Wired for Wonder Part 2

3 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nLet’s explore this metaphor further.  We hear hints to this quite often. You might hear in the lunchroom “There was magic in the classroom today”, “It worked like magic” “I wish I could do magic today in class”.

I am not suggesting teachers use trickery or subterfuge to deceive students like a street con artist would do. Though I am sure all teachers have been tempted in this. Listen to the words of Whit Haydn describe the three card con game:

We’re playing a game called Chase the Ace,
You have to guess from the back what’s on the face.
Once I mix the cards around,
You tell me where the Ace is found
Hey! Step this way!
Come here and play!
This is the game for the sporting fan,
Try your luck with the Monte Man!   (footnote)

A magical teacher is not a flim-flam man who scams and swindles with schemes to defraud.

I am also not suggesting that teachers be like a circus sideshow barker who shouts,

“Step right up to the Amazing Traveling Carnival and Side Show Extravaganza.  Come on in! It’s only a dollar!  I guarantee you haven’t seen anything like this! Rides? We’ve got Tilt-A-Whirl and we’ve got Merry-Go-Round and a Ferris Wheel! Stay for the Wild Man of Borneo! We’ve got soda pop and corn dogs! Ice cream and cotton candy! Come one come all! Only a dollar, only a dollar!”

I am sure teachers have been tempted to attract the attention of students like that. What I am suggesting is something deeper and wonderful.

Now listen to these preliminary comparisons of a magician and a teacher.

-He is a Showman like Circus Ringleader who points the audience to the spectacle

-He is a mind reader who reads the group with great observation skills

-He creates a receptive atmosphere

-He influences the mental state of the students

-He projects an air of mystery

-He attracts and focuses attention

-He uses words to create change

-He creates memorable moments

-He reveals and evokes wonder

 Listen to the haunting words of world class poet, musician and magician  Jay Scott Berry  (footnote)

                                         The Magician

     I can impress you in the wink of an eye with skills that will surely astound

     I can amaze, amuse, inspire, delight, and lead you to the profound

     You may simply think to brush it all off as prestidigitation.

     Or perhaps you may wish to look a bit deeper to the pool of inspiration.

     For the magic runs wild in the sea of your mind and to find it is always the goal.

     It whispers and sings in the depths of your heart all the way down to our soul.

     It beckons the dreamer ever to fly, the dancer ever to dance.

    And I the Magician, the Worker of Wonder, can merely offer the chance.


Now imagine as the teacher walks into the classroom.  The students are on edge of their seats.

Excitement filled the air with anticipation. What ideas would she produce today? She had no mirrors or threads and nothing up her sleeve.  She seemed to control the environment with the smile on her face.  She told stories of wonder that created life into the pages of the book and in our hearts.  We traveled together as the day unfolded. She did not perform a magic trick because the attention was not on her.  She evoked the magic in us.  She read our minds and hearts. She knew when we were ready.  She gently brought us to a place where we wanted to learn the secret knowledge of math and science. She enticed us to explore.  Her magic hat was a book.  Her magic words were ….”I believe in you”   “You can do this”   She was filled with enthusiasm, confidence,  she was a master of the subject, symbol of something the students desire.  We all wanted to be a teacher because of her. One thing that this teacher did was to see that the magic was in us.  She unleashed a sense of wonder that we could do marvelous things with our minds.

This teacher evoked the wonder and taught that true magic takes work!  The magic was that the students desired to work to produce more magic.

As Blaine Lee, author of the Power Principle, says  “The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”

Teachers need to encourage students that success does not take a magic hat but it takes putting on their thinking caps.  They convey ideas like “It is not a genii lamp for wishful thinking but using brains to do real thinking.  Exercising the body makes us physically strong but successful mental strength comes from determination, persistence, tenacity, resoluteness, toughness and endurance.  There is no elevator to success. You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.  It takes effort.”   That is the magic teachers can produce in the students.

Author  Robert Fanney echoes this when he asks “Is there magic in this world? Certainly! But it is not the kind of magic written about in fantasy stories. It is the kind of magic that comes from ideas and the hard work it often takes to make them real.”

