Today

The Friday Fillip: Sleight of Hand

“Prestidigitation” — one of my favourite words. And something that, like a whole lot of people, I tried to learn when I was a kid. I knew that Houdini (we shared a birthday) was really Erik Weisz, and I knew who Houdin really was. And I had the magic rings, the collapsible wand, the fake-bottomed cup . . . But, alas, no talent, and certainly no perseverance to compensate.

Magic still delights me, though, as it does most of us. And for me, prestidigitation is most impressive. It’s one thing — and no easy thing, I realize — to set up an elaborate illusion, with trap doors, mirrors, set lighting, etc. But it’s quite another thing to perform sleight of hand tricks, with no props and no prep.

Apollo Robbins used to be a pickpocket. And that’s the sort of “trick” he does now as a magician. Here he is fooling a couple of Fox Network folks (I know, I know, but still . . .):

He’s the subject of a very recent New Yorker article (“A Pickpocket’s Tale: The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins” by Adam Green”) that makes for interesting reading.

Deft as Robbins is, he’s not unique in that department. Here’s 4’30” of an impressive performance by French magician Yann Frisch, done in front of a Japanese audience. As one of the commenters remarks, if you watch the video a number of times, you may be able to spot the tricky moves; but in a live show, you wouldn’t have a chance.

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but I wonder if this old dog couldn’t manage an old trick of so. Think I’ll start with the jumping rubber band trick and then go straight to levitation.

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