In the Press … Magic Man Stepping Up

Mick Peck Auckland Magician Magic Club Pakuranga Times Article

Courtesy Pakuranga Times :

Matthew Winnard believes he has the necessary skills to become not just an entertainer, but a leader.  The Pakuranga magician has been voted by his peers as the new president of the Shore City Magicians Club, taking over from professional performer Mick Peck.

Based on the North Shore, the club was formed in 1974 and is one of largest of its kind, with a membership roll of 30-40 magicians.

“I’ve been the club’s president for more than ten years and decided it was time I ought to step aside,” says Mr Peck.  “Matthew has been in the club for about eight years.  He’s a very keen magician and he’s won national under-18 magic awards at different conventions.  I think he’s the right person to lead the club.”

Mr Winnard is studying computer science at the University of Auckland.  He became interested in magic as a child and specialises in close-up magic using props such as a deck of cards and coins.

“I’m well-known among fellow magicians for my card work,” says the 21-year-old.  “When I was about five I was at a friend’s birthday party and there was a magician there, which piqued my interest.  I began researching magic online and bringing over props and instructional guides from overseas when I was about fourteen.  I used to practise a lot more than I do now.  I’m more focused on getting my final semester at university out of the way, but magic definitely takes a lot of work.”

Mr Peck, 31, says the club’s new president has a big job ahead of him.

“The role of the president is to oversee the whole club,” he says.  “He has to set the direction in terms of magic shows and bringing overseas performers here.  The president is also a role model for younger magicians to look up to.”

Mr Winnard says it takes a lot more than being able to perform a card trick to make it as a magician.

“The nice thing about magic is you’re able to bring a smile to people’s faces, which is a good thing to do,” he says.  “It’s incredibly important to engage with your audience.  If you’re not doing that, you’re only doing it for yourself.”

Mr Peck adds that magic is a good way for young people to learn helpful social skills and become more outgoing.

“It helps with self-confidence,” he says.  “For many years the world of magic was basically a closed shop, then our club came along in the 1970s.  It’s definitely had a positive impact on magic in New Zealand.”

Source :

TV3 News Story : Magic’s Comeback No Illusion

Recent TV3 news feature about the resurgence of magic, Dynamo and magic-related movies such as Burt Wonderstone and Now You See Me. Featuring professional Auckland magicians Mick Peck, Alan Watson and Chicane.  Interviewed by Jennifer Buck, courtesy TV3.

The Four Stages of Learning

The Four Stages of Learning

The Four Stages of Learning, or the Conscious Competence Model, is a psychological theory developed in the 1970s.   The concept is that we each go through a series of four stages when learning a new skill.

The good news—and why I think this is relevant and of interest—is that if you’re aware and understand the four stages of learning, it’s much easier to take control of them!  If you know where you are on your path to mastery you can hopefully save yourself some frustration and make your learning more enjoyable and, with any luck, easier.

Think of some examples from your own life as you go through the list.

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Typically learners display excitement, enthusiasm and even over-confidence because they don’t know that they don’t know.  An example would be a guitarist who has learnt a few simple chords and suddenly thinks he’s God’s gift to the guitar.  He might, for instance, know nothing about feel or rhythm, but at this first stage of learning he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know!  A kid might wander into a magic shop, buy a bunch of tricks, and then rush off to get a business card printed saying ‘Experienced magician available for all occasions’.  We’ve all seen the god-awful auditions on American Idol and their shock-horror at being told that they don’t have good voices.

In my younger years I was involved with martial arts, and it was always the newbies that would be out in the carpark after the lesson trying to do flips and show off with flying kicks, despite only coming to one or two classes.  The expression “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” describes the Unconscious Incompetence stage perfectly.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

In the second stage the learner knows that they don’t know.  They recognize that they are out of their comfort zone and that the skill may be more difficult than they originally anticipated.  In other words, they start to see themselves as the rest of the world sees them.  It’s in this stage that the learner may become frustrated or want to give up.  For teachers, it’s important to build confidence with continued mentoring and coaching in this stage.

Making mistakes are integral to the learning process in the Conscious Incompetence stage.  No learning of a skill can happen without passing through this initial frustration, because if you’re not clear on exactly what it is that you want to achieve, you won’t be able to work towards it.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

The learner knows that they know.  An example would be a young child tying their laces who has to carefully concentrate so that they don’t make a mistake.  In time through experience the task becomes less challenging.  Another example would be playing a piece of music and having to concentrate on what chord changes are coming up, or acting in a play thinking ahead to remember the next line.  Because the task is serviceable at this level, many people chose to stop learning at the Conscious Competence stage.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

In this stage of learning, learners don’t know that they know.  The task becomes so automatic that they don’t even accept that they’re doing anything special or something that once challenged them.  Everyday examples would be riding a bike or driving a car, things that are done automatically without thinking, let alone appreciating that they once were challenging.

