Thoughts on products, performance, and doublethink in the magic community.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

So Long

Magic Whack has decided to call it quits. It's a shame, his blog was brutally honest and always always enjoyable to read. Fortunately, I managed to mirror the entire site before it went down. Interestingly enough, the program I used also mirrored every site that was on Whackster's blogroll. A piece of magic blogging history, I guess.

It's all in an 8mb folder that can be opened with any browser. If anyone can host the file, please let me know in the comments section. I have no experience with this sort of thing, so I'd need some assistance. Thanks.

R.I.P. Magic Whack.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

My Contribution

There's been a lot of talk at Pagliacci and Andster's blog about using magic to pick up girls. While I've never gone out with strictly this purpose in mind, I frequently use magic to flirt with attractive girls or let them know what I think about them. Although I haven't thought about magic and girls as deeply as Pagliacci and Andster have, I thought I'd share my advice/experience on the subject.

Never make a 'cold' approach with tricks. I always chat for a few minutes before I even mention the fact that I do magic. In my experience, the best tricks involve
a) visual magic with cards
b) mentalism

My favorite trick to perform for girls would definitely be Paul Harris' Backlash. It shows off your skill, it's an easy and 'intimate' effect, and it leaves the girl with a fascinating object to remember you by.

For me, the easiest type of magic to pick up girls with is what Pagliacci called "Magic others have initiated, magic that makes me the center of attention, visual magic, up the ante for future behavior." Often, when I'm performing at a bar or a party, I'll get a large group going pretty quickly, and a few attractive girls will work their way in. Once I notice them, I get them involved and start to flirt a little bit. I guess this would be the best situation to start practicing picking up girls with magic. Or 'magical seduction.' Or whatever you want to call it.

In my experience, magic works best as a way to flirt with a girl you're interested in, and show her how interesting/funny/mysterious you are. But don't use the magic to draw attention to yourself and then fumble with the actual 'pick-up.' A killer handling of the sponge balls will get you nowhere if you do nothing else to distinguish yourself from the other losers that approach girls. The magic is important as a means to an end, but every other part of your interaction with the girl is just as critical. This guy is an excellent source on that sort of thing.

That being said, here's my contribution to the list of effects that can be used to pick-up women...


This trick works best as a closer, after you've picked your 'target' and have been flirting with her for your entire performance. You need a duplicate Ace of Hearts. Draw an "I" above the heart, and a "U" below. You can also draw an arrow through the heart if you like.

Set this duplicate on top of a regular Ace of Hearts, and put the two cards on top of the deck. Do a double lift and then an Erdnase change. Reap the rewards, you sly devil, you.

If you like, you can set the Ace and the duplicate up to do a twirl, snap, or shapeshifter change. It's all personal preference. Just don't screw up or you'll look like an idiot.

The trick was taught to me by a guy named Dominic at Tannen's Magic Camp. I can't remember his last name. If this trick works and you run into him, throw a few hundred dollar bills at his feet. I know I'm indebted.

;-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Expensive Cups

Magicians have a problem with overspending when it comes to props. The problem is particularly bad when it comes to the cups and balls. Many sets cost hundreds of dollars, with the most expensive I've seen being $1275.

Ads for expensive cups brag about the "hand-made," "brushed hard-nickel finish," "engraved gold plated silver," "18k gold leaf," etc. This is silly. The cup's purpose is to be a receptable for a small round object. Vernon often performed with plastic cups that had napkins wrapped around them, and grapes. He didn't need a gold-plated, diamond encrusted, precision weighted piece of junk. Neither does anyone else. But many magicians seem to have more money than sense.

It also annoys me that many of the expensive cups are 'individually numbered,' as if they're some sort of collector's item. What a stupid thing to collect.

And working with fancy cups probably distracts spectators from the actual trick. That is, in the rare event that you have their attention in the first place. Also, if I spent $1275 on a set of cups, I would be so reluctant to let them out of my sight that I would never use them. They're not practical.

