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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Convention

The joint SAM/IBM convention is planned for 2008 in New Orleans. I can't help but wonder if there will be a change of plans, owings to the devastating hurricane. Someone involved in planning told me that they already signed contracts with the hotel. But is the hotel even there anymore?

Given the situation, it's a rather minor concern, but I couldn't help but wonder.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Before You Speak...

I wish I could make some crazy post involving automatic weapons, bicycle cards, and hot girls. I came up empty, but here's something else.

I got hired to do a birthday show this weekend. I called the mom and informed her of the duration of my act (30 mins.) and the price. She accepted and everything was fine. But then I totally screwed things up by asking:

"Is that an acceptable amount of time, or did you want more?"

I didn't even realize that I said it. I have never asked this question before, and I have no clue why I said it. I guess I was trying to be polite, but nonetheless, it just flew out of my mouth.

The mother, of course, jumped at the opportunity to have me babysit for longer. She asked me to do an extra fifteen minutes, making it a 45 minute show.

Before I even processed her words, I blurted out and agreed. Once again, I have no clue why. My brain must have been on autopilot. And no, there weren't any drugs or alcohol involved.

I raised the price by a nominal amount, nowhere near enough to make it worth my while. Autopilot again.

After I hung up, I realized that there was no way that I was going to effectively entertain a bunch of 10-11 year old kids for three quarters of an hour. I'm not a professional entertainer and I don't have a huge warehouse full of tricks.

Even if I did have those things, it still wouldn't be humanly possible. Kids' attention spans are an immutable fact of the universe, like protons and electrons, or relativity.

I got hold of the mom back a few days later, and offered to do balloon animals or games before the actual show. No luck. She insisted on 45 minutes of straight magic. And it wasn't like I could back out of the agreement.

I got over my denial and dug deeper into my magic box, finding a few suitable things. I also went to the magic shop, so conveniently close, and asked the owner for advice. He was nice enough to reccomend some tricks and strategies for managing the kids.

Still, a 45-minute kids show is a dangerous thing. It stretches a kid's attention span to a dangerous point, where it's liable to snap and destroy everything in sight. Including my fragile reputation as a birthday entertainer in this town.

This entire week, I'm training hard to prepare myself. I wake up at 6:00 A.M. and do 500 false transfers with a sponge ball. Then I practice cutting rope for 3 hours, with a buddy as a spotter, of course. I spend the rest of the day practicing self-defense, just in case the kids try to pull any crazy Lord-of-the-Flies shit on me.

In all seriousness though, I've learned my lesson. From now on, when I call someone to negotiate a show, I'll have a script that I read from. In front of me. Carefully. No more autopilot.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Autographs

Some of my collection:

The Crown Jewel:
Criss Angel a.k.a The Shirtless Guy on A&E

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Not anybody famous. Just three of the most beautiful, enthusiastic (and Israeli) girls that I've ever performed for.

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Rocco a.k.a. The Guy Who Invented D'lite

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Master Lee, my favorite street perfomer

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Jamy Ian Swiss

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Tom Ogden, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Magic

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ay Ay Ay, Muy Caliente!

Stallion is a world class magician, mentalist, ice dancer and escape artist. He has left a trail of spellbound victims across the United States and Europe.

Make sure to check out the team profiles.

Link

(Courtesy of SomethingAwful.com)

We Are the Magic Mafia

The performance at the new-student party went well. It was a small, outgoing group of people and I enjoyed entertaining them.

There were a few things I could have done better. My timing, for one. I started performing about 40 minutes into the party. Unfortunately, at this point many of the students started to leave. I totally overestimated their attention span for the party.

I didn't start earlier because I thought the students would want some time to mingle. I expected that after 40 minutes, they would start to feel somewhat familiar with each other, making them more receptive to the magic. I didn't want to be the loud and energetic performer who forces his way into a group of quiet, nervous college freshmen who don't even know each other, let alone their class schedule.

Well, my psychology was off. Most of the students came just for the food. How predictable. What good is a flawless turnover pass when you're no good at anticipating the obvious?

I spent most of the evening performing for upperclassmen and grad-students. Maybe I discovered an inversely proportional relationship between the amount of time a college student spends at a party, and their level of enthusiasm for magic. You can read about it in next month's issue of Scientific American.

But I refuse to let a bunch of snack-crazy teenagers drown this post in negativity. Now let's look on the brighter side.

Every time I go out to perform, I am amazed at how much I can learn from every spectator. I'm not talking about timing sleights or handling hecklers. I mean a spectator's actual advice or insight, expressed explicitly. In less than two hours, people had told me

  • a ridiculously cool way to hand out a business card in the context of a trick I performed
  • several brilliant one-liners
  • insight into the way spectators view the magicians
The last one was definately the best. Someone asked me how a certain David Blaine trick was done. I declined to tell him, and he wanted to know why. I gave a simple explanation, mentioning that magicians take 'an oath' not to reveal any secrets. This led to a light-hearted conversation on the similarities between magic and the Mafia.