The masters of their craft have reached the level of Unconscious Competence—picture B.B. King playing a blues solo, or Robin Williams being able to go off on an unrehearsed tangent and make people laugh.  Ironically it’s at this stage that onlookers often think “oh, they’re just a natural” or “they were born with it”.  No, they put in tens of thousands of hours to achieve Unconscious Competence!

It’s in this final stage where the learner may experience the most growth, because they feel creative, intuitive, and are able to think outside of the box.  However, it is also at this stage where major mistakes can occur because there is a greater tendency to take risks, shortcuts, and get lazy.  If you’re stuck in a creative rut, you’re probably in stage four.  There’s also a tendency to undervalue one’s own efforts in this stage because it’s easy to forget about all of the hard work it took to get there!  This is why it’s critical to occasionally take stock of your own skills and talents.  See what other people see in you and accept your own skills as they really are.

Four Stages of Learning Diagram
We are constantly moving throughout the four stages of learning at any given time in our lives.  We may be in stage four of one aspect of our career, but stage one at another.  Realistically recognising the stages that we are in can help us make informed choices.

The Conscious Competence Model helps us in several ways – it gives us reassurance in the early stages, and helps us avoid complacency in the final ones.  It’s also an invaluable teaching tool as it allows us to see where others are on their own journey through learning.

Good luck on your path.

 – Mick Peck, An Auckland Magician and Entertainer Who is Always Learning

Originally Appeared in the March 2013 edition of Inside Entertainment, the monthly membership magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.

TV3 Interview on Magic and Magicians

Auckland magicians Alan Watson, Mick Peck and Chicane, TV3 filming for story on magic

Pictured here with my good friends Alan Watson and Wayne Rogers, Chicane the Magician.  I was contacted by TV3 to do an interview about the recent surge in popularity of magic and magicians – movies like Burt Wonderstone and Now You See Me, Dynamo the magician having a top-rating show on television, the success of the recent The Illusionists show etc.

I first met Jennifer the TV3 journalist last year when I performed my strolling closeup magic for her wedding.  She’s from Manchester so she has a wonderful BBC voice for television … there was a study a few years ago that revealed that New Zealand people automatically trust people who speak with an English accent.  Alan put her in the guillotine and chopped her head off, not sure how that will impact her career.

Apologies for the tablecloth, the Von Trapp children had some spare fabric left over.

Six Year Old Plays Piano Man – Sing the Song!

Mickey the Magician

Mickey Mouse Magician Vintage Toy

A friend emailed me the picture above recently so I did some research.

The Great Mickey figurine was made in the 1960s by Linemar of Japan, who released a number of mechanical Disney toys in the 1950s and 60s.

The Mickey Mouse magician is one of the most in-demand figures because the action is so complicated – he raises his hat and makes the bird vanish and reappear.  Mint versions sell for around US$3,000.

The most in-demand Linemar figure is a smoking Popeye, video below.  Mint versions of this one go for closer to US$4,000.

Herald Online Live Chat

Auckland Magician Mick Peck's NZ Herald Online news feature

I was profiled in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday as part of their “What I Do” series.  Thanks to everyone who logged in for the live-chat to ask probing questions about magic and the life of a professional magician.  I’ve yet to hear from anyone who wanted to take me up on the offer for counselling, relationship advice or home decor secrets unfortunately.

Also still waiting for the promised Georgie Pie meal, I must follow that up.

New Zealand Herald Online : Live-Chat with Auckland Magician Mick Peck

The Wilhelm Scream

The Scream : Mick Peck's article on the history of the Wilhelm Scream

Chances are that you’ve heard the Wilhelm Scream dozens of times without even realising it.

The Wilhelm Scream is a sound effect of a male screaming in pain.  It was first used in the relatively obscure 1951 western Distant Drums, starring Gary Cooper.  In the film an unnamed soldier is crossing the Everglades in pursuit of Seminole Indians when he is attacked and dragged underwater by an irritated alligator.  As he goes under he dramatically screams in shock.  Several slightly-different takes of the same scream were also used later in the film as the death cries of Indians.

