Michael Close Doesn’t Get Branding

Michael CloseMichael Close is a professional magician and jazz pianist. He is a very impressive guy. What I most like about him is that he works presentations until they are finally tuned—more finely tuned than just about any other magician around. He is also an innovator. One of his effects—the pothole trick—moves a hole punched in a business card around the card and then onto another card. It is amazing and the presentation is wonderful.

Here he is doing an excellent presentation to a really simple—even brain-dead—effect:

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Most of Close’s work has been published in 5 volumes of a series he calls Workers. They are all good and I’ve purchased them all twice, because I have a habit of loaning out books to people who don’t return them. Other than effects, Close also provides essays that are always worth reading. Oh, that they were required reading of anyone who ever might show me a magic trick! Mostly these essays are very useful. But not always.

In Volume 3 of the series, Close provides a “sermon” that he calls “Ethics.” In it, he argues that it is wrong to copy his books. And it is. It bugs me that so many (especially young) people think it is just fine to steal all of their entertain. But I think that Close goes too far. He writes a parenthetical paragraph:

I am often amused by how stupid some people think that creators are. For example, at one convention two young men came up to me at a booth and I demonstrated material from Workers #1 and #2. they looked through the manuscripts, asked the price, and then walked away and talked to each other. Then they came back. One bought #1 and one bought #2. Gee, I wonder what happened when they got back home?

I don’t know about stupid, but Close is clearly presumptuous. I suspect that these young men did what all magic geeks do: loan them to their friends. Does Close really think that these young men should each buy a copy of each of his books and guard them selfishly?

As a matter of fact, based upon email conversations with him in the past, he does think that. He, like many “creators” does not see the bigger picture. For example, in the video he talks about doing a 60 city lecture series. Does he not see that he would not have been paid to do that (and given the enormous financial opportunities that go along with it) if he hadn’t published these books? Or that ten people having seen a single copy of one of his book is ten people far more likely than they would otherwise be to pay to hear him lecture or see him perform? Or that some people buy his books multiple times? (Not that I have anyone specific in mind!)

This is the lesson that independent musicians have learned. Any artist can complain about every unit they don’t sell. But when they behave this way, they lose something much more dear than a buck in royalties; they lose good will. And the truth is that I would never go to see Michael Close, because to me, he will always be an angry old man. It doesn’t matter that he’s not angry at me or even that he’s gotten over this. I will always hold his books in high esteem, but as a person: he’s ruined his brand. For me, anyway; you might still want to see him.

Waiting for Groundhogs

Understand Groundhog DayFake Science presented a chart titled Understand Groundhog Day.[1] It states, “Using statistical analysis, scientists have measured how a groundhog’s reaction can create predictive models.” There were four examples: sees its own shadow, six weeks of winter; sees some litter, neighborhood in decline; sees shadow of spatula, groundhog is going insane; and, of course, the one on the left, sees Waiting for Godot, six weeks of tedium and existential dread.

I take exception to this characterization of Waiting for Godot. Dread implies that the characters are expecting something bad to happen, and this is not the case. The whole point of the narrative is that Vladimir and (to a lesser extent) Estragon keep toiling through life with the hope that Godot will arrive soon and give their life meaning and purpose. Thus the great irony of the play is that their hope of finding meaning gives their lives meaning.[2]

Although Fake Science does not imply this, I believe that Waiting for Godot could easily be done as a puppet play with groundhogs. You know your average groundhog wastes and pines its life away.


[1] Fun Fact: many sources say that prairie dogs were named by Lewis during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This is not true. Nor is it true that groundhogs are prairie dogs.

[2] I don’t mean to imply this is all there is to Waiting for Godot. Books can and have been written about it. To me, the search for meaning is central to the play. This is seen primarily in the hopeful act of waiting for Godot as well as bounds between Vladimir and Estragon, Pozzo and Lucky, and the two brothers.

Hate What You Do Not Know

The CheneysRecently, I read an article (which I can no longer find) that showed that conservative opinion only has a shelf life of a generation. What this means is that after a generation, conservative opinion becomes so abhorrent that no one is willing to claim it. Take, for example, the opinion on civil rights in the 1960s: conservatives (on the federal level) didn’t say they were against the Voting Rights Act as a matter of policy. It was just that they believed in states’ rights. Few people hold such an opinion today, because we see it for what it was: disguised racism.

I know that liberals are on the right side of history. Assuming the civilization doesn’t disintegrate, we will continue to see progress in such areas as abortion rights and stem cell research. But I still find myself amazed to see where conservatives come down on the issue of gay rights. I’m not talking about being against them; that makes perfect sense; they are on the wrong side of history and in 20 years they will deny they ever held the bigoted views they now hold. What I don’t understand are people like the Cheneys who are radically conservative in all ways except one: gay rights. And why? Because their daughter is gay.

How can these kinds of conservatives look at their entire ideology with this one exception carved out and still maintain their faith (because it is nothing if not pure faith) in the rest of their belief system? Why does it not make them think, “Maybe I’m wrong about all those other things I have no first-hand experience with.” Certainly it is true that the Cheneys would be absolutely against gay rights if it were not for their daughter. How can they continue to think that they would have conservative ideas about welfare if they had any experience with being economically challenged? How can Dick Chaney continue to think that he would be so pro-war if he had not had better things to do than serve in the military during the Vietnam War?

There has been a lot of coverage of Maureen Walsh’s speech about ESSB 6239, the Washington State law legalizing same-sex marriage. It is a good speech. But again: doesn’t she see the problem? It’s easy to hate Jews when you don’t know any. And it is just as easy to hate the poor when you don’t know any. But like I said: it’s a good speech.

And One More Thing

I think I’m going to go crazy if another conservative tells me how much they miss Clinton. What this means is that conservatives, when not given a daily diet of Fox News propaganda and Talk Radio hate, forget why they hated Clinton: because they were instructed to. It’s the same reason they hate Obama, who is, after all, the same moderate president Clinton was. But what really drives me crazy is the thought that in ten years, I’ll have to listen to these same fucktards tell me how much they miss Obama.

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Santorum’s My Man

Rick SantorumI’ve decided to vote for Rick Santorum. The thing is, I just can’t manage my life. I don’t know who to fuck, where to fuck them, and how. So Santorum is my man. He’ll tell me how to live my life. And isn’t that what we all want: a government that looks out for the rights of corporations but greatly limits the rights of individuals? After all: corporations create jobs and we’ll need a lot of them to support all of our children.

We all know that the the road to tyranny runs directly through tax dollars spent on libraries and schools. No country ever had its liberties taken away by a government investing huge amounts of money on a military. We have nothing to fear from the militarization of our police forces. We have everything to fear from public intellectuals and women who want to have sex without getting pregnant.

So please Rick Santorum: save me from myself! Save us all! But don’t do it in a way that makes our lives easier. Get rid of any government programs that provide a safety net. That way, we can all grow to be strong and self-reliant as we work 80 hours per week to support constantly growing family.

But if Rich Santorum isn’t available, any other Republican will do as well.