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.