Use a cheap $20 aluminum set and the money you save can be put to better use buying Card College, Art of Astonishment, Stars of Magic, Mark Wilson's Guide, The Annotated Magic of Slydini, Revolutionary Card Technique, the Art of Close-up Magic, Expert at the Card Table, Royal Road, and Apocalypse. Or two month's rent.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice coins across with my 1898 uncirculated $20 gold pieces.

P.S.
Check out this excellent piece on the cups and balls at the Magic Whack.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I Only Cheet a Leetle

Today I bought "Malini and his Magic" by Dai Vernon. Max Malini is one of the most amazing characters that I've come across in magic. His strong accent, fancy dress, and stage presence must have made him a force to behold. I was born in the wrong generation; I only wish I could have seen him perform.

Malini performed for four presidents, John D. Rockefeller, and most of the royalty of Europe, among others. My expectations aren't that high, but Malini was a marvelous performer and I expect to learn much from the book.

Aside from Malini's talent at misdirection, I most admire his ability to make nearly all of his magic seem impromptu. He shunned large props and fancy equipment, working miracles with borrowed coins, hats, glasses, or whatever happened to be around. I remember reading in another book that a hotel manager (I think) booked Malini, and was distraught when Malini arrived without showgirls, tigers, or large boxes. "I am the show," he reassured the man.

Wise words from one of the great figures of magic.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Everything Old is New Again

Most hobbyist magicians learn their material from a small number of professionals. Paul Harris, Jay Sankey, Michael Ammar, Oz Pearlman, Bill Malone, and Roberto Giobbi. Perhaps you disagree with the names I’ve mentioned. But regardless of specifics, many magicians do own a limited group of similar books and videos.

I used to fit into that category, but I’ve come to a realization in the last few months. Most of the stuff that I bought, or considered buying, was only the tip of a proverbial iceberg.

I’ve discovered hundreds of magicians who authored books far better than anything that’s released today.

These magicians, who are no longer with us, understood magic on level that’s simply inaccessible to most of us. They were people who studied magic, not learned it or performed it.. I'm talking about people like Ed Marlo, Don Alan, Slydini, Ross Bertram, Bert Allerton, Dai Vernon, John Scarne, and Malini.

Many magicians have never heard of these people. It's a shame that they ignore the wealth of knowledge available to them, opting instead to buy the newest crap from Penguin.

I've pretty much stopped buying the 'latest and greatest' things that come out. I’m concentrating on older books, many of which are difficult to find or out of print. And I've learned some amazing things. I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to discover them, as they’ve been hiding in front of me since I got into magic seven years ago. I think that I'm becoming better as a performer. Getting more value for my money is also nice.

In the last few weeks, I've bought The Card Magic of LePaul, a bunch of old Lorayane stuff, and the Stars of Magic collection. I expect my library to grow. I’ve also been reading some old books that I’ve had for a while but never really paid much attention too. Books by people like Johnny Benzais, Don Alan, and Jean Hugard.

I really wish that these kinds of books would get more attention from magicians. Sadly, many people are under the impression that magic began in the nineties. In reality, there is far more worth reading and studying. Do yourself a favor and go buy some of it.

Perhaps you wonder what spurred my interest in older books. It’s an interesting story, actually. The magic shop closest to me went out of business a few months ago. I began going to another shop, Denny and Lee’s, which carries a staggering number of older books, pamphlets, and lecture notes. Online stores like Penguin don't carry these items because they don't sell as well and don’t make as much profit. For one reason or another, most real magic shops decline as well. Thankfully, Denny does not.

Denny introduced me to a wealth of knowledge that I never new existed. Since then, I've been stopping in on a regular basis, buying a book or two, and learning about magicians past. Denny knew many of them personally, which makes my visits to the shop even more enjoyable.

If you're in Maryland, I recommend stopping in Denny's shop. You won’t regret it.