One of these teachers was my 7th grade English teacher who believed in me.

I was in Middle school.  You remember Middle School- the time where self-efficacy declines and wonder diminishes.  But in this class the atmosphere was exploratory and enjoyable. But I remember less about her and more about the magic she unleashed from me. I discovered that I could write poetry with thoughts beyond my years and with language skills beyond the normal 7th grade level.  I was creative! I was a writer and a poet!  I learned to love writing poetry and I produced more in her class than any other class.  I always remember this with a renewed sense of wonder.

She was my cheer leader who produced magic in my heart and helped me  regain my sense of wonder.  She was my wonder champion.

Rita Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion-an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be”   (footnote)

Listen to E.E. Cummings reflection on this, “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

This is a true magician teacher!!!

For many years this sign hung on the door of my own classroom. “In this classroom you are invited to reach your potential!  I believe in you!  You can rise to the challenge!”  I thought of my 7th grade teacher  every time I walked by that sign.

Great teachers are like magicians because they reveal and evoke wonder.

Stay tuned for Part 3….

Wired for Wonder by Bob Bishop Part 1

2 01 2015

10805690_10204355733627861_9199597015240772566_nPeople are metaphor makers.  We create our metaphors and we perceive life from the metaphors we create.  Metaphors are powerful ways we make meaning of this world. They can empower us and they can debilitate us.  That is why it is important to carefully choose our metaphors that bring success and creativity. Giving the right metaphor to our students can also transform the way they perceive themselves and their ability for learning.

Imagine that you  keep some of the most powerful life changing metaphors in your pocket and can bring them out when you need some reminders.  Let’s try some pocket metaphors right now!

Take some coins from your pocket.  Do it right now! I know that in reading this you may be tempted to be passive and not take action.  But slow down your skimming and take some coins out of your pocket.   Again, take some coins out from your pocket!  Place these coins on the floor and stand on them.  You have just acted out the most powerful metaphor we can begin with.  You are standing in the midst of change.  If you want education to change for the better you need to take action.

Deeper in your pocket you can keep a little paw removed from a stuffed Teddy Bear (a little gruesome, I know).  When you are overwhelmed with all the confusion in education you need to pause (paws), take breath and reflect on why you are in education and the part you play to improve the minds of students.

In my right pants pocket I keep my keychain with a  small flashlight to remind me that when things look dim I can shine some light on the situation and others if I just lighten up a bit.

In my wallet in my back pocket I am ready for anything because I carry one playing card-a joker.  This is a reminder that whatever I am dealt I can transform it something better.  I can laugh at the absurdities of life and not take myself too seriously.

Imagine using this idea with your students.  Imagine them handling struggles, problems or situations  with a metaphor that matches their strengths or passions. Perhaps math is a dragon that they can train or slay.  Perhaps a problem is an opposing football player that they can tackle.  Now imagine blessing your student with the strengths of their heroes.  How would Superman turn this situation around?  If you had the ability to change minds or abilities with your favorite  hero how would they do this?

Here is a helpful hint to all teachers out there. We can teach students  how to apply an appropriate metaphor with their imagination to help them achieve success.  If we want individuals to succeed treat them uniquely with the metaphor that matches their creative passions.  Metaphors have the power of metamorphosis–they can empower students to transform how they perceive problems, success and the world.

We can see how metaphors are the grid and projector of how we perceive the world.  They have penetrated our vocabulary so well they are often imperceptible.

Listen to a few:

Ideas are food: There are raw facts, half-baked ideas you can’t swallow or digest that you may have to let stew for a while or put on the back burner until they become food for  thought.

Ideas are plants: From her fertile imagination planted in her youth became a seed of a budding theory that got to the root of the issue that may branch out before it dies on the vine.

Let’s take a short walk to explore how we use familiar educational metaphors. Take the well-known quote by Socrates: “Education is the kindling of a flame not the filing of a vessel”  Einstein has a similar version of this ideas when he said, “A student is not a container you have to fill but a torch you have to light up.”

