numbers (handed to him by an assistant) behind the big "6" and then unfolded it. That's why the first number was a mistake -- which makes great showmanship too.
"

It's also fantastic slight-of-hand. I assumed that it was happening when he touched the paper at the end, but it sure looked smooth.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:27 AM on July 7, 2011


It's also fantastic slight-of-hand. I assumed that it was happening when he touched the paper at the end, but it sure looked smooth.

Indeed. I'm pretty sure it had to do with the "flip over" move he executes. To the observer, it looks like he's merely trying to orientate the paper with to the audience's point of view, but in reality he's "taking what's hidden behind the paper, and innocently placing it in front." Since he himself is in charge of unfolding the revealed answer, he can take all necessary precautions.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:44 AM on July 7, 2011


(Am I stupid or isn't it "sleight of hand"? Because that's what I've been writing my whole life - could my whole life be a lie? Or...a leigh?)
posted by Mooseli at 1:50 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yep, sleight of hand is the correct usage. Put it up there with "card sharp", "nuclear", and "spit and image" in the pantheon of often misspled or mispronounced phrases. (if you'll pardon the Oxford comma)
posted by ShutterBun at 2:13 AM on July 7, 2011


I love Derren Brown, but more enjoy his psychological tricks. "The Russian Scam" is incredible.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:05 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


He counted the pieces as the games ended, remembered them ("obviously just a memory feat"), wrote them on the board, announced them aloud, and purposely wrote one slightly wrong to make it seem as if he did it through some magic predictive way rather than just counting, remembering, and writing.

Someone watching or listening offstage wrote the numbers on that long piece of paper as the games ended and passed the paper to him for the old switcheroo, or left the paper where he could casually snag it as he strolled around. Or he managed to do the writing himself without anyone noticing, just writing against his chest on a piece of paper under his jacket while everyone else was staring at the chess boards. If he controlled the environment, anything is possible and fairly easy -- the freshly written list of numbers could have popped out of a hole in the floor, in a table, in a wall, anywhere he could casually position himself to receive it.

If the guy with the envelope in his pocket had checked it prematurely, without letting the magician get near it, he would have found blank paper or all the numbers wrong or "Shit, you caught me" on it.
posted by pracowity at 4:01 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The Russian Scam" is incredible.

The Russian Scam is like the Obi Wan Kenobi scam ("These aren't the droids you're looking for.") but real.
posted by pracowity at 4:05 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't mind me asking, do you. You're happy to give that to me.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:25 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


(No? I'm happy to pay. It's OK to take it. Take it. It's fine.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:27 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Before I even saw the video, I said to myself "he's playing them against each other".

The reason the chess guys didn't think he was cheating is that he flat out lied to them and told them he'd studied each of their games. They were probably also fed a whole bunch of lines by the researchers and producers.

The numbers were clearly sleight of hand.

He beat the one guy fair and square because he told another lie -- namely that his chess is shit. I bet his chess is actually very good and the president of the chess club was shit. Either that or he was indeed using a computer against him.
posted by unSane at 5:23 AM on July 7, 2011


Just came to say that I've seen Derren Brown live on stage twice now, and both times were absolutely amazing.
posted by robzster1977 at 5:39 AM on July 7, 2011


Please tell me this Derren Brown guy is rich and famous from other, better tricks.

This is just one segment of one show of one of his older TV series.
posted by smackfu at 5:52 AM on July 7, 2011


"The Russian Scam " is incredible.

What the crap? That was mind-boggling. (he even got the same guy again, AFTER the confrontation.)
posted by ShutterBun at 6:56 AM on July 7, 2011


Magician husband says it's not sleight of hand, it's a trick.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:04 AM on July 7, 2011


Sleight of hand is not a trick?
posted by pracowity at 7:08 AM on July 7, 2011


Magician husband says it's not sleight of hand, it's a trick.

Illusion, roomthreeseventeen. A trick is something a whore does for money.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:09 AM on July 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if some of the masters had read about this kind of trick before and could figure out that that's what was going on but wouldn't speak out and ruin the fun.
posted by Anything at 7:10 AM on July 7, 2011


Meatbomb: "The Russian Scam is incredible."

