Adam Silver’s Bad Decision on JR Smith

Adam Silver’s Bad Decision on JR Smith

Earlier this week the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Boston Celtics.  During the game, two outrageous events occurred.  The first was the dislocation of Kevin Love’s shoulder by Celtic’s center, Kelly Olynyk. If you watch the play, it doesn’t look like a basketball play, but at least in happened in the midst of vying for the ball and can be written off as such, despite remaining an unequivocally dirty play.  Kevin Love is now out for the remainder of the playoffs, radically reducing his team’s chances of winning the championship. This, all because Olynyk can’t tell the difference between what force is reasonable, and what is completely out of line.  Kevin Love didn’t fall, or twist an ankle–he was injured by another player. As punishment, Olynyk is suspended for ONE GAME. Yes, that’s right, just ONE GAME.

More egregious, and by far, is the spinning back fist thrown by J.R. “I’m a repeat offender” Smith, the player jettisoned from every previous team for which he’s played for lacking any semblance of character.  During the same game, Smith “wildly slung” his arm at the face of Jae Crowder, knocking him to the ground, practically out cold.  The shot to the face actually has a name in Mixed Martial Arts, and it’s called a Spinning Back Fist; it’s a move that has ended many, many fights by knockout, and is known for its force and lethality.  Crowder not only got knocked to the ground, but twisted his knee in the process, a common injury resulting from a knockout while standing.  For this, JR Smith was suspended for, wait for it…two games.

Two games.

It’s just…beyond belief.

I have rarely felt so strongly that Adam Silver and the NBA completely misjudged a situation, but this time is different. JR Smith did not get into a basketball tussle, he threw a very dangerous punch, that landed, to the face of another player.  Sure, he was ejected, and now he’ll miss two games, but what of the fact that he committed a crime? Since when is a basketball court asylum from state court and our legal system? Smith should be charged with assault.

Adam Silver–you blew this one, and badly. One and two game suspensions, respectively, are totally inadequate punishments for the transgressions committed.  By failing to mete out punishment that is proportionate, you have tacitly approved of such behavior, setting a dangerous precedent.  JR Smith should have been banned for the season. More generally, the league should punish players more severely for injuring another player if the injury stems from conduct outside of that which is normative to the game.  I’ve never seen someone yank on another players arm as Olynyk did, nor have I ever seen such a violent punch to the face that JR Smith threw, in the context of a basketball game.

I am very disappointed, even disgusted, with the NBA’s punishment decisions. I hope you are, too.

The Evolution of Magic

The Evolution of Magic

Magic is a terrific hobby, profession, and field of study, largely because it is intellectually gratifying on many levels.  The serious student of magic learns not just how to fool people, but larger lessons about how the mind and perception work. Magic teaches psychology and a deeper understanding of how we process information.  For this reason, in recent years, researchers have gone to magicians as a resource for their keen insights into perception and consciousness.  In fact, my favotie college professor, Daniel Dennett, describes consciousness itself as a magic trick, an illusion of sorts that our minds create to engage and form a relationship with objective realities; it’s a fabulous analogy and parallel that he expounds upon in his writings and TED talks. If you’ve never heard or seen him speak, you’re in for a treat–he’s a brilliant man.

The field of magic is constantly changing, and for good reason.  Once a trick’s method is exposed and becomes known to the public, it no longer works, so new innovations are constantly required. And as technology changes, so also do the possibilities for magic.  For instance, 200 years ago, a magic trick could have been something like instantly squaring any number between 1-1000. Today, we have calculators that do this instantly, and while it’s impressive, it falls decidedly short of miraculous.  Similarly, 200 years ago, a magic trick could be getting from Europe to the United States in under 10 hours.  Today, it’s called an airplane.

The same thing is true today, and always, which is the reason for Clarke’s III Law:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

So as life evolves and technology advances, so does magic, which keeps things ever changing, interesting, and fresh. There will always be magic, because magic itself evolves. It evolves by necessity, with the times, and using the latest technological innovations and secrets.

I was 15 when my friend Stephen Hobbs first published a move and routine of mine in his magic ephemera, Labyrinth. In his kind and flattering introductory words, he remarked insightfully that for some time, he had anticipated the fallout from the explosion of new magic media and mediums.  He was alluding to the fact that when the only way to learn was from books, the information was difficult to create, disseminate, and engage, and thus magicians were truly the rare few who had the focus and drive to seek out and study the information.  By the time I was starting out in the early 90’s, there were VHS tapes on magic that taught incredible routines along with fabulous performances. Those tapes cost $75 each, and had about five routines per tape. I was only able to get one or two tapes a year as gifts, mostly from my grandmother, because of their price. Books, too, were expensive, and remain so even now.