These quotes introduce two contrasting metaphors. One sees students as receptacles for stuffing information and knowledge into. The other sees students  as a spark to ignite.  One sees teachers as one who imposes knowledge and fills the mind receptacle with information. The other sees the teacher bringing out knowledge and igniting a flame.  Choosing your metaphor influences how you teach and perceive your students.

In Latin the word “educate” has two Latin roots.  They are eduare which means to train or mold and educere meaning to draw out. Thus there is an etymological basis for many of the debates about education today.  (footnote)

One camp uses education as the preservation and passing down of knowledge -the shaping of youths in the image of the past.  The other camp sees education as preparing a new generation for the issues that are to come–preparing youths to create new solutions to problems yet unknown.

Pushing the characterization to an extreme: one calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers while the other requires questioning, thinking and creating.

If you were to listen carefully to our vocabulary you might catch some learning metaphors that affect how education plays itself out even in your child’s classroom.

If we see the classroom of students as a garden we would see the teacher as planting ideas as seeds that grow in our students.

If we see our classroom as a competitive race you would see whoever gets to the finish line first wins.

If you see yourself as a gamer you would strategize to determine what to teach and students would either win or lose

If the classroom is seen as a battleground the job would be to win over the students.

A common metaphor of the industrial age is the educational factory where students are products on an assembly line molded to fit in a competitive system.

A common (seemingly harmless) metaphor for education is a journey.  But this can be distorted to become the journey of the teacher. The trailblazer teacher’s responsibility is to keep moving their students through content.  The teacher “needs to keep going,” “pass to the next thing”, “move on” and to “to cover the material”.  Student lack of movement (lack of academic progress) is used to describe students who can’t keep the pace.  The road to academic progress has only one “only way”  and “one size fits all”.

Even the Latin root of curriculum adds momentum to this. Curriculum means a “race” or the “course of a race.”

Let’s take out that “paw” from your pocket to pause and reflect.

Metaphors that focus on what the teacher does rather than what the students learn sees students as passive receivers who need motivation to stretch that vessel and to keep up with the race.

So what are we really teaching?  What is the secret curriculum between the lines of our schools? What hidden  metaphor is behind the curtain of our educational system?  What metaphor is behind the decision making in this countries’ education system.  When we continually compare our country with other countries to demonstrate how far we are behind are we not presupposing a metaphor?  What we focus on is what our children focus on.

The most well-known metaphor for ideas is a light bulb. Let’s start there for a moment. Let’s take out that flash light from your pocket to shed some light on education.

Here are some observations based on a light bulb.

  1. We are all wired differently with different learning styles.  If we look around at the observable differences in students we can be assured that their brains, though looking  similar, have far more neuron nuances with more complex differences than physical appearances.
  2. We learn by making connections.  Learning is a physical process in which new knowledge is represented by new brain cell connections.  Students gather information but it takes the integrative imagination to create knowledge.
  3. Our task is turning kids on to learning.  Just as a light bulb has a switch to turn it on, teachers have to find that switch that will light up the student’s desire to learn.
  4. Sometimes we get our wires crossed on what learning is all about.  We do not connect  because we do not teach to how students learn.
  5. We can all use some bright creative ideas for motivation.  The best teachers are models of learning.  They share with students that every day is a learning experience to further understand the topics they teach and the students they seek to inspire.
  6. We are wired for wonder.  Deep inside every learner there is a mind that hungers for the electricity of astonishment and a desire for wonder.

I would like to introduce a new metaphor.  It is exciting, mysterious and fun! We are in a transformational time in education.  Remember we are standing in the midst of change. But you better sit down to listen to this.  Here is a fresh metaphor to help us transform our perspective of education.

Think of the first magic trick you saw and how you experienced a thrill, surprise, mystery, and a spectacle.  Think of a time where your innocence found wonder.  This may sound trivial or naive now but think of how you felt as a child. This was a time before you knew about sleight-of-hand, trapdoors, and “up the sleeve” secrets.  This was before you knew that parlor tricks were done with smoke and mirrors.  This was before your amazement was dashed after a magician fumbled or bumbled and destroyed the spell.

