Story on Kalush Houdini book linked on Drudge

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Guest » 10/28/06 01:35 PM

A story on the new Houdini book by Bill Kalush and Larry Sloman is currently linked on the Drudge Report.

[Link deleted by DS]

Story: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20061028/D8L1OS600.html

JMT
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/28/06 11:53 PM

I think two links to Larry McShane's story is adequate.

Since Matt Drudge's site is geared primarily to politics, I deleted it and you'll just have to trust me when I say that Joe is correct, and Mr. Drudge found it interesting enough to link to.

Thanks,
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 05:35 AM

Fair enough. I was mainly pointing out that the book had made it onto what is one of the top news resources in the country.

JMT
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 08:55 AM

Can you imagine how Houdini would have used the internet if he was alive today? I bet there would have been many stories about him on the Drudge Report. Wouldn't a Houdini Blog have been fun? How about a parody of what one might have been like from one of you creative writer types?
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/29/06 03:09 PM

It is an interesting thought, Bob. However you need to consider that the Internet is a two-way street, whereas Houdini was able to manipulate the presswhich up until the advent of the internet was a one-way streetto his advantage. Furthermore, in his time, it was a slow-moving press because there was no television and radio was in its infancy. So this collection of circumstances played into his hands.

If you take Blackstone, Sr.s word for it, the press was the only thing Houdini could manipulate with any skill. While that might be sour grapes, most accounts of Houdini do seem to show that he was an egomaniacal jerk; and a colossal one at that. In todays environment, he would be called on his BS instantly. While he may be a blogger himself, there would be countless other bloggers pointing out his crap. I suspect that Harry Houdini would be nothing more than an Internet Troll.

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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 03:31 PM

Great insight Dustin. I suspect you are right on the money. Lets do a David Abbott blog instead.
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 03:32 PM

I tend to agree with you, Dustin. Houdini lived in a far different time, and I doubt the way he did things would translate very well into the world of today. Probably he'd be on a never ending tirade over his escapes being exposed on youtube. :)
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 05:47 PM

Does this remind anyone of when Elvis was reported to have met with Richard Nixon to become a special informant for the DEA?
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 05:48 PM

Drudge is a top news source? Man, they thought Houdini pulled a fast one on the people.
Steve V
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 06:01 PM

Well, ABC News says the Drudge Report is an important resource for them and it has impacted their reporting. So you can pick your favorite poison on that point.

I just thought it was worth a couple of kudos to Kalush that he got an interesting story about his book linked on Drudge. It is one of the most-viewed pages on the Internet.

JMT
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 07:07 PM

Me thinks ol' Drudge gets tipped on what is going on the front page of different news papers etc and is basically a commercial for them. I do like anything about Houdini...good stuff.
Steve V
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 07:44 PM

Originally posted by Steve V':
... I do like anything about Houdini...good stuff. Steve V
The words we use for Americans who do intelligence work for other nations as a secret sideline do not usually include "superhero".

From what's on the AOL release (all over the place by the way) I wonder if that the guy from Scotland Yard traded Houdini a publicity stunt for some training and expert advice on restraint devices.

But hey, it's still a good story. How about a version where he does a complete James Bond and delays the unpleasantness in Europe by a generation just like Dr Who entombed the Daleks in "Genesis of the Daleks"? May as well make him a hero. Nothing like history as provided by mass media. ;)

I look forward to reading the book.
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 10:40 PM

The book is already ranked #27 on Amazon.com two days before official release, thanks, no doubt to the AP story (it is ranked #6 at H & R's website, but I haven't seen a bounce due to the AP story! For what it's worth, our copies are signed by both authors and arrived on Friday, though we can't deliver them prior to Tuesday...)
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 11:43 PM

Originally posted by DustinStinett:
... In todays environment, he would be called on his BS instantly. While he may be a blogger himself, there would be countless other bloggers pointing out his crap. I suspect that Harry Houdini would be nothing more than an Internet Troll.
[from one who has never considered himself a Houdini apologist]

Dustin, was there a bit of hyperbole in that statement?