Back

I apologize for the recent dearth of posts. Posts should be more regular from now on - I'm aiming for 2-3 times a week.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Criss Angel

Magic on TV has floundered recently. Granted, there's no dearth of shows, as evidenced by T.H.E.M., Mondo Magic, and Alain Nu. Still, it's been years since someone like David Blaine has came along and seized the public's attention. Although I have no clue whether this is the fault of magicians or the entertainment industry, I am optimistic about the future. Why, you ask?

Well, Criss Angel has a new TV special coming up, and my expectations are high. I find Angel's style a welcome change from the "Pick a card, got it, got it, okay, watch, watch," style that characterized the street magic craze.

The show will appeal to people who normally change the channel when magic comes on. "Mindfreak" is different and unusual, and it looks like Angel and A&E are doing a good job of promoting it.

On a related note, I'd like to mention that I met Angel during the summer at Tannen's Magic Camp. He was a very nice guy, extremely down to earth. He offered me some great advice on creativity and performance.

This is one TV show that I'm not gonna miss.

Juan Tamariz

Today, I watched a video of Juan Tamariz performing. The guy is funny and engaging, and he definately knows his stuff. But he scares me. Something about his shriek or scream or whatever it is indicates that he definately has a few screws loose.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Most Popular Magic Site in the World

1244695. That's how many hits this guy claims his site has received.

Classifying this as "inflating your hit counter" would be an understatement. This is more of a "lying through your teeth" type of thing. What a joke.

The hit counter is at the bottom of this wildly popular magic site.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Goals

Here's what I'd like to accomplish in magic this summer.

  • Get a job performing magic in a restaurant.
  • Do paid shows (i.e. private parties or Bar Mitzvahs) on a semi-regular basis.
  • Come up with a fully new and original trick, practice it obsessively, and add it to my repertoire.
  • Join an I.B.M. or S.A.M. Ring.
  • Attend one magic convention.
  • Reduce the number of tricks I perform, while simultaneously making the ones I keep more entertaining.
  • Build a workable model of Paul Harris' "House Guest," Art of Astonishment Vol. 1., Pg. 305. The basic effect is that sounds of glasses clinking, music, laughter. etc. start to come from a card box. You remove the deck, and inside the deck is an insanely detailed 3-d mini diorama of a party. We're talking people, furniture, carpet, chandeliers, etc. This is after a full routine with the deck. I have no clue how I'm gonna make it work, but I'm gonna try.

It's an ambitious set of goals, but If I accomplish even 2 or 3, I'll be happy. After all, as someone once said, "Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm."

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Making a Coincidence Something More...

I'm really starting to enjoy card tricks that rely on nothing more than probability and a little bit of luck. These type of things don't always work, so I only attempt one at each performance. Sometimes, I get really lucky and have a miracle. But when I fail, I can make it make funny as hell.

Some tricks that fall under this category are:

  • Having a spectator call a friend, instructing them each to name a card simultaneously, and the named cards are identical.
  • Having someone merely think of card, which you proceed to pull out of your wallet - without any 'Off By One' lunacy.
One could attempt these things with nothing more than blind luck, but there are certain subtle steps that can and should be taken to increase the possibility of sucess. Dai Vernon's 'The Trick That Cannot Be Explained' is a perfect example. (See Vernon's More Inner Secrets of Card Magic)

I recently had an absolutely fantastic experience with "The Trick That Cannot Be Explained."

In between tricks, while I was talking with people and they were ignoring my hands, I secretly turned a card over. I asked a lady to think of a card. She spread the deck and the card was face up.

Another guy then asked if I could do it to him. The odds weren't great, but I acted confident and in control because that's how you pull these things off. The guy named the 2 of clubs. I turned the deck over, and he saw the 2 of Clubs right there on the bottom of the deck.

I think it was one of the most powerful tricks I've ever performed. I've decided to make "The Trick that Cannot Be Explained" a regular in every extended performance.

(If you're interested in such effects, Derren Brown's "Pure Effect" has an entire chapter on it. The rest of the book is excellent as well.)

You Never Know Who You'll Meet...

I was doing magic at a friend's graduation party and everything went really well. I expected it to be just a normal, fun performance, but then something unexpected and totally awesome happened.