You could have remembered your grandfather pulling a coin from your ear. You could have remembered a circus or amusement park entertainer or a stage illusion from David Copperfield. You could have been dazzled by a close-up magician with a card trick, amazed by an escape artist in the tradition of Houdini, or had someone “read” your mind.

What if you had a magic wand that could transform something about education or your teaching?  Like that joker in your back pocket, what if you could transform what you were dealt into something amazing?

Would you like to make some magic happen in your classroom?  Remember we are developing a metaphor even as you read.

What if you could……..

                    M    Motivate from a heart of wonder

                    A    Activate learning

                    G    Generate inquisitiveness

                    I      Invigorate emotions

                    C    Celebrate the brain

You can bring the Magic of Math to your school this 2014 school year!!

2 01 2014

The Math Magician



Does your school need a boost in mathematics?

Do your students need some math motivation?

Do your teachers need some new ideas in math?

Does your school need a memorable event focused on your math improvement goals?

You can bring the Magic of Math to your school this 2014 school year!!

Bob Bishop, America’s Math Magician, is back  with a newer, larger and more exciting program for 2014!

Math Magic Family Night program!!

Math should be fun, entertaining, challenging, and memorable.

The Math Magician’s programs are interactive, informative, fun  and definitely memorable!!

Total audience involvement for the entire school family!!

Participants will learn about:

  •  The power and importance of mathematics
  • The magic of probabilities
  •  The magic of equality
  •  The power of the mind and effort to achieve school success
  •  The adventure and excitement of mathematics
  • The power of perseverance in school
  •  Escaping from Brain Chains
  •  The power of  Additude
The Math Magician can visit your school and teach students, teachers and coordinate a family Magic of Math evening.  But because of availability this is on a first come first serve basis. 
Book him now!!
His schedule fills up quickly!
Contact Bob Bishop The Math Magician at:

“I have never seen my students more spellbound for 60 minutes as they were for Bob Bishop, the Math-Magician. His program generated many interesting discussions later in the classroom setting.””Mr. Bishop’s activities make math an exciting mind expanding experience.”

“I thought it was very well thought out, rich with ideas and materials, and enjoyable.”

“Fast paced with a wealth of useful information.”

“Wonderful activities to use with my students. Right on target!”

As you know, Bob Bishop has been known as Idaho’s Math Magician for more than 20 years. He has gained media notoriety as the Math Magician from television to countless newspaper articles (including the Idaho Statesman Life Section). He has won many awards for teaching and his students have also won many scholarly awards. He was awarded the GEM award for teaching Idaho’s gifted students. He has taught the gifted students in Boise for 15 years, has helped coordinate Micron’s Math Meet, has taught BSU and NNU classes in teacher development in mathematics, has taught for the Bureau of Education (BER), is a certified in Brain-based educator, has taught ICTM math conventions and Edu-fest gifted conference for 17 years. He has presented to teachers and students from Boston to Los Angeles to Taiwan to California, and in Idaho.

Education leaders in Idaho consistently hear from employers and colleges and universities in Idaho that Idaho students do not have the math skills they need to succeed in the work force or a postsecondary education setting when they graduate from high school. Scores on statewide assessments also show a troubling trend in math as students move through our K-12 system: Therefore, we must improve math education across all grades in Idaho to ensure we prepare every student to live, work and succeed in the 21st century.

“I have a vision to visit every elementary classroom  to help equip teachers and students with the art and joy of learning mathematics. There are many bored, non-engaged students who have a lack of understanding in numeracy skills. What I would like to offer is the Magic of Math to change attitudes and to ignite motivation for math success.”

Bob has coordinated his Family Math nights for more than 20 years. And for a selected few schools he will come for a week-long resident Math Magician. Bob would visit every classroom and give unique student workshops that blend hands-on activities, interactive games, and math magic that the teachers can build upon. He would also provide inservice training for the teachers by providing state and nationally aligned games and activities that will empower teachers with methods to teach the curriculum in motivating and memorable ways.