The sound effect was placed in the effects library at Warner Brothers but wasn’t used again for two years, for The Charge at Feather River.  In this film another solider, one Private Wilhelm, is struck by an arrow and he too lets out the dramatic cry of pain.  It was because of its use in this film, the first by a named character, that the effect would later become affectionately known as the Wilhelm Scream.

Over the next few decades the scream was used in other Warner Brothers films such as Them! (1954), Land of the Pharaohs (1955), The Sea Chase (1955), Sergeant Rutledge (1960), PT-109 (1963) and The Green Berets (1968).  It appears twice in Judy Garland’s A Star is Born (1954).

Motion picture sound designer and aficionado Ben Burtt began to notice the common use of the same distinctive scream in Warner Brothers movies.  He sampled the effect from Distant Drums and began to use it in his own productions.  Several years later he was hired to work on Star Wars (1977), and included the Wilhelm Scream in a memorable scene featuring a Stormtrooper falling to his death in a chasm on the Death Star.  He also used it in each of the Indiana Jones films.  Following this exposure the over-the-top cry started to become somewhat of a cinematic sound in-joke.  Other sound editors picked up on it and it was included in Poltergeist, Spaceballs, Gremlins 2, Reservoir Dogs, Batman Returns, Toy Story, Disney’s Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, The Fifth Element, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kill Bill and dozens more.

By 2013 the Wilhelm Scream has been included in more than 225 films, television shows and video games.  Given half a chance, prominent directors such as George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino and our own Peter Jackson slip the Wilhelm Scream into just about every one of their productions.

For years the voice-actor who provided the scream was a mystery.  Due to the cult status of the effect Ben Burtt visited the Warner Brothers archives to try and discover the name of the voice behind the scream.  After reviewing a list of actors from Distant Drums and comparing their speaking voices to the scream, the most likely candidate emerged as Sheb Wooley, a musician and character actor who also appeared in the likes of High Noon (1953), Rawhide (1956) and James Dean’s final film Giant (1956).  Wooley is mostly remembered for his 1958 novelty tune “Purple People Eater”.  Which you just started singing in your head.

Here’s a compilation video of twelve minutes worth of nothing but clips of the shriek from various film and television appearances.  Bonus point if you can make it through the entire clip without turning it off.

– Screamin’ Auckland Magician Mick Peck

– Originally Appeared in the May 2013 edition of Inside Entertainment, the monthly membership magazine for the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Incorporated.

And, because you’re just about to look it up anyway –

New Zealand Grand Master of Magic Award

New Zealand Grand Master of Magic Medallion

New Zealand’s Grand Master of Magic Award has just been accepted as a notable subject for inclusion on Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet, ranking sixth globally and having an estimated 365 million readers worldwide.

The Grand Master of Magic Award is a lifetime achievement award presented by the Brotherhood of Auckland Magicians on behalf of the magicians in New Zealand.  The criteria of the award is as follows—

Its purpose is to honour those magicians who are acknowledged by their fellow magicians to be masters of the art and craft of magic.  The recipients first and foremost must be performers of a high standard.  In addition they might be originators of magical effects, or administrators giving time and expertise to running societies and conventions.  They could be consistent competition winners, or have an international standing, or be known only in the New Zealand setting.  But above all they are people who have served magic well, have graced our art, and made a special contribution over many years.

Any nomination must also be measured against the standard achieved by the previous recipients.


Entertainers – Has This Ever Happened To You?

Auckland Entertainers

Advertisement :  We are a small and casual restaurant in downtown Auckland and we are looking for solo musicians to play in our restaurant to promote their work and sell their CD.  This is not a paid position, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get positive response.  More jazz, rock, and smooth type music, world and mixed cultural music.  Are you interested to promote your work?  Please reply back ASAP.

Musician’s Reply :  I am a musician with a big house looking for a restaurateur to come to my house to promote his/her restaurant by making dinner for me and my friends.  This is not a paid job, but only for special events which will eventually turn into a nightly event if we get a positive response.  More fine dining and exotic meals mixed with some ethnic fusion cuisine.  Are you interested to promote your restaurant?  Please reply back ASAP.


Feel free to send this post to anyone who asks you for a free show.


Kentucky Colonel

Colonel Harland Sanders, Blog of an Auckland Magician Post

Chances are that you hate rejection.

It’s our nature – we want everyone to like us, accept us and say “YES!” – especially when we make an offer that’s clearly in their best interest.  Unfortunately things don’t always work out according to plan.  If we’re honest, we probably all get a lot more “no’s” than we would like.  But the best idea is to shrug them off and to keep asking.