Mind: blown.

Can someone tell me what's actually happening there? In each case, there's a moment where he says "you don't mind me asking, do you?" and then he mumbles something almost unintelligible about "give it to me" (I can't really understand what he's saying). That seems to be the key point in the scam and where the NLP magic kicks in. But I'd like to understand what is the technique exactly.
posted by falameufilho at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2011


Back when he was younger and less famous, Derren Brown put out a few instructional DVDs for magicians that you might be able to find on the more illicit parts of the net. He is awesome at sleight-of-hand.
posted by smackfu at 7:31 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can someone tell me what's actually happening there? In each case, there's a moment where he says "you don't mind me asking, do you?" and then he mumbles something almost unintelligible about "give it to me" (I can't really understand what he's saying). That seems to be the key point in the scam and where the NLP magic kicks in. But I'd like to understand what is the technique exactly.

There's a very simple possibility worth considering: The people he approaches are confederates, and the whole thing is rigged.

Also, regardless of whether the trick actually works on strangers, it seems to me that the obvious, repeated verbatim "you don't mind me asking, do you?" could just be a bit of misdirection to make the viewer think that they see what the trick is.
posted by jcreigh at 7:48 AM on July 7, 2011


Sleight of hand is not a trick?

Sleight of hand is a skill.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 AM on July 7, 2011


falameufilho, here's a video where someone explains what could be happening in the Russian Scam.
posted by amarynth at 8:02 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


During Valve's crazy ARG related to the release of Portal 2, one of the achievements needed to earn a potato involved finding a pseudo-unix console in the game Defense Grid and playing a fairly difficult ASCII puzzle game against the computer.

I was only able to win the game by running two instances of Defense Grid, logging into the unix prompt in both instances, and using this chess trick to get one computer to play against the other. The winning computer earned me a potato.
posted by straight at 8:12 AM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Actually, the losing computer is the one that caused Valve (or was it GLaDOS?) to give me a potato, but it was the winning computer that did the work.
posted by straight at 8:15 AM on July 7, 2011


Even if the chess masters knew he was playing them against one another, how would that help them win? They were still playing against chess masters.
posted by msalt at 8:23 AM on July 7, 2011


Rest assured, there's no such thing as "magic," at least in the supernatural sense.

Tell me more.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:38 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I emailed this link yesterday to a friend who is a chess aficionado but not a master by any stretch of the imagination. He immediately - as soon as he saw the layout of the room and the tables - told me exactly how it was being done and pointed out that in games where a single player plays lots of people at once it is very important that the player play either white or black in every game precisely to avoid this well-known ruse. He also pointed out that people have been using this trick to play other people off of each other in online chess games for years.

This makes me think the whole thing was some sort of set up to produce the right result at the end.

Just like every other Derren Brown show, then, yeah.
posted by The World Famous at 10:16 AM on July 7, 2011


I was on the fence about believing tricks like the Russian Scam were really possible until something similar happened to me. It was much more benign, but I basically got misdirected into leaving a store without getting my change, then thinking a stack of quarters that just happened to be on the counter were in fact my change (when my actual change was much more).

How? A clever, fast-talking guy who I recognized as a neighbor was standing at the cashier's counter, chatting with the cashier. As soon as I handed the cashier my money, the fast-talking guy turned to me, employed odd touch gestures (e.g., putting his hand on my arm or shoulder at an unexpected moment) and confused the hell out of by telling me some sort of irrelevant story peppered with questions with phrases like "you know what I mean?" It was intensely awkward and uncomfortable and I just wanted to get away, so when he said something like "alright, see you later" I just turned and walked away. He called back to me, saying, "aren't you forgetting something?" I walked back to the counter, perplexed -- had I forgotten something? He pointed to the quarters on the counter and said, "Your change. Don't forget your change." Again, it was such a weird, uncomfortable moment . . . and something in me just said, "oh, I guess I forgot my change and that must be it, well, I'll be moving on then, can't wait to get away from this guy."

