About Me

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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An exciting night!

Yesterday was a day full of excitement. At lunch, a system I built at my last place of work was presented on national TV. It is a system that creates word play jokes (of a low quality, but still) in Japanese. You tell the system what you want it to joke about, and it outputs some joke vaguely related to that. Sadly, the part were my name was mentioned was cut (it was my previous boss that was showing the system on TV). The system worked so-so when they tried it live (reportedly, it worked even better before they started taping). Well, I guess if the system becomes famous that is good :-) The explanation of how the system works was not correct, though...

In the afternoon I was visiting our local magic shop to talk to the owner, and then the most famous magician in Sapporo (probably) came to the shop (he is called Birdie Koyama). We did not talk though. I left when he came.

Last night in our magic bar, we had a night of great customers coming in large numbers. Every magician had great reactions over and over again! Then, at around midnight, all the customers left and no new customers seemed to be coming either. After an hour or so, we drew cards to decide who would have to go (me) and I went out to buy hamburgers from our closest McDonald's in the middle of the night.

The bar was really really empty. We ate huge amounts of hamburgers in our bar, cleaned up, and then started watching clips on YouTube etc. Our boss fell asleep on a sofa.

Then, the phone rang and someone who was very impolite and very drunk asked where our bar was located and said they were coming. When I got back from the toilet, two men were sitting at the counter, and one of them was a typical "Oh, no, this is going to be difficult" customer, haha. He was pretty drunk, and kept shouting that "everyone needs to be more fun now!" and talking about how they had come from Tokyo just to have fun in our magic bar (at 3:30 in the morning :-)

We usually do magic one at a time for the customers, and our youngest magician started performing for them first. One of them was quiet and a very nice spectator, the other was fairly loud, kept talking about other things, or saying things like "No, not that trick, I want to see something else." or "Call in the next magician"...

I went to take out some stuff from my bag of tools, and another colleague went to fetch something too. I did not notice anything, but my colleague came back and said in a very quiet voice: "Isn't the closest guy <name of VERY famous magician>?" Taking a closer look, it could very well be him... And when he turned to me and asked if I was American, there was no doubt. One of the Gods of magic had showed up unannounced in our magic bar, haha.

I started thinking furiously to find some tricks I could show that he would be likely to a) enjoy, b) not have seen a million times before, and c) not be able to figure out where they were going even before the trick started... That did not leave so many tricks, since he likely has seen most magic tricks ever invented.

Our young magician performed all his magic without noticing who he was doing magic for. He did things like hand over the most standard coin used by magicians and say: "This is an American half dollar. It is slightly bigger than a Japanese 500 yen coin. Please check it see what it feels like." That guy has been touching coins like that since before you were born! Haha. But not knowing may be the best. Then you do not feel nervous, at least. Even if he felt a little embarrassed afterwards of having explained really basic stuff to a magic legend, haha.

Next up, my other colleague went to perform for them, but they loud guy said he did not want to see his magic, so he came back and I went instead. I first hammered a nail into my nose to use as an antenna when mindreading what card the famous magician might have picked. Then I tried my true and trusted "lighter turns into a box of matches" trick that I did not invent but that I at least built myself from scratch and which is so easy a beginner can do it without fail after a few minutes of practice and which I have used over and over for two years. During those two years, I have only screwed up the trick once, but yesterday of course turned into my second, and largest to date, haha, failure during these two years... nice timing there. Maybe my hands were shaking too much?

The loud guy (who was the producer of the famous magician, and who has invented several very famous and popular tricks) said he was only interested in original tricks. I tried performing an original, but not that hard to understand for magicians, card trick that I think has a funny presentation, but the loud guy just took one card at an inopportune time and said: "This is the kicker, yes? This is how the trick ends?" and was uninterested. He was right, too, of course, but still a very difficult type of customer to perform for...

The two of them were very very funny together though. Whenever the loud guy said something rude, not necessarily to us but about some magician on TV or something like that, the famous magician would slap him or hit him over the head with the menu, etc. They were like a stand up comedy duo, and a funny one at that. After awhile, the loud guy who had seemed like a very very annoying type of customer turned into a very funny customer (still very annoying to try to perform magic for, but still). In the end, I liked him very much. The famous guy was a great customer from start, throughout the whole time, and seemed like a super nice person. Still a bit hard to perform for, because of nerves and the fact that he probably knows so very much about magic. And that they both are rarely fooled by magic so you have zero feedback when performing since they are never surprised or applauding etc.

Anyway, I did another mental type trick where the loud guy picked a card, put it back somewhere in the deck, and I shuffled in a very fair way. I delt cards and one of them said stop, and of course the next card in the deck was the selected card. I also showed a stack of pictures of famous people (Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, etc.) and had the famous magician say stop and he stopped on a card with a picture of me every time. A trick I made last week. Finally, I also did a card trick with my hiragana practice cards, and I produced a salmon sushi from my t-shirt. The famous magician at least seemed to like it when I hammered a nail into my nose to figure out his card, and when I produced the sushi from my t-shirt showing a salmon eating salmon sushi.

Then my colleague that was first sent back did some magic too. He did mainly tricks that you would expect serious magicians to know, and the loud guy was complaining a lot ("Ah, not a Maya Issey trick, show us something we don't know...") while the famous guy was a very kind spectator.

Finally, our boss did a fairly standard trick in a way presented on a DVD that is recently popular but very difficult. Both of them suddenly seemed very interested, and they were impressed. Our boss is of course very good at what he does, but making people like those two impressed is quite a feat I think.

We all talked for awhile, which was very nice and a lot of fun. The two of them also wanted to do some magic for us, and borrowed some cards. The loud guy went first, but it was a little unclear what exactly he tried to show (he was by then very very drunk). The famous magician then did a card effect where it turned out that a card mentally selected by one of us was located in the famous magician's pocket.

Then they left, and we sat down to talk a bit and calm our nerves.

A very exciting night! It was very nice to have met him in real life, though thinking back now there are some other tricks I do that would probably be more fun for him to watch, and it was a bit embarrassing to manage to fail with my lighter... But he was a very nice person. The loud guy at first seemed like quite the opposite of a nice person, but turned out to be a lot of fun, and was probably not serious about all of the bad stuff he said, haha. I liked them both.

Their timing was not the greatest. Everyone had been doing lots of magic, and with really high tension, so we were all super tired. Then there was about three hours of nothing to do in the middle of the night, making everything worse. So if they had showed up some other day, we might have been even more fun to watch. But at least they did not show up right when we were eating hamburgers. Considering this magician is famously connected to hamburgers, that would have been weird but really funny :-)

Here is a video of one of the tricks the famous guy seemed to like:


And here is a video of me when the lighter thing actually works (which it does 364 days per year :-)


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