Thursday, 10 December 2009

No Actors or Stooges Were Used in this Blog

This blog fuses magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship. I achieve all the prose you read through a varied mixture of those techniques. At no point are actors or stooges used in this blog.

A hypnotist and mentalist brings a woman to an empty room overlooking a street. He takes her to a corner and tells her to turn and walk across the room with her back to him, walk to the far corner without stopping.

He holds up his arm, palm bare and as the woman gets half way, maybe two thirds of the way across the room, he clenches his hand into a fist. The woman, though unable to see the mentalist's hand or shadow, stops cold. The mentalist asks the woman why she stopped; he told her to walk to the corner of the room. The woman doesn't know why she stopped. Come to think of it, she can't even continue. Her feet feel stuck to the floor.

The hypnotist frees the woman from her induced, imaginary bind and explains to her that he will transfer to her his eerie ability to make people inexpliably stop in their tracks at his command. Time passes as the hypnotist places the woman in a trance where he goes to work, doing whatever it is that a hypnotist does during an event like this, after which he brings the woman out of trance and takes her to the window overlooking the street.

He lets the woman choose a person in the street, someone walking away from them so they can't be aware of her. The mentalist instructs the woman to raise her arm, palm bare and whenever she wants to, clench hand into a fist. She chooses a person, raises her hand and, in her own time, chenches her hand into a fist. The person she chose stops cold. She stops cold and after the briefest of moments turns to look toward the window in the building overlooking the street, where the woman is standing with her clenched fist. The woman, shocked, hides behind the curtain. How did she just do that?

You remember being told that no stooges were used. The person in the street couldn't have been a stooge. But how else could that possibly happen. All these tricks work on the basis that the people involved have been influenced by the hypnotist. Is it then fair to assume that the person in the street could have met the hypnotist previously? But since the he was with the woman for easily fifteen or twenty minutes, the person in the street would have to have agreed to walk down the street on queue. Which would make her a stooge. But what if the mentalist had hypnotised her to follow his instructions, but then completely forget that they had both met? So she's following his suggestions, almost to the point of being a stooge, but she's oblivious because she's been hypnotised to forget the mentalist and not think what she's doing. Does that make her an actor or a stooge?

Is this going on, does this count, are hypnotists and mentalists breaking the rules?

Probably not, but it's an interesting thought.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Who Coined the Phrase Coined the Phrase?

Apparently the first ever useage of the phrase "to coin a phrase" was by a George Puttenham in his English Poesie in 1589.

"Young schollers not halfe well studied... seeme to coigne fine wordes out of the Latin."

The verb to coin appeared in 1330 and means "to create money by stamping metal". It seems that the verb was used by Puttenham to mean creating new words too.

The meaning to create a new turn of phrase was adopted commonly in the 1940s and seems to be an evolution of Puttenham's useage.

Monday, 7 December 2009

How to be Invisible

Maybe this would be more appropriately titled how to get noticed or how to keep friends or something.. Because it's really about me thinking about exactly what people do that gets them noticed, remembered and likd by people around them. And when you realise what people are doing to get themselves noticed, you also realise what the other people are or aren't doing that gets them unnoticed. And if you're thinking this is just a joke, or "invisible? yeah right" then thin again. This is all real. It can be quite unsettling.

Being invisible is about no-one knowing you exist. Becoming a ghost. Unfortunately there's some sacrifice to be made. You can't have any friends. Friends aknowledge your existance, which is contrary to the purpose of this experiment.

Did you ever have a class at school where each student had to do a presentation to the group, and there was that one kid who stepped up to make his presentation and you wondered "He's in our class? Who even is he?" There's always the quiet one. He doesn't have any friends. He never puts his hand up in class. He's never around at break time. It's almost like he's invisible. You can learn from that guy. What does he do, or not do that makes him go unnoticed?

The next time you go into work or school or whatever it is you do, don't talk to anyone. Of course this is easier said than done. Sometimes you'll have to talk to someone. The professor may ask you a question. Your colleague might ask you for help. You might be required to answer a phone call. You need to keep acting normally in these circumstances. If you don't then you'll be remembered for doing something akward, different. That's not what you want to be doing. If a pier says hi as you cross her in the corridor, say hi back. If you ignore her, chances are she'll remember who as that jerk who didn't even say hi. However, don't initiate any interactions with anyone. Don't say hi to people as you pass.

