Mr. Kaufman takes it Profound

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Postby BlueEyed Videot » 04/18/09 07:05 PM

I was reading through the excellent Genii Interview with Michael Caine (May '09) when I came upon the following:

CAINE: We all remember magicians when we were little, with the children, at birthday parties. It was always a man who made cards appear, and things come out of your ear. They're very wonderful characters, classical characters, and I think the movie is a classical study of an aging magician. Brilliantly written.

GENII: Characters from a lost era.

CAINE: Exactly ... the tricks were so old!

GENII: Magicians are sort of agents of chaos entering an orderly world. People have their own little neatly ordered world views and magicians come in and break that apart.

Richard, that's about as profound a thought as I've ever seen you write. I'm going to print that up and put it on the wall over my desk. Very nice!

_richard hart
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/18/09 07:22 PM

Thank you (spoken by an agent of CHAOS, now on a secret mission in Japan).
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Postby Cugel » 04/18/09 07:22 PM

I suppose that's right if you're talking about Sylvester the Jester, but I think the reverse is actually true. Magicians constantly demonstrate their control over the uncontrollable. If we look at magicians like Lennart Green, his act is all about order being derived out of total chaos. Indeed he makes this explicit in his patter about chaos theory and it's a point he lectures on in discussing his material with magicians. Lennart's the most obvious example, but the same is actually true for most magicians.

Even an act like Cardini's, in which "stuff happens" to the magician apparently beyond his control, is an example of this. That's because the audience knows that the secret actor behind the madness - the one controlling events - is the magician. Most people get this and admire the magician's skill, but for those that don't Cardini put in a few sign posts so that even the most obtuse person wouldn't have to struggle with the obvious. The best example of this is the fact that Cardini ended his billiard ball sequence with the stark, unadorned manipulation of a single ball. No magic, just skill and performed out of character - reminding everyone that the agency controlling the fabric of time and space is the magician.

So, an alternative (not contrarian) take on this.
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 04/18/09 08:05 PM

Perhaps this is is just a matter of definition. Magic may not be chaotic for magicians, but if real, would be chaotic for the universe from a rational and scientific perspective.

The Newtonian view of the universe is one which is closed and orderly. Even with the advent of quantum mechanics the Newtonian view is still universally held by scientists and engineers for describing everything except the very very small and the very very large.

Everything we can observe with our eyes behaves in a closed and orderly way. Time works forward - hence predictions are chaotic. Gravity pulls toward a large mass, so levitations are chaotic. Teleportation, telekinesis, mind reading, and restoration all violate our orderly universe. Theses violations mean that the universe could no longer be described in simple mathematical equations of Newtonian physics.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 04/18/09 09:18 PM

It is possible to have magic in the world without causing chaos, if the magic obeys consistent laws of its own. The idea that every superhero has limitations is absolutely fundamental in narrative arts, and works in magic very well.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 04/18/09 10:49 PM

There is a strong and old relationship between chaos and magic. Recently, only a decade or so ago, Grant Morrison presented that theme in his mini-series using the DC comics character Kid Eternity.
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Postby Cugel » 04/18/09 11:04 PM

Wow. Thanks Jonathan.
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