The National Student: Mind Over Patter Review

There is probably enough patter in Chris Cox act to fill a show twice the length, the whole presentation is delivered at such a fast unrelenting pace that at times it can be hard to keep up with him. The fact that his surname sounds very much like the word has not escaped him and he certainly doesn’t shirk from taking advantage of any opportunities that provides, so expect plenty of that. Also expect some pretty impressive mindreading predict type magic.

Most of the tricks are spellbinding and completely elude any comprehension of how he’s getting stuff right. In a style of magic that is almost entirely inhabited by serious, smart looking gentlemen with mysterious eyes it‚ a great relief to see mind reading stuff done by someone with a bit of cheek and plenty of bubble. Plus his constant use of multimedia gives his presentation an extra lift making it the most energetic hour you’ll ever spend with a mind reader who can’t read minds.

With A Little Bit Of Luck

Some people have all the luck. I’m on the train heading back from a weekend seeing my family in Bristol and as if to push me to write rather than watch The Wire, I saw a perfect example of good and bad luck at the station. Good luck was given to a lady who managed to run to make her train as it was leaving the station, quite swiftly bad luck was given to this same lady as she got on the train, her suitcase exploded, spraying her clothing all over the place. Good luck meant most of it went over the inside of the carriage, bad luck meant we all saw her pants. Oh how I laughed… then pretend I was laughing at a podcast, then realised I didn’t have my headphones in, so sheepishly offered to help.

How does luck affect our lives? Luck gets credit for a hell of a lot of things, does it exist or is it a piece of superstitious nonsense that we believe to put ourselves at ease. Is luck tangible, and if so, can we make ourselves lucky? At the moment my way of thinking is that anything and everything is just coincidence. Nothing more, nothing less. I’ll gesticulate on this at a later date, but the more moments of coincidence that occur, the more we put them down to luck. Luck takes a hell of a lot of credit for hard work and determination. The age old adage is that you have to be in the right place at the right time, of course you do, but you also have to be prepared enough to be able to exploit whatever opportunity there is and that’s nothing to do with luck.

I know this is a big topic to be writing such a short little piece on, a piece based on nothing by my views and opinions, but I hope at least it is of some interest to you, I’d be interested to hear your views on luck if you get a chance. The myth of luck is that it’s beyond our control and of course in many situations this is the case. Take the lottery, someone has to eventually win despite the odds being 1 in 14 million. In fact if you buy a ticket on Monday for a Saturday draw, then you have better odds of dying before the Saturday than you have for winning the lottery. If you win then it’s got to be sheer bloody luck, luck that there is no way you can control. That or your have a little beard. In my Edinburgh show this year, every night I correctly predicted all 7 numbers out of the lottery machine, this wasn’t luck, this was talent. I can’t predict the lottery, no one can, but what I can do is make my audience think that I can. With the right amount of luck though, perhaps I really could win it? And such is the draw of the lottery combined with luck giving us false hope, broken promises and lightening our pockets.

Controlling luck is entirely do-able, we can make people believe that they are lucky, I suspect people assume me to have a large amount of luck on my side, for in my shows I can get nearly everything right, thus I’m lucky. I’m not though, I just know what I’m doing and have worked bloody hard at it. Tell someone the item of clothing they have on, the chair they’ve sat in, the words they say, the coin they have, is lucky. Make something up and tell that person that they are lucky because of it, you know what? They’ll probably have a luckier day, because if there’s one thing the idea of luck can do is it can change our mindsets, it can alter our lives simply because if you feel your lucky you are inclined to take more risks, and the more risks you take, the better the chances are of those risks paying off.

I seem to live a life where I can’t be happy, or lucky, or in control with every area of my life at the same time. I can be very successful and lucky in one area but down right miserable in another, causing myself then to focus on the shittier side of things rather than enjoying the luckier side. It’s something I’ve said in my previous blog, how we seem to focus on the wrong things a lot of time. Can people have everything? Do you? I’d like to think you’re the same as me, but without the large eyes and scrawny frame. We look at certain icons in our world and assume they are happy, lucky and have everything they want, and who are we to know otherwise. I would adore it if I could be lucky in every area of my life, but I know it probably wouldn’t be as fun or challenging for me. I’d love to give some of my luck to someone else, to make things easier for them, I know I can’t, and even if I did I’d want karma to reward me with more luck for giving some away. I always thought I knew what I wanted in my life, but more and more things seem to pop up and make me question what I want, do I desire something else, something I didn’t expect to? It doesn’t really matter as there is not much we can do about it, unless we are feeling lucky and decide to go for it.