Don't make eye contact or smile. If you have a normal or maybe slightly mopy expression and look at the ground or straight in front of you you won't get noticed so much. In the same fashion (get it? you will later) your overall appearance matters a lot. Don't wear any clothes that will get you noticed. Wear drab colours and unstylish clothes. Shop at M&S. (Ok, so I have a bit of a personal thing against M&S clothes for being too normal and boring, though right now that's perfect.) If you look unattractive then you have an advantage here, though beautiful people don't despair. You can simply neglect the numous hair products you usually use daily and wear less (read no) make-up. Don't wear too strong perfume or deoderant; you don't want a distinctive smell that people can recognise.

Don't hang around where people are likely to be. Don't hang around in the cantine. Go somewhere quiet to eat. Don't join any clubs or teams. You can do solitary things like go to the gym or pool, where you can quietly do your thing unnoticed. Inevitably you'll have to talk tosome people, such as a cashier, though keep your voice low, your tone flat and your gestures minimalist. Though don't talk like a robot or stand like a statue. Keep it normal.

You don't compel people to talk to you, you don't put yourself out there and you don't place yourself in situations where you're likely to be noticed. What starts to happen is that people stop noticing you. You begin to be able to walk around the workplace completely unnoticed. You'll be able to wander around, get a coffee, whatever, and people will see right through you.

The novelty wears off pretty quick though.

Friday, 4 December 2009

It's Art, not Science

I cringe whenever I hear this prase.

It shows a clear misunderstanding of what science is. Science is the way in which we try and describe and interpret what is going on around us. To say that art (or religion, for that matter) is beyond science is to say that you can't describe it. Which, of course, is nonsense. Of course we can describe it.

Let's ask the question about music. What makes a great piece of music? We can begin very simply. It seems that most popular music moves to a beat. You can click your fingers to a regular rythm. There, we've described an aspect of music. We're applying science to art.

Oh wait, I thought you couldn't do that... Rubbish!

Everything around us (everything!) can be broken down into a science. And the more we learn about a certain thing, the more we understand it, the closer we come to the singularity where art and science meet.

The ultimate test would be to find a natural artistic genius and a scientist knowledgeable and capable the artist's field and have them both produce a piece of art. Let's say it's music we're talking about. We get a talented musician, and a skilled scientist to each produce a piece of music. The musician does what he does (he doesn't know how he does it.. he's talented and has a feel for it. It just comes out. It's art!) The scientist has done his studies and he does know what gifted artists are doing when they produce good art and applies those techniques to his work.

So both artist and scientist produce a piece of music and the music is put though double-blind trials. A range of randomly selected people listen to the music and try to discern which piece is 'art' and which is 'simply an application of science'.

The day where the testees can't tell which piece is by whom is the day that music has been figured out by science to the point where it stops being an art. To me art is a human product that humans produce without fully understand how we do it.

I had to add this since it's such an excellent example of what I'm discussing.


In ancient times, there were rare people skilled at healing. Shamans, druids, herbalists didn't always know exactly what they were doing, though they still managed to heal their patients (sometimes). Then, healing would have been an art.

Today, medicine relies heavily on scientific advancement. The human body is a highly studied field. Few would consider their local doctor or GP an artist.

What changed? Only how much we knew about healing, disease and the human body. With knowledge, art becomes skill.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

ATM Theory

It works like this:

The ATM offers you to withdraw money from your account. It offers you amounts of money in multiples of 10 and is stocked with £10 and £20 notes.

However, and here comes the conspiracy, it won't dispense any £20 notes until the ATM's all out of tenners. So if you want to withdraw £20 from the ATM, it'll dispense two tens, even though it's chock full of twenties.


Well, eventually, dispensing all those tens, it's going to run out. Evening rolls in, you hit town for drinks with you mates, you stop at the ATM to grab a tenner... oh snap, they're all out! So you have to get twenty instead.

You've just widrawn £10 more than you usually would, and since you're out drinking, you're likely to end up spending it when otherwise you wouldn't have.

What an evil scam!

Testing the theory

Sceptical? You should be! Here's how you test the theory:

First, you should notice that whenever you withraw £20, you get two tens.