To the point: if HH figured out and exploited the news broadcast system of his day, what makes you believe that he couldn't learn and "work" today's system?

A broader (and philosophically-oriented) point: bloggers and the internet have not brought any more "truth" to this world.

Sleepless in Tustin...
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Postby Guest » 10/30/06 12:23 AM

Assuming he could manipulate the media as well today as he did in his time, what exactly would he be selling? Blackstone wasnt alone in his opinion; many of Houdinis contemporieries found his magic average at best. It was his ability to seemingly escape from anything which catipulted him to fame and secured his legend, and I cant imagine his escapes would capture the publics imagination today as they did in his own time. We live in a high speed world, and its unlikely that even a showman as great as Houdini could compel a modern audience to stare at a curtained enclosure for forty-five minutes while he made an escape.

He was an extraordinary man, no doubt. But he was also a man very much of his time.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/30/06 01:09 AM

Originally posted by Jim Coles:
He was an extraordinary man, no doubt. But he was also a man very much of his time.
This is, I believe, Clays point. That Houdini would be a man of todays times.

But hyperbole?

Which part?

That hed be called out on his boasts that hes the greatest escape artist, magic historian, publisher, or magician to ever wield a wand by bloggers?

No hyperbole there; he would be.

That hed be a troll? He was as much a troll as one could be in his time (even using a pseudonym to bash away at his competition which, in his mind, was everyone else). Hed be all over the Internet slamming away at Blaine, Angel, Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and, I dare say, you since you would be (in his mind) a competitor in the arena of magical scholarship.

No hyperbole there, either.

Of course, to answer Jims thoughts, all this assumes that his artistic skill sets are relatively the same compared with his competition in a modern world, as would his intellect. Harry Houdini understood his audience quite well, so I assume hed know a modern audience just as well. Harry Houdini, after all, did invent reinvention for entertainers. But, perhaps most importantly, my comments assume that his psychology is the same. To work the system today, hed have to keep his issues in total check. Im not convinced he could do that. Remember, this is a guy who not only believed he was the best at everything he did; he needed to have everyone else believe it as well. The tabloids (print and TV) would be relentless and his admonition that all publicity is good publicity simply is not true in the modern world.

All that said (considering Bobs allusion to David Abbott and thus, apparently, spiritualism), I also think its quite possible that the final third of Houdinis careerhis debunking of spiritualists periodwould have benefited greatly from the Internet. If folks like Uri Geller, James Van Praagh, and John Edward think James Randi is a thorn in their sides, Harry Houdini would be a comparative nightmare. (But hed slam away at Randi as well since hed consider Randi his competition in that area.)

As far as the broad philosophy of truth goes, I really dont think it applies. Im only talking about a news market once utterly cornered by the print and broadcast press. Theres little doubt that todays press, as evidenced by some current events we cant get into here (but perhaps at our next coffee-clutch), cannot manufacture news with the abandon they once enjoyed without being called on it by, in most cases, Internet sources.

Dustin
(Hitting the sack in San Juan)
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Postby Amos McCormick » 10/30/06 06:27 AM

Originally posted by Magicam:
To the point: if HH figured out and exploited the news broadcast system of his day, what makes you believe that he couldn't learn and "work" today's system?
...sort of like the Holodeck Moriarty took over the Enterprise in the Star Trek "Ship in a Bottle" episode...

Note to self - need...to...get...out...more...
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Postby Guest » 10/30/06 10:00 AM

The Kalush book is up to #21 on the Amazon site, which is quite remarkable, given it has not yet been officially released! You can help GENII by ordering it through the amazon link on the right and likely bump the numbers up more by so doing...
I have no idea exactly what those amazon numbers mean or how that translates into copies sold. The Dover edition of Erdnase was briefly in the top ten after the Wall Street Journal front page story on the book a few years ago, but is now ranked 20,156. Jim Steinmeyer's new edition of the Alan Wakeling book is currently ranked 38,480 and David Ben's biography of Vernon is ranked 55,458 (only two left in stock!)...
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Postby Guest » 10/30/06 09:28 PM

Originally posted by DustinStinett:
Originally posted by Jim Coles:
[b] He was an extraordinary man, no doubt. But he was also a man very much of his time.
This is, I believe, Clays point. That Houdini would be a man of todays times.