I started talking with the lone adult watching, who was there with her daughter. After talking with the lady for a few minutes, I discovered that she had major connections with professional magicians around the country. She is close friends with every member of T.H.E.M., a performance group who had a television special on NBC some time ago. Many of T.H.E.M's members work with the big magicians in Vegas, like Copperfield and Lance Burton. She was also quite familiar with the Magic Castle.

The lady seemed impressed by my magic and she was kind enough to give me private contact information for the Who's Who of the magic business. I guess if I play my cards right, this could lead to making some valuable and exciting connections.

I guess who you know is just as important as what you know. Damn, this is cool!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

What the Hell Was Jean Hugard Thinking...

The guy knew his stuff, but some lines I stumbled across in "Modern Magic Manual" (pub. 1957) are just weird.

"If you want someone to do exactly as told, pick a man or woman with a fairly well rounded chin."

"Never select as a helper an individual with chubby fingers."
---
And I thought Sankey's accents were the strangest thing in magic!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Kostya Kimlat - A Review

I've been reading through Kostya Kimlat's "Card Work, Card Play" and "A Lecture Collection." Kostya is a talented close-up magician from Florida. I met him at Tannens Magic Camp last summer, and he's an incredibly nice guy with some great ideas on magic and performance. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on his published material.

In short, I love it. All of his stuff is fun to perform, something rare with most magicians' material. I also enjoyed the fact that Kostya's card magic was expressive. With his effects, the cards can represent anything from a security code to a contract with Satan. And his presentations are down to Earth. They're easy for people to understand, and they avoid such complicated, phony angles as 17th century slaves or the fall of the Roman Empire.

Almost everything requires some sleight of hand, but nothing that's overly difficult. Kostya's material is also efficient. He always works with the shortest possible path between method and effect. There are no unnecessary sleights or wasted actions. To reach this level of purity, Kostya uses a variety of new and interesting forces, switches, and culls. His work on culling is absolutely amazing, and I’ve been practicing non-stop since I bought the notes.

I particularly enjoyed "License to Steal," a trick that involves producing a spectator's license plate. Yes, you read that correctly. "Catch," an effect about security codes was also great, as was "Hallucinogenic Gaze," a stunning piece of visual magic.

Several profound essays about performance were also good.

All in all, it was one of the best magic purchases I've ever made. For $40, you get two collections of material and a companion CD with high quality video. E-mail k@kmagic.com. I highly recommend it.

You can visit Kostya's site here

Looking Ahead a Few Years...

A famous physicist once said, "Predictions are difficult, especially about the future." Still, I've been wondering what the business side of magic will look like 5, 10, even 20 years from now. How will the publishing and sale of secrets evolve?

Obviously, technology has changed a lot of things just in the past few years. Magic DVDs are relatively young. And for better or worse, the Internet brought about online shopping, Instant Downloads, and magic e-books.

Legal downloads of full DVDs are definitely a possibility. Ellusionist and Expert Magic have experimented with it, but the files are small, and I gather that download times are relatively long. Internet2, a technology currently only available to the U.S. government and universities, could make it possible to download a full DVD in mere seconds. Compare that to the hours required with most Internet connections. Companies like L & L Publishing would be able to offer DVDs for instantaneous download from their websites. Things would be different, to say the least.

I also expect a company to come along and do for magic what Apple/ITunes did for music. Apple negotiated contracts with multiple record labels and made all of the songs they obtained available on a simple and convenient program.

A magic company might negotiate with creators and publishers to make hundreds or even thousands of secrets and instructional videos available at a consistent price. Many websites offer compilations of e-books and videos (lybrary, The Learned Pig, magic-notes.com.), but I'm talking about someone offering a volume of products that would be unprecedented. This company would most likely have to avoid the touchy ethics issues that have plagued the Instant Downloads on such sites as Penguin Magic. It's a long shot, but I think it could happen.

Although I'm not an expert in computer programming or engineering, this topic certainly sparks my interest. I'd be interested to hear from anyone about their thoughts on the subject.