February 2013
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Month February 2013

Kenny in LA

My friend Kenny’s been back from his tours in Afghanistan for a while now. While he was there he sent me photos every now and then and I would post them on this blog. To close that series of posts I wanted to share these photos of Ken from a road trip he took to LA his friend Samimi took. They’re wonderful.

For a taste, compare the photo below to this one he sent me in 2010.

Pickpocket: Apollo Robbins

Read this excellent New Yorker profile on professional pickpocket Apollo Robbins. He’s a fascinating performer to watch. Here is a link to a video introducing his techniques.

What I particularly like about the profile is what he says about the choreography of people’s attention, a particularly important principal in telling stories or making theater. He says, “attention is like water. It flows. It’s liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way.”

“It’s stepping outside yourself and seeing through the other person’s eyes, thinking through the other person’s mind, but it’s happening on a subconscious level.” He went on, “I can analyze how I do things, but the actual doing it—when the synapses just start firing—I can’t explain.”

“A lot of magic is designed to appeal to people visually, but what I’m trying to affect is their minds, their moods, their perceptions,” he told me. “My goal isn’t to hurt them or to bewilder them with a puzzle but to challenge their maps of reality.”

Challenging a person’s map of reality is a tall order. It necessarily means getting up close to your audience, and in a pickpocket’s case litterally encroaching on their personal space. Approaching a person head-on will make them immediately uncomfortable. “So, what I do is I give you a point of focus, say a coin. Then I break eye contact by looking down, and I pivot around the point of focus, stepping forward in an arc, or a semicircle, till I’m in your space.”

In this case the fixed point is the channel that diverts attention and allows the artist to swoop in undetected and get very close. Close enough to rifle around in the someone’s pocket and do some rearranging. “Not to hurt them or to bewilder them, but to challenge their maps of reality.”