No other program comes close to the benefits of the Magic of Math!

Contact Bob Bishop, The Math Magician






Motivation for students to succeed in math.


Attitude change in students for mathematics.


Guidance for teacher effectiveness and student improvement.


Innovative teaching ideas.


Competency and confidence in mathematics.

The Cost?

Family Math Night $700

Math Magic week: $500 a day of 50-60 min. classes. Teacher inservices $300 plus price of workbooks.

Be sure you ask how Tutor Doctor can help sponsor this event!!

“In my experience working with students I have noticed a continued weakness in math skills and a need to teach math in a way that will inspire elementary students to love math at an early age. “The idea that would help address this need and dovetail with your schools  Math Goals is a hands-on interactive school program for all elementary school age students. It is a vision of bringing the Magic of Math programs to every elementary classroom in Idaho to help equip teachers and students with the joy of learning and teaching mathematics. ”

What the Math Magician offers is an additional boost of excitement and enthusiasm for math.

Magic Castle of Hollywood
Fox News
Saint Alphonsus Festival of Trees
Special Olympics World Games Fund Raiser Banquet
Muscular Dystrophy Association
Camp River Run (for kids with life threatening illnesses)
Funny Bone Comedy Club
Boise State University
Edu-fest Conference for Teachers of the Gifted Banquet
Council of Exceptional Children Teachers Banquet
Morrison Academy Schools (Taiwan)
Thunder Mountain Railroad
Boise Little Theater Public Show
Boise State University
Boy Scouts of America
Double Tree Riverside Hotel
Boise School District Schools
Meridian Joint School District
Boys and Girls Club of Ada Cty
Boys and Girls Club of America
Boys and Girls Club of Nampa
Boise Family YMCA
Caldwell Family YMCA
Homecourt YMCA
West Family YMCA
Applebee’s Restaurant
Chili’s Grill & Bar Restaurant
On the Border Restaurant
Boise Hawks
Awana Clubs
Boise Public Library
Boy Scouts of America (Boise)
Discovery Center of Idaho
Just For Kids Daycare
MagicFest of Twin Falls
Overland Park Cinema

Math Magician helps Students to Want to Study Numbers USA

POCATELLO, IDAHO – A new spin has been put on mathematics as Tendoy Elementary students use some magic to study various math concepts.

Bob Bishop, the Math Magician, has delighted students in kindergarten through sixth grade and teachers with his magic skills and math abilities over the past week.

“Math is so necessary in life,” he said. “It’s not just making math fun, but it’s also trying to attach some sense of understanding for students.”

Fifth grade teacher Vicki Reeder’s class had the opportunity to spend some time with Bishop while working on problem solving skills. Students worked with calculators, the box of magic, learned how to do multiplication tables with their fingers, played a game called Fast and Loose and other activities.

During a game of fast and loose, Bishop produced a single chain and proceeded to fold it into a series of loops. Students were asked to pick a loop and place their finger inside it. If they had guessed correctly the loop would stay around their finger. However, if they guessed incorrectly, the loop would slip away.

“You will win if you know mathematics, but you’ll lose if you don’t,” Bishop said.

Students learned how to follow the loops and determine the correct place to put their fingers.

Bishop has been performing for students and other audiences for 20 years and says he continually teaches students and teachers how math can be fun.

He said many students work with arithmetic but don’t fully understand problem solving skills.

With the help of a little magic, students are forced to observe the environment around them for any changes and think about possible outcomes.

“Generally students don’t really care to do math because it’s not fun,” Bishop said. “By making it interesting and proving to them they can do it, it helps to raise their self-esteem and interest level in math.”

Bishop will perform along with Tendoy Elementary students at 6:30 p.m. today for a Math Night.

Fifth grade student Quinci Shelley is acting as Bishop’s assistant during the show and said she can’t wait to perform for other students.

“I think it’s cool and it’s a good opportunity for us,” she said. “Some people don’t like math, but when they see this show it sparks their interest.”