If you should ever receive a twenty, that's where you're ready to test. Immediately opt to do another transaction and attempt to withdraw £10. Sometimes the machine won't offer £10 as one of its options (another trick to make you spend more) but there'll always be the option to type in any amount, so you can use that to request £10. Then see what the ATM does. The next bit is crucial.

If the ATM refuses or says it's out of tens, then the theory holds. However, if the ATM dispenses a tenner, the theory is refuted.

Get testing!

Disclaimer: I have the feeling that not every ATM will be programmed exactly the same way, such that some will not follow ATM theory and others will. In this case, I predict that ATMs at banks and near bars and clubs are the most likely candidates for following ATM theory. I know that the Halifax machine in my student union (also the closest to the student bar) has never failed ATM theory.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

On Unbelief

Ok let's quickly establish something. I'm an atheist. And it's massively not to do with belief. I don't merely believe there's no god.

I was brought up a catholic, confirmed and all. I became atheist a couple of years ago. I haven't just had a crisis of faith or anything. This is what my mother doesn't understand. She says she knew lots of people that said they stopped being religious, but then later in life matured and returned to religion. And she tells me this like one day I'll do the same.

This is about why I won't.

I didn't stop believing in god because I had a crisis of faith, or something. I think that's the misconception. Some people lose faith for a while because they're concentrating on some other part of their life, like university or career. They're just not thinking about god dring that time. They're merely taking a hiatus from their faith. Some people lose faith becuse they have rebellious radical thoughts. But those thoughts may be just as irrational or scientifically unfounded as the religious beliefs themselves, so it doesn't take a huge leap of faith (pardon the pun) to return to the religion. Some people have this crisis of faith situation where they suddenly quetion god's existence based on some event that they may interpret as evidence against god, but those people are just as succeptible to re-gaining faith (seeing the light) based on some other event that they interpret as evidence for god.

However, I didn't stop believing in god in any of these ways. That's the difference. My disbelief isn't temporary. I'm not being fickle. I base my atheism on real evidence and proper scientific reasoning. The fact is that one looking at all available knowledge with a clear mind, following logic and reason cannot but conclude that god is not a part of this world. The same goes for anything 'supernatural'.. healing crystals, psychic powers, ghosts etc. Any idea based on belief and not evidence simply doesn't have a place in our world. It doesn't exist until we can provide significant evidence for its existance.

There's another difference that muddles things. Religion doesn't advance very fast. At least not nearly as fast as science. Science is always looking to improve itself and update itself. As such, new findings are reported daily in the name of science, and sheds more and more light on the world. And as more and more knowledge is gained, the more it becomes obvious that god is non-existant. Therefore, it's incorrect to compare me to my mother's aquaintances that lost and regained faith, since they were exposed to a whole lot less science than I have been.

You could say that I can see further, because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants.

Saturday, 28 November 2009


I get the impression some people see this as black and white. Either you got it or you don't. And if you don't, don't even try, coz you just don't and you never will.

I disagree. I think you can learn talent.

What even is talent? What makes it different to a skill? Everyone agrees that you can learn a skill.

Take dancing. If a kid went to classes and learned to dance, he'd have learned a skill. Take another kid. She's a good dancer naturally, without having been to any classes. She's talented.

Now imagine that they both took dancing seriously and both went to an arts school and ended up in the same dance class. Imagine for the sake of argument that they're both as good as each other. Now does is it fair to call only one of them talented? What changed?

It's like if you're talented, your skill is a natural endowment. Or you naturally have an aptitude towards a set of skills. If you're not, you have to put in a lot more effort to reach the level of the talented person. But, you can become just as good as them. Better even.

You can be the clumsiest person you know. But I believe it's still possible for you to become a talented dancer. I think it's totally possible that you can train your aptitude. You may not have been born with that aptitude, that affinity for timing, balance and posture. But the great thing is that you can change that. You have to believe you can. Positive attitude, determination. Changing little things in your life. Instead of walking down the stairs, bounce down the stairs on your tiptoes. Listen to music all the time. Tap your toes to it. Eventually your body and mind tune themselves into that whole dance and music thing, and suddenly you've built yourself an aptitude for it. You now have a talent for dancing because every fibre in your body is tuned that way.

So next time someone tells you you're not good enough for something for lack of talent, tell them to shove a cucumber down their throat.

Unless they're Arnold Swarzenegger.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Perspective, music, setting

So I'm watching a youtube, thinking "Man, this music really suits the video. It's like the video's been shot to the music." (Even though it's obvious that didn't happen.)