To be honest, it was quite a humiliating experience, and I wanted to punch the neighbor in the face every time I saw him after that. But in retrospect, I'm glad I had the experience because it taught me than I'm not invulnerable to this sort of thing.

A big part of it, IMO, is the intense social awkwardness -- it creates a social/mental space where you're looking for the quickest, easiest way out. When your mind latches onto something it half-consciously perceives as that way out ("see you later", "your change"), you just instinctively leap at it. I suspect most of the marks this type of misdirection works on have a relatively high degree of social anxiety.
posted by treepour at 10:19 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


People need tricks for that? I've been known to walk away from a cash register having forgotten both my change and whatever I just purchased. I don't think any cashier pressure was involved, I think I just got caught up in putting my credit card away and wandered off.

BUT MAYBE I WAS WRONG!
posted by jacquilynne at 10:35 AM on July 7, 2011


(Okay, I guess not really BOTH my change and my purchases in the same transaction, as it's usually while putting my change or card away that I forget my purchases, and while putting my purchases away that I forget my card or change.)
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 AM on July 7, 2011


I think Flunkie nailed it. The envelope had a big "6" on a card in it.

One other point in favor of this theory: "6" can also be "9" if turned upside-down. So if game #1 ends with Brown's opponent having anywhere between 5 and 10 pieces, then Brown is either exactly right or off by only one.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recall the Russian Scam being described in a P. G. Wodehouse novel. One of the characters -- one of those loopy uncles who some of Wodehouse's protagonists have -- expressed wonderment at the idea that people would just give you their wallets if you asked for them confidently enough, and wanted to try it out just to see if it worked. This, of course, causes problems later on.

He didn't call it the Russian Scam, though. He called it the Confidence Trick. I had always wondered where that term came from.
posted by baf at 2:53 PM on July 7, 2011


Can someone tell me what's actually happening there? In each case, there's a moment where he says "you don't mind me asking, do you?" and then he mumbles something almost unintelligible about "give it to me" (I can't really understand what he's saying).

It's a Jedi mind trick. He relaxes him, touches his arm, and then reinforces that the mark is a helpful and compliant person bit by bit. I need directions. You gave them to me. You're very helpful. I'm very grateful. We've got quite a thing going on here, don't we? Then the suggestions: You don't mind me asking for it. You're happy to give that to me. Except we're not talking about directions now - see the paying with paper example, when saying that 'it's OK to take, it's fine, take it' at the right moment has nothing to do with headache medication, or the subway. Then you test things a bit with a physical command. Would you hold this for me? That's lovely. Then you pounce, talking, talking, don't look at me, look over there, this is the most natural thing in the world.

I've been had in a similar way. It was early on a Saturday morning, I was picking up some hire equipment for my yard, and this bloke just walked up out of nowhere and started to explain that he was Bob, that he was a baker, that he had a shop in Weston Creek, that his car had broken down, that he had locked his wallet inside, that he just needed to get home, and the next thing I knew I'd given him a tenner and he was gone. My wife was with me and we were both in a daze. We later considered it a tenner well spent as we went back over the conversation trying to work out how he'd effectively programmed us on the fly.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2011


You should've smashed his window for him. Voila, problem solved.
posted by pompomtom at 4:17 PM on July 7, 2011


You know, the obvious explanation for the Russian Scam is that when four people walk up to you on the street, three of whom are carrying lights and cameras and one of whom is Derren Brown from the Telly, there's a decent chance you'll humor any request he makes. And editing can make it seem like it worked every time, instead of one in ten.
posted by mmoncur at 9:33 PM on July 7, 2011


mmoncur: notice that the cameras are distant, and seem from the picture quality to be little handheld models. Also, if you see the extended clip from the full episode this appears in, he shows you a failure. DB is actually pretty upfront in his shows about letting you see that it doesn't always work.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:14 PM on July 7, 2011


I have no doubt that the Russian Scam does actually work as demonstrated, with no need for trickery (beyond what is seen) or confederates. There are dozens of similar rip-off scams like this, intended to bilk tourists out of their belongings. The main difference is that those tend to rely on confusion over math (making change, etc.) or genuine sleight of hand trickery (three card Monty, etc.)