But hyperbole?

Which part? ... [/b]
Dustin, I quoted the hyperbole:

"In todays environment, ...I suspect that Harry Houdini would be nothing more than an Internet Troll" (emphasis added)

In today's environment, I have little doubt that Houdini, with all his foibles and faults, would be much more than just an internet troll. Would he be the great success today as he was then? I can't answer that. So my point wasnt that Houdini would be a man of todays times. Rather, I simply questioned the bald statement suggesting that Houdini would flop in todays entertainment market.

We can guess that Houdinis act, as presented then, might not do very well nowadays. But who can say that Houdini simply wasnt giving the public what it wanted then, and who can state with absolute confidence that Houdini, the man, couldnt accurately assess what the public wants in our times, and then proceed to give it to them?

If one wants to speculate on, say, Houdinis chances for success in our time, one does not focus on what he did, but on who he was. Who here is prepared to argue that the personal characteristics (intense drive, ego, work ethic, charisma, etc.) that were the foundation for Houdinis success no longer apply in todays competitive world?

I suggest that men and women with greatness in them are often (but not always) capable of transcending their times, and that most of them would (could) be great in any era.

Clay
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Postby Guest » 10/30/06 10:19 PM

Originally posted by Magicam:
We can guess that Houdinis act, as presented then, might not do very well nowadays. But who can say that Houdini simply wasnt giving the public what it wanted then, and who can state with absolute confidence that Houdini, the man, couldnt accurately assess what the public wants in our times, and then proceed to give it to them?
Youre right, of course its impossible to say with certainty that Houdini couldnt achieve success in show business in our world. However I would point out that in his time his attempts to reinvent himself as a film star were not that successful. Whatever magic he had just didnt translate well to that medium. Would he have fared better on television? Possibly, but I really dont see it. I believe he was a product of his time and circumstance.

And I just want to add that Im not trying to dis Houdini it was a TV movie about him that first got me interested in magic and Ive been fascinated by his life since then. But I cant see him having the same impact in todays world as he did in his own. Again, Ill concede that its possible this is all conjecture, after all but I really have trouble seeing it. Just my opinion.
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Postby Guest » 10/31/06 08:39 AM

Simon and Schuster has a page devoted to Kalush (not much on it currently except the dustjacket photo by Steve Cuiffo), but it does say the book is already available as an eBook for instant download for just $11.04 (list of $16.99), in addition to the hardcover and audio CD versions (both $29.95 each). Here's a link:
Simon & Schuster Kalush page
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Postby Guest » 10/31/06 09:07 AM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
... but it does say the book is already available as an eBook for instant download for just $11.04 (list of $16.99), in addition to the hardcover and audio CD versions (both $29.95 each).
...ebook...music in my ear.

Best,
Chris
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Guest » 10/31/06 09:29 AM

Chris, apparently Simon and Schuster don't think the simultaneous release of the eBook and hardcopy will hurt hardcopy sales...
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Postby Amos McCormick » 10/31/06 09:41 AM

Originally posted by Jim Coles:
Youre right, of course its impossible to say with certainty that Houdini couldnt achieve success in show business in our world. However I would point out that in his time his attempts to reinvent himself as a film star were not that successful. Whatever magic he had just didnt translate well to that medium. Would he have fared better on television? Possibly, but I really dont see it. I believe he was a product of his time and circumstance.
Houdini would have fared extremely well in the 21st century. There are a lot of folks today who are brash, will say or do anything, have limited ability, but are great salesmen, and will make best friends one week then trash them in the media the next. Houdini would have made the perfect POLITICIAN.
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Postby Guest » 10/31/06 11:13 AM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
Chris, apparently Simon and Schuster don't think the simultaneous release of the eBook and hardcopy will hurt hardcopy sales...
Because it really doesn't hurt hardcopy sales. The customer segments are fairly distinct and the added buzz and PR an ebook produces is actually increasing sales of the hardcopy.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/31/06 12:47 PM

I've read most of the book and it's a lot of fun: a great "read."