Fifth grade student Brant Leo will lead the audience in applause, but said working with Bishop has been great because he’s learned new things.

“He’s helping students to improve their math by using cool tricks,” he said.

“Bob Bishop is a creative and a genius at making math fun. “

“By making math fun, students will learn to enjoy it more and it will give them a sense of pride as they figure out difficult problems,” he said.


“This has been the most energizing seminar I have ever attended in 37 years as a teacher. The book is absolutely awesome and every page is a true gem. I’ve been feeling very burned out but now I feel that I can do my best again. I wish all my administrators and teachers could benefit from Bob’s energy and message. Thank you for letting me see that there are still educators who believe in children as people and not as numbers on a chart. I have decided not to retire!”
Diena Hurtado Teacher, Anaheim, California
“Bob has a unique way on engaging his audience- whether they are children or adults. They are captivated by his humor, his intelligence, and gentle manner. Bob teaches in such a way that the participants don’t even realize they are being challenged and taught something at the same time. I would attend any workshop or class Bob taught, knowing that I will come away with more skills and knowledge than when I walked in– and have fun while doing it!”
Sue March 6th grade Cynthia Mann Elementary
“When Bob Bishop teachers he is articulate, expressive, and engages the learner in the adventure and discovery of learning. Young or old, Bob Bishop prompts the learner into new territory where learning is once again, fun, worthwhile, relevant, and meaningful.”
Scott Ziemer Teacher/Counselor
“The exposure to the wit and wisdom of Bob Bishop has indelibly impressed upon me his dedication to his students and effective teaching, his commitment to include humor in his presentations and personal interactions, and his personal high standards of achievement for himself and his students. Observing Bob will stimulate recollections of Socrates and Aristotle-Socrates for his incessant use of questions, and Aristotle for his demand for evidence for student opinions.”
Larry Rogien Education Dept. Head Boise State University
“Bob Bishop’s special skills as an educator, creative teacher, author, curriculum developer and professional magician put everything he teaches into sharp focus. His research abilities, creative style, high energy deliveries, practical applications and humor make him a sought-after presenter. This mixture of experience as a magician and educator makes his presentations a unique blend of entertainment and sound pedagogy. When you watch Bob, it is obvious that his desire goes beyond entertainment and instruction. Watching him work with a group of students, mixing magic and mathematics, is to be amazed at his ability to completely involve a very difficult audience. Nick Johnson Middle school teacher/ President of Math-Explosion
“Bob Bishop, math wizard extraordinaire, presented his hallmark math antics, games, and puzzles before parents and students at our first family math night. The cafetorium was packed with kids having fun with numbers. We gave Bob and the event a 10. The kids loved the wizard and so did we!”
Debbie Hertzog PTA President Seven Oaks Elementary
“Fantastic! Captivating! Challenging! Thorough! Creative! Very Knowledgeable! Humorous! Engaging! Committed! Gifted and talented teacher. Bob Bishop is a master teacher who makes learning come alive for his students. He can take any topic and present it in a way that allows new insights. Prepare to be both challenged and entertained.”
Cheryl Richardson Hillcrest GATE Center
“Bob’s fast paced yet calm presentations sparkle with wit and humor. His years of classroom experience and connection with children are reflected in examples to which every teacher relates. He applies his in-depth knowledge of brain-based learning in his classroom and in his presentations. Bob is a unique presenter. You will remember this presentation and use the material in it.”
Rita Hoffman, Gifted Program Supervisor, Boise School District
“Bob is energizing, motivating and …fun!!!! He makes you think, analyze, debate, and enjoy all at the same time. A session with Mr. Bishop is always worth attending because you never leave ‘empty minded’.”
Linda Stokes GATE teacher Collister Elementary School
“Bob Bishop is an amazing educator! He brilliantly enriches the lives of all children and freely gives of his time. He engages all learners in exciting, stimulating, and challenging activities that motivates, enriches, and develops their love of learning.”
Jaci Guilford 4th grade teacher

The Magic of the Movie, Gravity

3 10 2013

Published: September 30, 2013

MIAMI – In the opening sequence of “Gravity,” Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play two astronauts conducting some repairs on the Hubble telescope orbiting Earth when disaster strikes, sending her hurtling through space, untethered, floating farther and farther away until she’s just another tiny white light in the cosmos.