This one seems to have simply tapped into some psychological "desire to appease" a stranger, combined with perhaps a understanding that brain takes longer to determine "why am I doing this?" versus "what am I being asked to do?" It might work similar to those "answer these five questions as quickly as possible" games, where one silly or embarrassing question is thrown in, causing the person (who would normally be more guarded about such things) to answer it truthfully before they knew what was happening.

I wonder how far he might be able to take it. Would people be willing to, say, take off a shoe and hand it to him?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:50 AM on July 8, 2011


Mister Moofoo is exactly right when he describes the "onion-layered nature" of Derren Brown's tricks. If you're like me, the sort who analyzes illusions restlessly until the method is found, unraveling how Derren does things is a spectacular rabbit hole: Derren Brown's true skills are showmanship and misdirection. You cannot trust a word he says or a thing he shows you on his TV specials. They make for fabulous entertainment but don't try to learn anything from his "psychology." It's an act, and the explanations he proffers are no more trustworthy than the illusions themselves. Derren Brown the mentalist is merely a well-rehearsed character performed by Derren Brown the actor/magician. I also doubt very much that he has the superhuman memory, perceptual skills, pain tolerance, or chess prowess that he presents to his audiences.

I'm not knocking the guy. On the contrary, he's one of my favorite performers in the world. He doesn't use ONLY camera tricks or ONLY sleight of hand or ONLY genuine hypnosis techniques, but weaves all his methods together seamlessly. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to blend so many diverse types of trick together, and then he goes out of his way to bury the whole thing beneath additional layers of deception.

If you want to see Derren Brown at his best (or at least his most animated) watch his stage show, Something Wicked This Way Comes. It's on YouTube in its entirety; here is the first part. As far as I can tell, there were no camera tricks or stooges used there, but all is still not as it seems. Derren ends the show with an utterly mind-blowing Big Reveal, which seems to explain everything but is actually just another distraction. Derren's most "forthcoming" moments are really his most obfuscatory, and that's what makes him so brilliant.

It's much better than that lottery prediction thing he did a couple years back, which ranks with David Copperfield's Statue of Liberty disappearance as one of the most anticlimatic moments in the history of professional magic. That MeFi thread has the method figured out (I won't spoil it here) and needless to say, it's really disappointing for an entertainer of Brown's caliber. Then again, only he could get away with it because of the tremendous credibility he's been building up for years. Nobody expect a cheap trick from a world-class trickster.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:43 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if you keep digging, you'll arrive at Mr. Brown's disappointing side, where he unabashedly uses stooges and cheap camera tricks more like Criss Angel is known to do.

Disappointing as this may be, stooges and (to a lesser extent) cheap camera tricks are a staple of MANY illusionists.

Keep in mind, if a stooge is used during a trick, it's only because the trick requires one. Since we know that most magic tricks are decades or centuries old, you can't exactly blame the new guy just because he's following the instructions.

Camera trickery is much worse, of course. At best, it's used as a way to force a particular angle of view which is required of certain close-up magic. (some sleights only work if the audience is at a 90 degree angle to the performer, etc.)

But at worst, it's used to embellish a trick. David Blaine did this early in his TV career with the "elevation" trick. (where he appears to rise off the ground) The trick (as performed) has him simply rising about 3 inches off the pavement. A standard trick based on little more than carefully placing the audience at the correct angle) But for the TV show, he spliced in shots of himself being raised several feet off the ground (not part of the trick, done using wires after the fact), then intercut that with surprised reaction shots of his audience. Totally unforgivable.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:56 PM on July 8, 2011


Isn't it very, very common to use plants for magic? Even just so they don't yell out "I'm not really levitating, you just can't see the crane arm!"
posted by smackfu at 2:14 PM on July 8, 2011


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