Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

I woke up this morning to the news that legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had passed away.


Hawking held an undoubtably important place in modern culture. Through his improbable battle with ALS (he was diagnosed at 21 and given two years to live) he became uniquely recognizable. "That guy in the wheelchair" brought the arcane and abstract world of cosmology to a wider audience.

I was first exposed to him in the season six finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I would have been about eight years old.

 L to R, Albert Einstein, Data, Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton... go figure.

L to R, Albert Einstein, Data, Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton... go figure.

My family happened to have a copy of his New York Times bestseller, A Brief History of Time, on the shelf. It was one of those books that lots of people bought but few actually read. I tried to read it and it wasn't that difficult. That book contained a lot of important lessons for a young person!

The idea that runs through the book is that the universe is explicable. Not necessarily explainED but explicABLE. (At that point our current best estimate for the age of the universe, 13.8 billion years, was still about a decade away.) While the world might be complicated, the explanations aren't forever hidden over the horizon of human knowledge. Sometimes, we actually have too many possible explanations and are waiting for a way to tell between them. He also spent most of his time talking about Black Holes and the beginning of the universe; pretty cool stuff. Once you start thinking in those terms, it's hard to turn back. 

More recently, he has made guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory and had an Oscar nominated feature film about his early life on his way to his PhD, The Theory of Everything. So I hope I'm not the last generation to be inspired by his life and work.

Still Worth the Drive to Acton

I was in Acton last weekend doing a special fundraiser for Heritage Acton. It was a gorgeous space and a wonderful audience and we had a great time.

Magic and Martini Acton

I was a little surprised to wake up to an email saying that our fundraiser made the front page of the local newspaper, The New Tanner:

 The Tanner - March 8, 2018 (Photo by Les Schmidt)

The Tanner - March 8, 2018 (Photo by Les Schmidt)

From the review:

James Alan amazed and amused, baffled and confused, but mostly delighted and entertained the audience at the Acton Town Hall Centre last Saturday night, with his Magic and Martini show. The full house enjoyed dinner, cocktails, and an evening of playful sleight of hand puzzles, loopy rope entanglements, and hilarious audience participation.

The World's Greatest Stevens

What could be better than waking up on Monday morning and finding out that there is a clip of two of your favourite thinkers chatting for an hour? The fact that both are named Steven. 

Stephen Fry and Steven Pinker are two of the most eloquent speakers and writers I've ever come across. They're talking about Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now. You can see it sitting on the table between them as they chat. It's quite large and I'm about a third of the way into it. So far it's amazing. The thrust of the book is simply that the world is not actually going to hell in a handbasket. Things are getting better... much better... shockingly fast... and for some reason, nobody wants to notice. More importantly, we can understand why it's happening, and try to do more of it.

So if anyone needs me for the next little bit, I'll be watching this:

Photos from Magic & Martini in Toronto

Thank you to everyone who attended our performance of Magic & Martini last night. Here are a few photos courtesy of Ivan Bekcic.

We have dates available in April. Readers can use the secret code OLIVE for a special discount on the price of tickets when booking online

Photos from The Newest Trick in the Book

The Newest Trick in the Book, a special show put on every week by the Toronto Magic Company. It's hosted by the zany and magical Jonah Babins (who uses words like "bonkers" and "bonanzos" in everyday conversation.)

It's a safe place for magicians to try out new material, and always a great deal of fun to go to. I try to make it out even when I'm not performing. The best part of all, it's a pay-whatever-you-feel-like show. 

Tuesday night, I was on with Leigh Beadon, Ryan Brown and William West. Here are some photos from the night, courtesy of Philip Bowser