The scene neatly sets up all the elements of the remarkable film that follows. There is no sound in space, so when the telescope explodes silently, it takes a few seconds for your eyes to catch up and realize what’s happening, because your ears can’t help you process what’s happening. The camera floats weightlessly the way the astronauts do, like magic, occasionally pulling in for a close-up of Bullock’s face, somehow going through the glass of her helmet to show us her eyes, then back out again. And much of the startling sequence unfolds in one single, uninterrupted shot that lasts, what, 10 minutes? Fifteen? Twenty?

Director Alfonso Cuaron isn’t telling.

“I honestly don’t know the exact length,” Cuaron says via telephone from Los Angeles. “We weren’t trying to compete in the Olympics of long shots. We didn’t want the shot to call attention to itself. Otherwise it becomes the goal of the scene – it becomes what I call a ‘Look, Ma, no hands!’ kind of shot. We’re just doing stuff that makes sense for our narrative. Your shots are part of your movie’s language. And the language of this movie is to make you feel like you’re floating up in space with the characters.”

“Gravity,” which opens Friday, is the culmination of a process that began nearly five years ago when Cuaron’s son Jonas asked him to read a script he had written called “Desierto” (“Desert”), about two illegal immigrants battling the elements while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cuaron, who hadn’t directed a movie since 2006’s dystopian sci-fi adventure “Children of Men,” was invigorated by the focus and intensity of the screenplay (which Jonas is soon to direct himself, starring Gael Garcia Bernal).

“I really didn’t have that many notes to give him about his script,” Cuaron, 52, says. “Instead, I asked him if he would write something else like it with me. He kind of took me out of a chest, dusted me off and reawakened my desire to make films. We wanted to do something along the lines of ‘Desierto’ – something that was tense and suspenseful from the start of the film to the end, sprinkled with thematic elements that are conveyed through visual metaphors instead of dialogue. And then we started talking about the metaphorical possibilities of space.”

Although the finished screenplay for “Gravity” was 90 pages, the movie is refreshingly light on dialogue, most of it consisting of playful banter between Clooney, Bullock and the NASA command center – at least until their situation becomes dire, and then the joking stops.

But in order to make the ambitious movie he envisioned in his head, Cuaron first needed to find out if it was even possible.

“Every film is like a free-fall,” he says. “You just have to jump and hope that your parachute will open. We spent a lot of time developing the technology to shoot this movie, and we didn’t know if it was going to work until deep in the process. It was a big unknown, and we didn’t have a safety net.”


Producer David Heyman, who collaborated with Cuaron on 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” admits that Warner Bros. took a leap of faith when they green-lighted the $80 million project.

“To give them credit, they’ve always been a filmmakers’ studio,” Heyman says. “Relationships with directors are key to them, which is why they’ve worked so often with Clint Eastwood or Christopher Nolan or now Ben Affleck. Alfonso is not a good director: He’s a great director, and I think they embraced his vision, which was very clear. There was a thriller aspect, an adventure aspect and then on top of everything this emotionally rich story about a woman who’s given up on life and must decide whether to float off into the void or fight her way back down to Earth.”


“Gravity’s” development process was so lengthy that several actors circled the project, including Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey Jr., but then had scheduling conflicts. When the filmmakers finally had a concrete starting date, Bullock and Clooney landed the roles, and the parts were slightly rewritten for them.

“After my first conversation with Sandra, it was clear to me that she was the only one who could star in this film,” Cuaron says. “She had read the script and after three hours of talking, she had never one mentioned space or technology. She was only interested in the emotional journey of her character.”

Once Bullock signed on, she began to research the technical aspects of her role. Unlike most sci-fi films set in outer space, “Gravity” tries to adhere to the laws of science whenever possible.