While we've had the book for review for a while, we are not running a review in the December issue of Genii because the notes (which tell us where all the material comes from) have not been made available yet.

In fact, from a scholarly standpoint, it's irresponsible to review the book without any sources of attribution because everything could simply have been made up by the authors (which I don't think it has been, but doing a professional review in a journal in this field is inappropriate until the notes are ready).

Anyone who reviews it now is simply reviewing a work that could be fiction.
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Postby Guest » 10/31/06 01:25 PM

Originally posted by Amos McCormick:
Originally posted by Jim Coles:
[b] Youre right, of course its impossible to say with certainty that Houdini couldnt achieve success in show business in our world. However I would point out that in his time his attempts to reinvent himself as a film star were not that successful. Whatever magic he had just didnt translate well to that medium. Would he have fared better on television? Possibly, but I really dont see it. I believe he was a product of his time and circumstance.
Houdini would have fared extremely well in the 21st century. There are a lot of folks today who are brash, will say or do anything, have limited ability, but are great salesmen, and will make best friends one week then trash them in the media the next. Houdini would have made the perfect POLITICIAN. [/b]
Well there is that. And as a politician he'd still be in the realm of show business.
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Postby Guest » 11/02/06 12:55 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
.. [W]e are not running a review [yet] ... because the notes (which tell us where all the material comes from) have not been made available yet... [F]rom a scholarly standpoint, its irresponsible to review the book without any sources of attribution ...
Anyone who reviews it now is simply reviewing a work that could be fiction.
I would add this to Richard's observations: while some might think it irresponsible, at the very least, from a scholarly standpoint, IMHO its very disappointing that the book lacks detailed references which, as the authors take pains to point out, were key in the writing of the book.

Perhaps its a sign of the electronic age (or perhaps not), but I dont like having to read/log on/view two kinds of media when Im reading a biography which is supposed to be authoritative. For me, this sort of documentary disconnect will take some of the pleasure out of reading this book or any other book with a similar approach to reference sourcing. That said, its just my two bits and I suspect that the voluminous nature of the references was a major factor in how the authors (publisher?) decided to document their work. Given the decision to split the baby, this is a golden opportunity for the e-book version to shine by providing text and references all in one place.

I've just received my copy and have only delved into the first few pages of text, so cant comment on its merits. But it is a pity that the documentation of the extensive research that went into this book may never see print.

Clay
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Postby Guest » 11/02/06 01:34 PM

Clay, folks,

A few of my favorite stories cite fictitious sources. From Lovecraft and Borges and onward, there's a tradition of this. Even in movies. Look at the magazine rack on the street corner vendor shown in the movie "Blade Runner".

Who knows, perhaps like Michael Jackason he wanted to join the "men in black" but perhaps he was accepted and hence the faking of his death?

Enjoy the story. I'll keep an eye open for the book at the local B&N this weekend.

On a serious note, there is much fun to be had taking poorly phrased and isolated anecdotes out of context. Or treating text written long ago as something pertaining to current matters. Thanks Borges, Eco... ;)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/02/06 01:38 PM

The publishers of the new Houdini bio refused to make the pages available to the authors for the notes (same thing happened to Ken Silverman and his bio of Houdini). I published Ken's notes separately as "Notes to HOUDINI!!!"

Bill Kalush is working on doing the same thing.
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Postby Guest » 11/02/06 02:14 PM

The tabloids (print and TV) would be relentless and his admonition that all publicity is good publicity simply is not true in the modern world.

Johnny Knoxville

Borat/Ali G.

Anna Nichole Smith

Madonna

Tom Cruise

Michael Jackson

I submit that the media explosion of the late 20th century and the rise of the internet has created audiences for "acts" that would have never bobbed to the surface, or survived the public airing of their personal issues in the homogenous (public) world of Houdinis lifetime, and that today he would be able to reach more people than ever,

As George Carlin once said: This is America, if you nail together two things that have never been nailed together before some schuck will buy it from you.