I felt this blog wasn’t saying too much so I asked some of my followers on Twitter for their thoughts on luck. It was surprising the amount of song lyrics that came up from Kylie Minouge who, like us all, wants to be lucky in love, to Guys & Doll’s luck be a lady tonight. Luck is not considered to be a virus by some, others make light of it for if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. There are plenty of metaphors and similes for luck, this one I quite like, luck comes in waves sometimes you get the perfect wave and some time you miss it. My favourite thought being that ‘fate sounds *so* much more philomosophical. ‘Luck’ is its chavvy second cousin.’ Either way, be it fate, be it luck, be it random chance, designed choice or chaos, we can’t quantify luck, we can’t be sure if we’ve got it or how to get it, but we can all find certain areas in our lives to feel lucky about, and it’s those that you should focus on.

There are winners and there are losers, you can be lucky or unlucky, because it’s not until you’ve taken a risk that you can know if this is going to be your lucky day.

Lie With Me

Come my friends and lie with me as I think and type some more.

The times when I have exposed myself the most seem to be in bed, which is a sentence that works on both levels of the word exposed, how lucky for us all, a little joke right at the start. There’s something about lying down, those minutes before sleep or the moments after slumber where we can be open and honest, where we take off the mask we wear during the day and simply are who we are. You are you, I am me, it’s in those moments where I find the words in my heart and mind, or, with the right person open myself up and blurt out moments of the real me. Sometimes I regret what I say, sometimes I’m happy I said it, but on the whole I’ve found it’s those times when I’ve really felt like the real me, without over analysing and without too much thought, I have really said what I think and feel…well that or spoke some nonsensical rubbish before falling fast fast asleep.

Lying is the most human of traits, be it for snoozing or simply to protect someone’s feelings. See what I’ve done there. Yes, I’ve done exactly what I did with the word exposed. I’ve managed to cleverly use both meanings of one word… clever little bunny aren’t I? I found in my younger years I was quite the liar, not in a huge way, but would use, like many others little white lies to my advantage, perhaps to increase my status, to make me seem interesting, to make me more attractive. I’m not sure why, I’d like to think it’s because I wasn’t comfortable with who I was, or sure of myself, or that I feared I was insignificant so had to over elaborate.

I’ve noticed how little I lie these days, and like to think that it is because I’m more comfortable with who I am. I recently was in a situation where I was more open and honest then I have ever been, where I truly said what I thought and never told a lie. I was proud of myself, I liked this, I felt it gave a level of trust and respect that I had never found before.

I’d like to think it was all my doing, that I suddenly didn’t feel the need to lie, but in an attempt to be honest throughout this blog, I know it wasn’t all me, well not all of it at least. It’s a situation which is as thrilling as it is difficult, as incredible as it is painful, because you are open, honest, and absolutely you. We spend our lives developing guards, wearing masks, creating personas to hide behind, and when you can cast them off it is a hugely liberating moment, despite being horrifically scary. We show our true colours, which makes us worry, what if we are not liked?

You open yourself up to be shot down but for those moments you are truly you, when you are not lying, when you are 100% the person you are at that moment in time you feel alive and feel what life is about…it’s worth getting shot, just for that experience, that rush of blood to the head, that punch to the soul of this is me, like it or lump it, this is what I feel, I am a person, I am alive, I am Chris (feel free to insert your own name here if you’re not called Chris, if you are called Chris, what a fortunate coincidence.)

Now I’m writing this not because I’ve been lied to, or as a response to anything in particular, it’s because l part of my act involves me having to work out when people are lying. I’m not that bad at it, short sentences, fluffing, eye contact (or lack of it), fidgeting and long pauses before answering are the easiest things to spot to locate a liar, however there’s no exact science to it, and I can’t really do it. Yes on stage I can make you think I can, but if I really could, I certainly wouldn’t be telling everyone that I could. A study has show that,

‘Most of us think we are about 15 per cent cleverer, nicer, more attractive and better drivers than others think we are. It seems deception begins at home. After all the most convincing liars convince themselves first.’

