Lynn Vartan [00:00:46] OK. Well, welcome in, everyone. It's Halloween 2019 here on campus. It's been really fun to watch everyone walking around in their costumes and for A.P.E.X, we're sort of celebrating Halloween in that we are celebrating the world of magic. I have magician and author Alex Stone here in the studio with me today. And he did his talk today based off of his book Fooling Houdini. So welcome into the studio, Alex.
[00:21:07] And one of the things that you mentioned when you talk in the book about this is about, you know, how we're we're not really that great at our our focus or I'm not great about multitasking. I was curious what because I don't know that this is something that you've got to too much. What if somebody wanted to improve their receptiveness? Because I've been watching you interact with people all day. And I noticed that you look at everything you see. I feel like you see everything I've been watching. You observe everyone and watch everything and notice everything in the room. So that's something I think you probably worked on because you develop. If somebody wanted to develop that, what could they do?
[00:21:48] So, yeah, there are practiced ways of seeing, you know, any time you get better at something, you look you develop sensors that you didn't already have and you can improve your powers of observation. And there are experiments that people have done even on show showing that you can like improve at sort of attending to more than one thing at a time. I haven't think about it like if you're watching a basketball game, it's really easy to pay attention to the person with the ball, try paying attention to other people, you know, at the same time or I mentioned this in my books because I'm more of a classical music nerd like I like a lot of listen to a lot of Bach and you know, you of counterpoint. You have all these different voices and sometimes it's your ears. You want to listen to the sort of main voice, the melody, the melody. If you try to, like, listen to the bass, for instance, and you try to focus on that because it's harder to focus, there's a way in which you kind of hear everything simultaneously. Yeah, but the truth is, it's really hard to get very good at these things because it's so in our blueprint. And it's one of the reasons why even when you know how a magic trick is done, it can kind of still fool you a lot of times, even if it doesn't, even if you intellectually know how it done, how it's done, or even if you understand the principles of magic, you can still be fooled. And that's because it's it it really does take advantage of these fundamental things that have evolved over millions of years. And they're hardwired into our neural circuitry. How we're like we're very good at we're very good at focusing on one thing that's sort of one of our great achievements as a species is that we can focus on one task. But in order to be able to do that, you have to be able to suppress your awareness of other things. Right. And that's what makes us bad at multitasking and makes us easy in some cases to fool. But it's ultimately an asset. And I think that's one thing that's important to stress in a lot of the things that magicians exploit are kind of the flip side of these powerful human attributes.
[00:27:03] But he, you know. So talking to him got me thinking a lot about the underworld of magic. And I also spent like a lot of time watching the three card Monte guys on the streets of New York who were- you see it less and less each year. But when I was doing my research, they were still around on Canal Street. And I mean, I saw people lose five hundred thousand dollars at a time. Oh, my God. All cash, you know, a hundred bucks a pop. And it got me thinking about just how well how good these guys were at their job. I had a hard thing to do to convince someone to pay, to play a scam. And the sort of thing I I kind of came up with or what I realized is it's not that they convinced the person that it's not a scam. It's more that they convinced them that it is a scam, but that they can write themselves into the con and the cheater. Right. But anyway, back to Richard. Richard is an amazing guy. And that got me thinking about because he does everything by his sense of touch. And he's so good that he was hired by the US playing card company to be their touch analyst and they would send him decks of cards like whenever they would do like a new deck of cards and he would feel them and he could tell if they were just off by like a million like but not even a millimeter or a fraction of a millimeter could tell Intel he can you can put a stack of cards in his hands and he can tell you how many are there. I've seen him do it. It's insane. And that got me thinking a lot about, you know, we've often heard that when you lose one sense, the others rally to fill the gap. And he's an example of this. And it turns out there's a literature on this on how blind people, especially the earlier they've go blind, the more sensitive their touches. They're hearing perfect pitches, more common among blind. Right. Right. And there's a neuroscience underlying this, which is a fairly recent discovery called Cross Modal Plasticity, which is a fancy word for when one does the crazy thing. Actually, they've they found that when blind people use their sense of touch on the part of the the part, the visual cortex, the part of the brain that normally processes idea is active in them. Oh, wow. And this is something that was thought to be impossible a generation ago because it was thought that once that sense died or was no longer there that. Part of the brain just sort of stop. Stop. We're actually what's going on here. The sense is that the visual cortex is kind of being recruited by the the tactile, tactile reaction. And in a way, and it's quite literally like they're seeing with their fingers. That's amazing. Yeah. And so it's just this beautiful example of how how the brain, how miraculous and magical the brain is.
[00:46:53] So this has nothing to do with magic, but I actually just watched comedian Gary Goldman's HBO special, The Great Depression. Oh, and it's a comedy. Gary Gulman is brilliant comedian. And I've always been a big fan of his. But I didn't really know his whole history with mental illness and depression. And he did this special about it on HBO. And it's very funny, but it's also just brilliant and moving and honest and brave and candid in the way it deals with depression and mental illness. He had a very, very he struggled very, very much like terribly with depression and anxiety and was unable to work for many years now. And he's turned it into this very this incredibly meaningful, heartbreaking, but also hilarious show. And I just encourage anyone who has any interest in comedy or the human condition to watch it, because he just he has an angle on it. That's really interesting. And I don't think there's a lot of people who've talked about it in this way and especially not on stage. You know, as a standup comedian, it's hard to take something like that that's tragic and make it funny and find meaning and beauty in it. And he really does that. Oh, cool. I'm going to check it out. As he watched it twice. And what was the title? It's called the Great Depression. And the comedian in Gary Gulman. All right. And his comedy in general is fantastically his all his comedy is great. I highly recommend it. But this special, I think was produced by Judd Apatow. And this special in particular is just it's something special. I think it really elevates comedy to a kind of a level of sort of, I don't know, philosophical. Yes. And it's it's beautiful and funny and sad. And really great.
La La Land is a beautiful movie-musical starring Emma Stone. She stars in this one opposite Ryan Gosling. They make a really great onscreen couple because they have such great chemistry. This movie is great but it is also very sad. Anyone who watches it should be prepared with Kleenex for the ending scenes.
Battle of the Sexes is a great Emma Stone movie to watch. Along with Emma Stone, some of the other actors in the movie include Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elizabeth Shue, and Alan Cumming. This movie is about a real historical tennis match. 041b061a72