[Note also, that while that I didn't list any politicians, you can certainly think of a few who have been found to be liars, and criminals and yet got re-elected.]
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Postby Guest » 11/02/06 02:56 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
The publishers ... refused to make the pages available to the authors ...
If that's the case, then it makes sense. Economics and the target market killed the scholarly face of the book. I hope Bill is successful in getting the references published. How frustrating it must be to put the work in and not be able to see it in print.

Dustin, my friend, I see the pockets of truth in many of your statements, but as they are phrased so absolutely, I think "hyperbole" hits the mark, and Bill's comments bolster that thought. Let's, David and John get together to continue the discussion -- assuming David's still in town.

CHS
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Postby Guest » 11/02/06 04:23 PM

In the November Magic Kalush says the Conjuring Arts Research Center in conjuction with Mike Caveney's Magic Words will publish a limited two volume set -- the original book, and a book of the notes. So everything will reach print eventually.
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Postby Guest » 11/11/06 04:32 PM

The footnotes are now being released as PDFs at:

http://conjuringarts.org/

:genii:
www.houdini-lives.com
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Postby Guest » 11/14/06 11:03 PM

I'm always amazed when the latest book on Houdini hits the stands and magicians seem fit to trash his contribution to the art. Magic is about the human imagination, theatrics and showmanship. You miss the point when debating his "skill level", ie. the Blackstone quote which is always brought up.

The point is; it's eighty years after his death and we are still talking about him. The schoolkids today still know who he is. They are continuing to make movies about him long after his death.

Tony Brent
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Postby Guest » 11/14/06 11:41 PM

Originally posted by Tony Brent:
I'm always amazed when the latest book on Houdini hits the stands and magicians seem fit to trash his contribution to the art. Magic is about the human imagination, theatrics and showmanship. You miss the point when debating his "skill level", ie. the Blackstone quote which is always brought up.

The point is; it's eighty years after his death and we are still talking about him. The schoolkids today still know who he is. They are continuing to make movies about him long after his death.

Tony Brent
Who's trashing him? Is being realistic about the kind of magician he was, according to those who knew him, trashing him? In Hiding The Elephant was Steinmeyer trashing him when he said, again based on those who saw him do magic, that he was a terrible magician? I don't think so. Looking at the evidence and drawing a reasonable conclusion is logical, not vindictive.

Yes, we are still talking about him, which again demonstrates what an extraordinary man he was. In Houdini His Legend And His Magic, Henning says that if you were to ask a man on the street to name a magician odds are he'd say Houdini, not Doug Henning. That was written in the seventies when Henning was doing specials that were seen by more people than saw Houdini in his entire life. Here we are about thirty years later and Henning has all but disappeared in the public mind -- which I alluded to in another post -- while Houdini continues to go strong. Talk about staying power.

As to school kids knowing who he is, I wonder. My wife teaches art, K through 7, and informed me that her students are really into Criss Angel -- which surprised me because I haven't bothered to watch his show since the first season. I'll have to ask her to mention Houdini and see what kind of reaction she gets.

By the way I'm reading the new book and it's great. Very entertaining read so far.
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Postby Guest » 11/15/06 04:13 AM

We all have much evidence to the contrary about HH's skills. Nevertheless, he is the one much of the world remembers as the greatest magician who ever lived. You guys want to go down in history? Forget the practice of sleights -- learn how to manipulate the media.
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Postby Guest » 11/16/06 09:50 PM

I think a perfect illustration of how well Houdini knew the media of his time and how that same wisdom would be of no use in the present time is the following:
My father remarked to HH that no schoolchild would be fooled by his vanish of an elephant. HH's reply was sheer genius. He said something to the effect that perhaps a thousand people actually saw the show, but the papers would pick up the story and millions would only know that HH had vanished an elephant.
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Postby Guest » 11/16/06 10:38 PM

I always tell the kids, it is better to be known as a great magician than to try to prove it.
Steve V
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