Watching 30 Rock and the Office tonight I kept on seeing this commercial for a new show called "Phenomenon". The story goes:
The search for the impossible begins...there are those who claim special powers, but only one can be called the greatest. Now, the mind of Uri Geller, and the mastery of Chris Angel will test them all before the world, and everything you see will be live.
I was cracking up because when they show Geller he's got this sign that bends behind him. I can't believe it, he still tries to milk this idea that he can bend metal like he's some kind of spoon-bending genius.
I'd think he'd give up that angle after James Randi busted his ass on the Carson show - see the video below.
Even Geller's blog has an idiotic banner with a bent-spoon prominently displayed. What an idiot.
This new show is the American version of "the Successor", and based on what I've seen, he's continuing his idiotic shtick of presenting himself as a psychic, rather than an just an illusionist (and a crummy one at that). For a preview of the hoaxing you're likely to see on NBC, friendly skeptic has posted videos from the Israeli show, in which you can see him stick a magnet on his thumb to make it appear that he can manipulate a compass with his mind.
Geller has a history of using bogus copyright claims to try to suppress videos proving he's a hack and a fake, so make sure to check these out before they disappear.
This actually might be a lot of fun, because I bet other magicians, like Penn and Teller, like Johnny Carson before them, will have a blast showing how these guys are using simple illusions to provide proof of their claims of mystical abilities. From what I understand magicians get a little pissed when you try to claim supernatural powers for what is, in the end, just slight-of-hand. It might be fun to watch, and live blog with a magician to see who can spot the tricks. Anyone up for that? Anyone know a good magician? Preferably one who blogs? And who hates hacks?
James Randi was Johnny Carson's adviser for the spoon-bending sting and continues to be Geller's most persistent critic. Despite legal threats from Geller, Randi continues to devote a section to debunking him on the JREF website, including a video clip showing Geller getting caught cheating on his Israeli show Successor. See also Randi's book, The Truth About Uri Geller.
A couple of years ago, I went to a magic show (I'm a complete sucker for magic) at a tiny local arts theatre, where the magician actually performed the spoon bending trick. However, he chose a member of the audience - which happened to be me - to assist, meaning that he gave me the spoon, asked me to check it, then to hold it between my thumb and forefinger, concentrate really hard, and try to bend it. Of course, I couldn't. Then he took the spoon back, held it between his own thumb and forefinger, and blow me down if it didn't begin to bend then and there, right before my eyes.
I have absolutely no idea how he did it - he was good.
Now, here's the kicker. He gave me the bent spoon, and later, as we were leaving, he was in the theatre foyer so I walked over to say how much I had enjoyed the performance. He thanked me, and then asked if I still had the spoon. He took it, again between thumb and forefinger, rubbed it a bit more, and the darned thing broke completely in two!
I am still completely baffled, as are the several family members and friends who saw all this up close.
I love magic. And I still have the broken spoon :-)
I'm not surprised. Geller may be mediocre at sleight-of-hand, but he clearly knows people. And I'm sure he knows that lots of people remember him as that guy who bends spoons and was on Johnny Carson. They don't remember (or refuse to remember) that he was exposed as a fraud.
They want to believe. (Streetlamp)
The way it works- more or less- is that the spoon is already weakened before hand by repeated bending back and forth- not to the point of breaking- but just so its malleable. A standard "assistant" isn't going to push hard enough on the spoon while they inspect it to actually bend it- if they do, the magician can just say that you must have some "latent psychic abilities" or some such and write it off. When the "magician" takes the spoon and holds and stares at it, he's actually just applying pressure to the spoon. A variant has the illusionist rubbing the spoon- again he's just applying some downward pressure.
I've been an amateur illusionist since I got my first "magic" kit when I was 7. What amazes me about this Uri Geller guy is that he took a kind of cheap party trick (I was doing it for family reunions at 10) and make himself into a phenom. I mean, I'm not very good- I'm sure as heck no James Randi or Penn & Teller -- but even I'm better than Uri Geller.
You should just email Penn & Teller! Or James Randi! That'd be cool- I bet they'd go for it too.
Oh- @ #2 again-
You'll notice in the video of Johnny Carson and Uri Geller that Geller can't manage to bend the spoons Carson provides. He panders off some excuse about not having the "energy" or some such. Thats because _none of those spoons were prepared_
Nowadays, most spoons are made of weaker material (or maybe I've just got strong hands) so I usually do the illusion _with_ an unprepared spoon. I caught my uncle (also a amateur Illusionist) off guard with that one. :)
Also, if he was a good magician he could easily have switched the spoons and it would have been nearly impossible to tell. He might hand you a spoon that hasn't had the metal stressed, and therefore doesn't bend easily, then switched it at any time. I've seen magicians do tricks like that while you stare at their hands and you still can't tell where the switch occurred.
Either way, it's a rather common trick, and embarrassing that Geller thinks he can get away with presenting himself as a "psychic" for doing basic illusions.
qetzal: "Geller may be mediocre at sleight-of-hand, but he clearly knows people."
Indeed. Did you notice in the Carson segment with Uri Geller that Geller never even tried to bend the spoons? The most he did was a halfhearted attempt to find the water in those metal vials, which he himself interrupted. If he had unambiguously failed, that would have been more spectacular event that could stick in people's minds. As it stands, Geller really didn't do a whole lot, which made for an uneventful segment that could more easily be forgotten. Furthermore, the excuse he gave--that he was tired--looks plausible to a sympathetic audience.
What's really scary is that Gellar's voice sounds just like this weird kid in my class.