The model to keep in mind is that icon of business, Colonel Harland Sanders.  At the age of sixty-five, Sanders had an old car, a pension worth $105 a month, and a recipe for chicken that some folks told him was pretty darned tasty.  So he hit the road to propose a deal with restaurants – use his recipe and for each chicken sold pay him five cents.  The first restaurant owner told him no.  The second said no.  As did the third.  The fourth.  The fifth.  And on and on …

Finally, after making 1008 sales calls with his proposal, a restaurant owner finally said yes.  And of course you know the rest of the story.  The lesson is dogged, determined, unreasonable persistence.  He didn’t give up.  He kept on going.  Day after day.  And he did finally make that first sale,  and many more besides – enough to create a fortune.  So a little rejection – well, that’s part of life and business.

Keep going like the Kentucky Colonel, and remember this little article every time you drive past one of his restaurants.

– Mick Peck, Finger-Lickin’ Good Auckland Magician

– Originally published in Inside Entertainment, the monthly membership magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand.


Why So Serious? Court Jesters and April Fools’ Day

Court Jester April Fools Day : Mick Peck's Blog of an Auckland Magician

The custom of playing pranks on the first of April is observed in not only in British colonies but also in Northern America, France, Germany (where it’s called Narrentag), Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Russia (where it’s called Dyen Doeraka which means Dunce’s Day), and even in Japan.  In Scotland it’s known as Gowk or Cuckoo Day.

The precise historical origin of April Fools’ Day is unknown.  The earliest mention of an April Fools’ joke was found in a French source from 1508, and there exists a Dutch parody on the custom from 1539.  But these sources indicate that the custom was already well and universally established.

In France today, April 1st is called Poisson d’Avril.  French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their backs.  When the victim discovers the trick, the prankster yells Poisson d’Avril! – April Fish!

The traditional symbol of April Fool’s Day is the jester, or fool, who held a special place in medieval history.  They were considered insiders of the court, chosen for their sense of humour to provide entertainment for the king.

Jesters typically wore bright, eccentric clothing and distinctive cloth hats with bells on the end of each of its three points.  The points were a representation of a donkey’s ears and tail.  The jester also carried a sceptre which was a symbolic ornamental staff to represent authority.

Because jesters were given leeway to say anything “in jest”, they were sometimes the only members of the court able to voice an honest opinion about local situations.  While others fawned over the king, the jester was encouraged to speak the truth.  Because of his lower social status he didn’t pose a threat to the king’s power.  And because he was not part of the political intrigue of the court – he was after all considered a fool – the king often felt it safe to confide in his jester.  Because of this the jester had an important and influential role in medieval history.

The unique nature of jesters also contributed to their popularity among the general public.  Some became the subjects of stories and jokes, and some became famous in their own right.  King Henry VIII employed a jester by the name of Will Sommers, who gained such fame that he was the subject of literature and drama almost two centuries after his death.  King Charles I employed a jester named Jeffrey Hudson who gained the nickname “The Royal Dwarf” because of his height.  One of his infamous pranks, made possible by his stature, was to hide himself inside of a giant pie and then leap out, startling the people to whom the pie was presented.

The ancient traditions of the jester continue in modern times with the magician, the clown and the comedian.

Anyone for pie?

– Mick Peck, Full-Time Magician and Occasional Prankster

– Originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Inside Entertainment magazine, the monthly membership magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.

Send in the Clowns – A Tribute to the Classic Comedians

John Kaplan Auckland Magic Lecture

Mick Peck with Auckland magicians, Kaplan magic lecture

Here’s an obligatory “hands on shoulders” photograph with magicians Alan Watson, Paul Romhany, John Kaplan and Richard Webster at John Kaplan’s Auckland magic lecture last week.

John is a busy professional magician from Vancouver, Canada.  He’s enjoyed a national career spanning over 25 years encountering nearly every performing environment – he’s done it all and become one of Canada’s favourite family entertainers.  John has shared the stage as an opening act with such artists as comedian Jay Leno and the pop group The Boomtown Rats.  John tours Canada every year performing his illusion show.

Ask him to show you his trick with a rat tied onto a stick.

An Indictment of Culture in New Zealand?

Casablanca Look Who's Talking Movie Posters

I rent movies and TV shows through an online DVD company.  As you browse their catalogue there is an icon to show the popularity of the various titles available.

The demand for CasablancaLow.

The demand for Look Who’s TalkingHigh.