More Magical Mathematics

This will be the first of a series of three posts dedicated to mathematics, for no other reason then the coincidence that they all appeared in my life more or less at the same time. I’ll begin with an interview with Persi Diaconis on The 7th Avenue Project. It’s actually a little bit out of date (over a year old) and it relates, ostensibly, to his 2011 book Magical Mathematics (co-written with Ron Graham)

Professor Persi Diaconis is a remarkable figure in magic who falls into that category of “greatest magicians no one has ever heard of.” Provided you’re willing to allow being interviewed for podcasts, being a published author and appearing on the front page of the New York Times never being heard of.

The interview is fascinating (and long). Perhaps it’s the confirmation bias talking, but he seems to spend a great deal more time discussing magic than math — not that I would think of complaining. It also highlights the important but subtle difference between magical mathematics and mathematical magic. I noticed when the interviewer tripped up on the title and realized that there really is an important difference.

The stories involving Dai Vernon and Ricky Jay are also moving. Enjoy.


Making Faces

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these compilations. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to take photos of live performance. There is no chance to go back and try it again, the moments are gone forever. But what that also means is that sometimes the moments you capture are truly strange. So take a look at some of the funny faces performers made so far this year on Magic Tonight.

Enjoy the lovely faces of Glenn Ottaway, Ben Train, David Merry, The Sentimentalists (Mysterion & Steffi Kay) and me:

Magic Tonight continues Sunday nights in Downtown Toronto at the Crimson Lounge. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner when purchasing online.


Stories as tools of deception

There’s a wonderful article in the New Yorker by Maria Konnikova (available online free here).

A research topic that has been recently in vogue (and thankfully so) is the study of how easily humans are deceived. I’ve read a substantial amount about the various biases that we are prone to, but this article highlighted something I hadn’t really considered before; that facts become more deceptive simply by being arranged in a narrative. The entire article is nicely summed up by this:

As the economist Robert Heilbroner once confided to Bruner, “When an economic theory fails to work easily, we begin telling stories about the Japanese imports.” When a fact is plausible, we still need to test it. When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.

The irrationality of humans is not a controversial thing (it’s how I earn my living!) I have said before that when most people use the phrase “let’s think logically (or rationally) about ______” what they really meant to say was, “let’s make a series of educated guesses and stop when we reach a result which is consistent with our intuitions.” Irrationality really does seem to hinge on tricking people into stopping thinking too soon.

The upside is it seems that Konnikova has a forthcoming book on the subject which I’ll try to read when the opportunity presents itself.

2015 in Duct Tape

In 2012, the director of my one-person show, Lies, Damn Lies & Magic Tricks, James Biss,  had me over at his house for a party and was “encouraging” me to perform for the group. I asked if I could borrow some duct tape and he came back with, of all things, blue duct tape. I knew about grey and about black, but blue was news to me. I used that for my shows in 2012 & 2013 for the blindfold trick.

In 2014, one of the bartenders at The Cage (which contains The Crimson Lounge) found a roll of Rainbow Duct shortly before World Pride in Toronto. So now whenever possible, I try to choose the duct tape I use to match the situation I’m in. I think this year I went a little bit overboard.

We used the rainbow roll all through the month of June to celebrate Pride. And for the Andy Kim Christmas Special, we found sparkling silver duct tape.

In case you’re curious what all that duct tape is for, here is the trick on Rogers TV:

Magic Tonight continues in 2016. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner when purchasing online.

Magic Tonight 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I flipped back through our photo gallery from Magic Tonight. This year we did 85 shows (at least that’s the number we have photos from. We may have skipped a couple.)

This would not have been possible without the venues who graciously hosted us – The Crimson Lounge, The Bear and The Franklin House! I also need to thank the performers who appeared for us, in alphabetical order:

Bill Abbott, The Irritatingly Photogenic Keith Brown, Ryan Brown, Michael Close, Joe Culpepper, Matt DiSero, Michael Feldman, Ron Guttman, Ken Margoe, Chris Mayhew, David Merry, Zach Mirza, Bobby Motta, Mysterion, Glenn Ottaway, Paul Pacific, Jason Palter, Jenny Parsons, David Peck, Phil Pivnick, Steve Reynolds, Brian Roberts, Lukas Stark, Rob Testa, Ben Train, Jason Verners, Nicolas Wallace, Chris Westfall, Wes Zaharuk

But most importantly, our thanks to our audiences; the (literally) thousands of people who came out to see us perform. This would not have been possible without your interest and support.

So enjoy a little look back at 2015:

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(or watch the slide show on YouTube)

Magic Tonight continues in 2016. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner when purchasing online.

Last time on Magic Tonight

Our last show of the year for Magic Tonight was a delightfully fun sold out success. Most of the fun was provided by my guests. The ever charming Ben Train decked in Christmas sweater (odd because he’s Jewish… oh well) and the ever hysterical Glenn Ottaway (always willing to teach the young people in the audience some new words.)

Magic Tonight continues in 2016. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner when purchasing online.

This week on Magic Tonight

It’s Boxing Day and most of the festive (over) eating is over. I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday which continues over the next week or so.

Our last official event of the night is tomorrow at the Crimson Lounge downtown. We’re already sold out and looking forward to a full house. My ever-so-special guest is incredibly funny Glenn Ottaway, the godfather of Canadian magic and comedy in Toronto.

December 27 Glenn Ottaway Ben Train Sold Out

I also have a special guest, the ever-so-adorable Ben Train. I need the extra hand because I’m doing double duty with the Jolakotturinn show down the street at Revival. They still have some tickets available if you’d like to join us there. It’s going to be a busy night of magic.


I’m also working on pulling together the best photos from our shows from the year, so if you’ve been in the audience at Magic Tonight and have photos or video you’d like to share, feel free to get in touch.

Last time on Magic Tonight

The penultimate Magic Tonight of 2015 featured Toronto’s Best Magician [1], Phil Pivnick. While Phil performs primarily for youngsters [2] but he shared some of his more grownup material with our sold-out audience.

Take a look at some of the fun we had:

Our last show for the year (December 27) is already sold out. So we want to thank everyone who’s been to see us for their continued support. It’s been  wonderful year. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner for our 2016 dates when purchasing online.

[1] An award presented in Markham because magicians are weird.

[2] I’m allergic to children so if you ask me about performing at an event for kids, I’ll likely just be handing you Phil’s phone number.

Stephen Fry the Magician

Sat down to watch the Christmas special of the M series of QI with a wonderful surprise at the end involving Stephen Fry and the president of the Magic Circle, Scott Penrose.You’ll need to watch until the end, and knowing QI, you’ll probably learn an interesting thing or two along the way!

It’s no secret that Stephen Fry has an interest in magic. In fact, QI has magic tricks sprinkled throughout the episodes. He also wrote about his experiences with the seminal text Expert Card Technique by Frederick Braue and Jean Hugard in his memoir, Moab Is My Washpot.

This week on Magic Tonight

This Sunday, I’m joined by Phil Pivnick – who was the winner of the “Toronto’s Best Magician Contest” (which was, oddly, held in Markham… because Magicians are weird.) He’s a funny and polished popular children’s performer, but at Magic Tonight, we stick a suit on him and watch him perform his more grown up material! He also makes lots of funny faces as you’ll see in the photos below.

Update: We’re sold out for this Sunday’s show! Visit us online to grab tickets for our upcoming performances.

December 20 Phil Pivnick Sold Out

Magic Tonight continues every Sunday night at the Crimson Lounge in Downtown Toronto. Readers of this blog can use the code reality for a discount on the price of tickets and dinner when purchasing online.