However, today, the technological landscape has changed dramatically.  Not only do we have video tutorials (not VHS, of course), but the cost and time to create them has decreased from astronomical to nearly nothing.  Same goes for its distribution. We all have smartphones that take video, and today’s SLR’s are affordable and take fabulous high definition footage.  The effects on magic have been commensurate with the changes in this technology–that is to say, a complete and total paradigm shift, comprised of rapidly spreading ideas, presentations, and techniques. The result of all this information sharing–profound innovation.

For instance, in my teens, I thought I had mastered almost all card flourishes extant: the fan, the pressure fan, the ribbon spread, the Le Paul spread, productions, split fans, and so many more.  Since that time, though, the number of flourishes has EXPLODED, to the point where card flourishing is now its own field called Cardistry or XCM (Extreme Card Manipulations).  The students and practitioners of this type of flourishing study each others’ moves, riff of them, and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. This video speaks for itself:

Pretty awesome?  I think so.  The video, and indeed the genesis and evolution of cardistry, encourage me to dream and wonder what will be next. Of course, card flourishing will continue to evolve, but more important, and also inevitable, is the fact that new areas of magic will continue to emerge. I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.

The Incomparable…Fred Kaps

The Incomparable…Fred Kaps

Fred Kaps is a legendary name in magic.  Responsible for some ingenius techniques and plots, Kaps brought an incredible level of mastery to his performances. This clip is a great example of his work–wherein he makes challenging techniques look completely effortless and, well, like magic.

Kaps died in 1980. We are lucky there are clips like this available to keep his legacy alive.

Performances @ The Little Theater

Performances @ The Little Theater
Performances @ The Little Theater

Join for an evening of Comedy & Magic!

Come join for a memorable, fun evening of comedy and magic.  Comedian Trevor Smith starts the night off--he's sure to have you rolling and set the mood! Then, hold onto your seats--Michael performs dazzling magic that you'll love and think about for days.  The perfect night out.

Please arrive at the theater 30 minutes before show time for seating and drinks.

If you have purchased a voucher, you can redeem it below during the checkout process. In the event your voucher is not working, don't worry, it just means it hasn't been added to the ticketing system yet.  To have it added quickly, feel free to fill out the contact form. Otherwise it will be added within 24 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Is the show right/okay for kids?

Generally, the show is not intended for kids.  It's at night, and is catered to adults.  The comedy is not dirty, but is adult oriented. The magic is sophisticated and also catered to adults.  Kids will enjoy it, but in general the material is PG13 or higher.

2. When are performances?

A list of performance dates and times can be viewed in the dropdown menu below as part of the ticketing system.

3. Where is The Little Theater Located?
12420 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

New Year’s Magic!

New Year’s Magic!

Many years ago, “The Professor”, Dai Vernon, one of magic’s greatest legends and teachers, was asked by a student to help him with his magic. The student wanted to know the really big secret(s) that made The Professor so skilled with his technique and performances. Vernon recounted the story, and told that what his students wanted to hear were things like “Always use hand lotion before handling a deck of cards” or “only practice magic before bed” or “only use bicycle cards” or some other big secret.

The truth, he went on, is that there is no big secret, but rather a collection of thousands of little secrets that taken together create the perfect illusion, like a work of pointillist art.

All these details come over time with the right systems and habits in place. When I have cards and coins laying out on my desk, I practice.  When my guitar is out on a stand, I play.  When my exercise ball is out in the open, I exercise.  Conversely, when the cards are in a drawer, the guitar is in a case, or the exercise ball is in the closet, I do nothing. Positive change really is not about will power; it’s about habits and systems.  We don’t need will power or to change our minds–because the mind is actually physical. Changing our physical habits and routines makes the change for us and our minds follow suit automatically. Honesty, attention to detail, self reflection and awareness are key components to improving at anything by allowing us to implement the necessary systems.

To that point, for all of us hoping to make improvements in our lives in 2014, this is a great video that was recently forwarded to me. Make improvement easy on yourself by setting up routines, habits, and environments that foster the change you’re trying to make.

Good luck to you, and have a magical 2014!

From the Magic Newswire

From the Magic Newswire

The following is excerpted from The Magic Newswire, a great website devoted to magic and magicians.