Dr. Catherine “Cady” Coleman, a NASA astronaut who has logged more than 4,000 hours in space, had just watched “The Blind Side” aboard the International Space Station when she received a call from Bullock, who wanted to pick her brain.

“She asked a lot about how you move around up in space,” Coleman says. “How much you would use your hands and feet; the difference between being inside and outside a station; whether you float or fly. We also talked about the feeling of being one of just a few people living in a space station, doing work that is really important and can’t be done from the ground, being alone up there.”

Advancements in computer-generated imagery have made it possible for filmmakers to be able to put on screen whatever they can imagine. But “Gravity” is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in the way it raises the bar on visual effects, using new and existing technology in ways you’ve never seen before in movies. No matter how hard you look, you can’t find the seams.

Combined with the film’s superb 3-D effects, the illusion of being in space is so realistic that you come out of the theater not wanting to know how it was done.

“I’m really glad you’re saying that,” Cuaron says. “I would love for audiences to go see the film and experience it for themselves. Later on, after people have seen it, I’ll be happy to talk about how we did it. But in principle, it’s like going to see David Copperfield perform. You don’t want to know the behind-the-scenes stuff in advance. You want to enjoy the spectacle and the conceptual poetry of the act. And part of the spectacle is not knowing how he did it.”


“Gravity” is being marketed as a sensory experience instead of a science-fiction picture, and for once the advertising is honest. Although there is plenty in the film to chew and digest (including a bound-to-be-controversial dream sequence, and another shot that encapsulates Darwin’s theory of evolution in 60 seconds), the main attraction is the ride – the kind of did-you-see-that? thrills that Cuaron believes are too often lacking in Hollywood pictures.

“I was weaned on movie-movies – stuff like ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,'” he says. “Those were really fun, exciting movies, but they were also substantial. They weren’t hollow spectacles. Comic-book movies started out as these great films that liberated these amazing characters from the basements of geeks and unleashed them to the mainstream culture. They were almost subversive.

“But now comic-book movies are becoming the Darth Vader of cinema. You can’t generalize them, but a lot are practically parodies of themselves. The first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie was a very, very happy surprise. But those are rare. In many ways, I was channeling Buster Keaton when we made ‘Gravity’ – the single through-line story in which there is a lot of humanity and emotion, but everything is conveyed through physical action. We just wanted to put on a really good show.”

And how does he know he succeeded?

“I didn’t, until just a few weeks ago, when we premiered it at Venice!” he says, laughing. “But people there seemed to like it. So we’ll see.”

Mr. X and Wild Thing

27 08 2013


The Math Magician Expand your brain with Mr. X!!

27 08 2013
Bob Bishop is internationally known as the Math Magician. He visits many school each year to share the wonder of math. He has traveled from Boston to Los Angeles to Taiwan amazing and motivating teachers and students.Appearing as Mister X (The Illusionist), The Math Magician, Einstein, or even the Zany Dr. Lamebrain, he teaches teachers with keynotes and workshops and gives students long remembered workshops and assemblies. His classroom experience and training in brain-based education gives him unique insight into the vital need for quality math education to keep our country on the innovative edge.Bob Bishop, creator of Odyssey Learning Adventures, has loved math, games, and puzzles since he was a child. He shares from his passion to motivate students to love math. He has been a classroom teacher for Elementary, High School and Middle school for over 20 years.

Bob’s commitment and passion for math are obvious as he teaches. Bob’s programs are fun, dynamic and intellectually engaging.

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Mr. X, The Math Magician

27 08 2013
Mr. X, The Math Magician, is now booking school family math nights for the Fall and Winter. Bob Bishop is internationally known as America’s Math Magician. He visits many school each year to share the wonder of math. He has traveled from Boston to Los Angeles to Taiwan amazing and motivating teachers and students.
Photo: Mr. X, The Math Magician, is now booking school family math nights for the Fall and Winter. Bob Bishop is internationally known as America's Math Magician. He visits many school each year to share the wonder of math. He has traveled from Boston to Los Angeles to Taiwan amazing and motivating teachers and students.