The more you convince yourself, the more something that is only in your head can seem to you like the truth. Deception is woven into the texture of human life so it’s hard to spot, sometimes you can spot a lie through gut feeling, other times it’s a lucky guess, but the more interesting thing is, why is someone lying in the first place, what’s the psychological desire to lie, and what can it tell us about that person. How they react upon being caught out is a great indicator, do they lie more to qualify the lie, do they hold up their hands and admit defeat or do they simply change the subject and attempt to run away, that response can show someone’s true character.

Ricky Gervais’ new film The Invention Of Lying brings up some good questions about when it’s right to lie, when it’s nice to lie and when it’s almost vital. There’s a point in the film where Mark (Ricky’s character) could lie to the girl of his dreams to get what he desires. I won’t tell you what happens, but when it does you know there’s about 25 mins left in the film, so you can kinda work it out from there. I’m just pondering as to whether this is a spoiler. I don’t think it is, I don’t think it’s inherent to your enjoyment of the film.

Basically it shows you can’t win something through deception, but of course, in real life, you can. In real life people will lie to get what they want, they will deceive, they will be ruthless. I kind of admire these people, I wish I could do that, but at the heart of it, I like to think of myself as an honest person, and a nice guy (a topic I’ll be writing about sometime soon.) Should we lie to get what we want? Is it just another one of the traits of a human being? Should we tell people what they want to hear, rather than what is true?

Of course, it’s situation dependent, there is no right or wrong, no fact or fiction. What do we want? Someone who is honest, or someone who lies? Obviously the former, but it’s never that clear cut. Of course it’s not just about people getting what they want, we lie to protect our families and friends, we tell them what they want to hear, you can start to lie so much that a lie no longer feels like a lie, you can start to believe what comes out of your mouth. You are never truly the person you are if you constantly lie, you can never be trusted and you can never find yourself. Sure you can feel better about things, you can lie to yourself to make the lie okay, but it’s others that you eventually end up hurting.

Who does lying really help or protect? Is it you, is it me, is it the people round us? Can we read a script we’ve prepared in our heads to hide the truth, to distort the facts, to say what people want to hear? There is no answer, for anyone who says they are completely honest…. well that’s just a lie.

Want A Year

This evening I drove over to the picturesque village of Haslemere for dinner with my friend Ben. We’ve been chums since University and Ben has always helped me with my magic work. He took an interest in it when I first started at Uni and I’ve kinda roped him in ever since. He’s worked on all my shows with me, developing them, making magic happen, filming and editing videos, finding funnies, all that stuff. This year was the first year he didn’t come up to Edinburgh with me, but still was vital in the creation of the show.

As many people will have noticed today felt like the first day of autumn, it was cold, windy and foggy. On the drive to Ben’s I realised it was this time a year ago that I was on tour. Ben acting as the tour manager, me as the magical performing monkey that I am. It’s a cliche I know, but doesn’t time fly. In fact it was exactly a year ago today that we had the first night of the tour at The Hawth in Crawley, it was notable for the fact it was the only time on the whole tour that we kicked around the football I brought to kick around on tour, and my older sister Nik saw me perform for the first time. How things have changed since then.

I ponder upon how I’ve changed as a person in a year. I know I’ve grown as a performer, I know I was a much better performer at the end of that tour than at the start of it, I know I have to shave more than once a week now (but still not daily.. yes I’m a weird manchild type thing) but what else has changed. I look at how I’ve changed in the last few months more so than in the last year, I analyise the differences between me in the early Summer to how I am now, rather than the difference of 365 days, I think about what I I want.

I was listening to the (500) Days Of Summer soundtrack in the car and The Smiths Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want came on, a beautiful song… not as good as Ask, but up there. It made me think about what I want. Last year I wanted to do a UK tour. I did it, but now what? Do we ever know what we really want? Some say we don’t know what we had till we lost it, some say we never can get what we want, others say can I have extra chips, but they weren’t listening to the question. We often tend to think about the things we want rather than what we have, we focus on how getting something will cause change rather than enjoying things that are here, right in front of us. We spend hours thinking about what could have been, we are constantly either looking back or towards the future, to what might be and how we can make it so. We hope we get what we want, we think it’ll change us and make everything okay, but whose to say whether it will or won’t. The only thing I don’t think we do enough, or at least I don’t do enough is enjoy the here and now, to focus on what’s going on in front of our eyes, of what’s in our heads, our hearts and our souls right now. How we can make the most of what we have rather than living in a state of constant desire.