The Magic Life is a film by Nelson Chang featuring Juliana Chen, Jonathan Levit and Richard Turner. The film chronicles the journey of three magician hopefuls: a 17-year-old from Beijing (Yang Yang) who travels to the U.S. to attend magic school, a 25-year-old trying to make rent by performing on Hollywood Blvd for tips (Mathew Noah Falk) , and a 32-year-old New York University MBA graduate who moves to Los Angeles to perform at the world famous Magic Castle (Michael Friedland). The film depicts the challenges of following an unconventional career path. Forget about parents, family, or friends who may not understand or support your choices – there’s almost an invisible societal pressure in terms of what types of jobs are acceptable. “The Magic Life” is about those who are willing to risk everything to take the road not normally taken. Sometimes the risk pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Just came back from seeing The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with my wife. I had no idea what to expect, and certainly didn’t expect much.

First the bad: i could have lived without the (rare) magic jargon and method divulsions. As I’ve previously written about, it’s not my favorite when secrets of magicians are divulged to the public, especially when belittled.  That said, there’s not much of it, and whatever.

The good: almost everything else, especially Jim Carrey. Every time he is on the screen, be prepared to laugh incredibly hard–don’t put any food in your mouth, and certainly no liquids, as you will surely spit up  or choke trying to stop yourself.  The guy is simply unreal. I love him. I always have, and in this film he’s just as electric as ever.  You can count on his delivering pure hilariousness every time he’s on screen.

Carrey plays a character that is a blend of David Blaine, Chris Angel, & Ace Ventura.  He attempts over the top stunts, each one more gruesome and absurd than the next.  For one of his spectacles, he gathers an audience around a large area of flaming red coals.  The expected trick is for him to walk across the coals unscathed. Classic.  Nearly every adult male in India can do that no problem (uh…kidding….just in case). Instead, Carrey’s stunt: he spends the night sleeping on the flaming hot embers bare chested. I don’t want to give away, well, anything, but it’s too late for that. So I won’t give away anything else.  Just go see it. If you love Jim Carrey, you’re in for a treat.

Oh yeah, Steve Carrell is also in it and he’s good too.

Tough to share a stage with JC.

Upcoming Performances @ The Magic Castle: March 8,9,10th

Upcoming Performances @ The Magic Castle: March 8,9,10th

I’ll be performing next week at The Magic Castle in Hollywood.  Should be a great show and I’m super excited to be working with my close pal and incredible magician, Andrew Goldenhersh.

If you would like to be added to the guest list to enter the castle, sign up below.  There is a cover and a dress code, so make sure to check with the Castle about details. All I can do is provide access with a list. Show’s are the 8,9, and 10 starting at 8PM.

Sign up below and you will be allowed access to castle.  There is a cover and a strict dress code so best to check with the castle for details.

Docu-Weeks Film Festival Schedule

For those of you interested in catching The Magic Life, it will be playing in NYC and LA this August.  Here’s the info and I hope to see you there!

Here’s some information on it, along with some press coverage.

DocuWeeks: http://www.documentary.org/docuweeks2012

L.A. Times: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-docuweeks-lineup-20120628,0,4828839,full.story

Website / Trailer for “The Magic Life”: http://themagiclifefilm.com/

Here’s the schedule for NYC:

FRI 8/10 3:55 PM 9:55 PM (955pm showing has a Q&A w/Erik Dugger – editor and Michael Friedland – magician + doc subject)

SAT 8/11 2:05 PM 7:50 PM (750pm has a Q&A w/Nelson Cheng – director and Michael Friedland – magician + doc subject)

SUN 8/12 12:00 PM 5:25 PM (525pm has a Q&A w/Erik Dugger – editor)

MON 8/13 3:55 PM 9:55 PM

TUE 8/14 2:05 PM 7:50 PM

WED 8/15 12:00 PM 5:25 PM

THU 8/16 3:55 PM 9:55 PM

Here’s the schedule for LA:

August 17-23 — here’s the schedule:

FRI 8/17 12:00 PM 5:20 PM-w/ Michael Friedland

SAT 8/18 1:45 PM 7:40 PM-w/ Michael Friedland

SUN 8/19 3:50 PM 9:50 PM

MON 8/20 12:00 PM 5:20 PM

TUE 8/21 1:45 PM 7:40 PM

WED 8/22 3:50 PM 9:50 PM

THU 8/23 1:45 PM 7:40 PM