Then the thought hits me. Maybe it's not the music that suits the vid. Maybe it's the way I'm interpreting it all.

I'm reminded of a video I was shown at school in like year 3 (I can't have been more than 7 years old). It was about how directors use music in film. They showed a close up of a spider walking across the screen, with no music. It looked quite simply like a spider walking across the screen. Nothing special. Just like in a David Attenborough.

Then they showed the same sequence, but with scary, tension building music, lke from Jaws or something. Suddenly the spider seemed really scary. Really on the prowl. Dangerous. Intent to kill.

Then they showed the same sequence, only this time they had fairground music. Suddenly the spider, the same one that had me soiling my undies just a minute ago, looked comic and silly; like a clown bumbling around a circus ring.

Each time it was the same spider, but the differing music coloured the scene very differently for me. And each time the music seemed to really suit the scene.

So back to my youtube. I was thinking what if the music was completely different? What if it wasn't the classy swingy music they were actually playing, but a bassy or moody piece. Would I still think "Man, this music really suits the video?"

Is it fair to assume that a different piece of music, carefully chosen, will have me perceive it (totally/slightly) differenly, and that I'll believe that the music really suits that new perception of the video?

Maybe I'll think twice before thinking "Wow, that music must have been written for this scene."

Unless it's a proper film. In which case it probably has.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Chicken or Egg?

Is this even a question? I mean ok there would have been a time when we had more limited knowledge and this would have been a legitimate question. But today?

Let's not kid around. The answer I instinctively blurt out (and have been doing so since I was like 7-10 years old, having been fascinated by dinosaurs at that age) is simple: the egg came first.

Rewind 65 million years. There are no chickens. There were, however, many reptiles such as velociraptor that did lay eggs. So we have a very vivid factual example of a period in the past, with eggs and not chickens. So eggs predate chickens. Clear, obvious fact.

So why do people still ask the question today as if it's still the causality dilemma it was during Aristotle's era? Are people that ignorant? Or just too lazy to think about it a little? Certainly it doesn't help that a majority of people in the western world were brought up reading the Bible, which gives the answer as chicken in Genesis 1:21. However, creation has no factual basis and this is only going to serve to confuse things.

Though.. maybe there is a depth to the chicken and egg question. What if by egg, we specifically meant a chicken-egg? That returns to a much more abstract debate.

I think we first have to define what a chicken-egg is. I mean, is it an egg that hatches into a chicken, or is it an egg that has to be laid by a chicken? (We'll also assume that by chicken, we mean Gallus gallus domesticus. I don't think that's too much to assume.)

So if we say that a chicken-egg is one that hatches into a chicken? This allows that the chicken-egg could have been layed by a different species of animal, and a chicken emerged from it, meaning that the chicken came first.

The latter leads to another non-question. If a chicken-egg has to have been laid by a chicken then it follows that the chicken has to have come first. Since you can't make a chicken without first having a chicken-egg. So the first chicken was hatched from a non-chicken egg.

Let's see. The chicken is said to have evolved from a subspecies of Gallus found in Thailand. So at some point, there must have been an egg laid by what we'd consider to be Gallus that hatched into what we'd consider to be Gallus gallus domesticus. And the answer to the question lies in what you decide to call that intermediary egg. Is that a chicken-egg according to our first definition of the chicken-egg? Or is it not a chicken-egg because it wasn't laid by Gallus gallus domesticus?

So ultimately it all boils down to definitions. And actually, I don't find myself caring that much which definition you use..

Although according to Erikson, Larson, Gunnarsson, Bed'hom and Tixier-Boichard et al, it could well have been a chicken-egg that preceeded the chicken.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I think a lot. I think too much, actually.

If you know me, you know I'm rather reserved. Reminds me of this quote Plato is supposed to have said (though apparently not found in any of his work):

A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something.

I like to think I'm the wise man :3 Anyway, I find my mind wanders a lot. I think about everything, and so I thought I'd write a blog. That way I can remember all the journeys my mind and I have been on.

So in a way, this is mostly for me.. though I will be very flattered if I get any readers. It's not going to be like a regular thing either. Just whenever my mind wanders and I want to put it to paper (so to speak) I'll be posting here.

Anyway, I'll keep this one brief.