Back to The Smiths, they ask to get what they want this time. It’d be great if we always got what we wanted, there are things I’d love to get, but I know that life would be dull if you really got all you wanted, it’d be nowhere near as fun if you did just get what you want, because, in essence, searching for what we want, fighting for it, thinking about it, just simply wanting it, that’s what make life exciting, interesting and constantly surprising. That said. It’d be nice to get what I want, just this time.

Post Gig Come Downs

So I’ve not written a blog for sometime and thought that 1.30am on a Sunday morning is the perfect time to write a blog. I’ve not been sleeping too well the last few days so am hoping by writing before bed it’ll help me drift off. Insert your own joke here about how my writing is boring you enough to make you fall asleep.. but make it pithier than mine.

I’m awake at the moment enjoying/enduring a post-gig come down. Tonight I did my first performance since Edinburgh & The Royal Opera House and it was bloody good fun. I did a short set at the rather brilliant TAM London. It’s basically a skeptics convention but so much more than that, and yes, I know, I know, a mind-reader performing to skeptics.. tough gig. It wasn’t though. I even wore my He-Man I Have The Power T-Shirt which I’ve not worn for ages. And did some tricks I’ve not done for ages. The audience were lovely, I gave it loads of energy, wrote special jokes for the occasion and genuinally felt a lot of love and warmth from a very loud, laughy and impressed audience. It was a joy to do and one of those shows that makes you feel lucky. Basically just what I needed, to simply get on stage, not think about anything, and go entertain.

But of course after all this you have the post-gig come down. A drink or two, a glass of wine when you get home, then you just have to wait for your body to expunge any left over energy before you crash to sleep. In Edinburgh this was never a huge problem as I was always emotionally drained after doing 2 shows a day and drinking after my show so by 3am I was ready for bed. Eventually I’ll fall asleep into a happy slumber but right now I sit and relive the magic of the gig. (name drop alert) Russell Brand and I spoke about this once and he called the time between coming off stage to going to sleep the abyss, and he would do all he could to fill it with something to reach the highs that he got on stage. In his case it was plenty of sex. Lucky bastard.

I recall recently after a fantastic Edinburgh preview having pizza and wine with friends to try get into a sleep zone but it not really working, so when I eventually went to bed I lay there, made a fuss, couldn’t lie still as I had too much energy and was just trying to not annoy anyone too much. I decided to go through my script in my head to try to fall asleep….for some people it’s sheep, for me it’s cox gags. I recall being awake at around half 5, while others slept I was still buzzing but feeling like a very lucky and happy man. So much so that when I had to get up to move my car at 7am due to some slightly dubious parking, I actually felt like I’d had a huge long restful sleep despite it only being a few hours after I eventually crashed. That said by 3pm that day I was a tired mess, but quickly regained my usual composure. The post-gig come down I’m sure is something many others have written about, in a much more interesting way than I, but it’s a strange place to be in your body and mind, to have had the respect, laughs and ‘love’ of 500 odd people to then being on your own in a room with nothing but a nice glass of red to keep you company till the adrenaline wears off.

It’s strange what adrenaline can do to you, what the people you’re around can bring out of you, and how you can conquer your own body with the right mind-set. We’re pretty impressive things us human types. In the show tonight I alluded to a feeling of wonder, amazement and magic we can get in our lives. I try to create some of that for an audience, because it’s one of the best feelings in the world. When you’re a child and you believe in magic and the possibilities of the world seem endless, as you grow up you come to realise you can’t always get what you want, you start to live in your head, to think and over think, to learn that it’s dangerous to stay in your own head for too long, but to not pay attention to that, to bumble along day to day doing what you do, living the life you think you have to lead. However every now and again, every once in a while you’re reminded how lucky you are as something surprises you, catches you off guard, makes you feel special, makes you feel alive, makes you feel happy. And that’s all it’s about this life. You could die tomorrow, we’re little atoms on a little planet, our lives aren’t that important, the connections we make mean everything to us but nothing to anyone else, every face we see of a stranger has a life, a home, a mother has experienced something you never will, has people who care for them but they are still the strange face of someone you don’t care about. In essence if we can find magic, endless possibilities or even simple happiness from anything, be it from someone or something, then we can feel like our own masters of the universe.

To quote the Carl Sagan quote that ended the show tonight, where he talks of a photograph of Earth from a vast distance, a tiny pale blue dot…

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

I should stop now for I fear this has wavered into a poorly written steam of thoughts, from a slightly drunk magical performing monkey, but at least I’m feeling sleepy now.

Night,

C x