"Did you have to whack a few people to learn those tricks?" he asked.

That one line made the entire performance worth my while.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Techno-Babble

Some changes I made to the blog:

Blogroll: Removed MagicWhack
Added MagicCentric
Added MagicDen

Added an e-mail address to the profile.

Replaced the hit-counter at the bottom of the page.

New ingredients, same great taste.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Criss, Put Your Shirt Back On

One step forward, two steps back. That's what I think each time I watch a new episode of Mindfreak.

The tricks and stunts themselves are beyond fascinating. But with every episode, I become less and less enamored of Criss himself.

He just gets more and more cocky each week. A little cockiness is fine, but Criss' attitude goes beyond cockiness. It's arrogant. And I find it, well, repulsive.

Enough with the posturing and gratuitous shirt tearing. I heard the show is losing money. Could it be from all the clothing that gets mercilessly shredded each week?

Magicians need to make a stand. Soon enough, spectators will be asking us to tear our shirts off after each trick. Well, the attractive magicians at least. And most magicians aren't really that good looking. Maybe like 10 percent. Maybe closer to 8.5. Statistically, though...

Sorry, I got off track. But the bottom line is that magicians spend enough money on magic as it is. We simply cannot tolerate the added financial burden that Angel's shirt-tearing will eventually inflict upon us.

But I have a solution.

Prepare yourselves for...


O.K.A.S.O.

or

Operation Keep Angel's Shirt On

The commandos above were among the few able to pass our rigorous selection process. In their last mission, they forced David Blaine out of a box hanging over a river. It was a daring, midnight raid. We've recently reactivated them do deal with this new, sinister threat.

They are all in prime physical condition with experience in Navy Seals, Delta Force, and elite international counter-terrorist units.

The team will surveil Criss Angel 24/7, from a safe distance. He will never be aware of their presence. When Criss begins to film the show, the team will go on high alert. Should Angel attempt to remove any item of his clothing, a warning shot will be fired. If this fails, they will procede to use non-lethal tranquilizer darts until the situation is neutralized.

If repeated attempts at deterrence prove ineffective, the team will 'paint' Angel with a targeting laser. A slealth bomber will proceed to eliminate him with a hydrogen bomb.

Just don't tell anyone. Officially, the operation is classified.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Opportunities

Several exciting things are happening in the next few weeks.

I live near a major University and classes are starting in a few days. The campus Chabad House (Jewish outreach organization) asked me to entertain at their new-student-dinner, later this week. They're expecting close to fifty people. I'm not getting paid, but it will be good experience. And I'll get to perform for people my age, which will be nice.

Also, the local S.A.M. and I.B.M. are putting on a charity benefit show. It's being promoting heavily all over town (radio, TV, etc.). I'm performing there as well.

My recent experiences with close-up magic have been overwhelmingly positive. I'm looking forward to both performances and am confident that I can handle whatever challenges they'll pose.

Hoo-Rah!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Obi-Wan, The Presbyterians Have Spoken

Not magic related, but funny as hell. (SFW)

(Link)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Listen to Your Elders

So you're finishing school soon, and you'd like to become a professional magician. You want to have a career that you can fall back on, but what? Well, why not take advice from a 17 year old that you met on the Internet?

You can't make this stuff up. Check out the second reply on this Cafe post, authored by "Kyle the Great."

As much as I'd love to tear him apart, I think his post speaks for itself. Just another example of what happens when you give a voice to people who have no business wielding one. (Thanks Sarc. Mag.)

Besides, Why would you want to take any kind of advice from someone who dresses like this?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Deletion

My hard drive is now 10 gigabytes lighter. I took a big step and deleted all of the pirated magic stuff that I've accumulated over nearly a year.

There were several hundred books, lecture notes, essays, and trick instructions. I also had a dozen full-length videos, not including all the ones that were burnt to CD. Those will be thrown out. Basically, if you can name a magician, I had a pirated copy of his material.

Why the sudden change in heart? The law enforcement community was not involved. Sudden onset of conscience was more like it. It's interesting the way things played out.

I downloaded a pirated copy of Michael Close's "Workers" series. As I read through the e-book, I came to realize the incredible amount of time, thought, and energy that went into it. I felt bad about taking advantage of it at absolutely no cost to me. (For some reason, this never occured to me with all of the other crap I downloaded.) There was also an essay on ethics in "Workers" that helped change my way of looking at things.

I spent the next few hours removing the offending contraband from my hard-drive, which took me a ridiculously long time. I could have done it in five minutes, since everything was meticulously organized by author, type of magic, and genre of electronic media. I could have deleted everything in a few keystrokes.

Instead I spent the better part of three-and-a-half-hours, meticulously reading every PDF and watching every movie before I deleted it. It was weird how difficult it was to say 'goodbye' to everything I had accumulated. But I'm glad I did it, because I think all the magi-piracy made me a poorer magician.

Having thousands of magic tricks available without any investment on my part cheapened their value. I learned dozens of tricks without getting good at any of them. Piracy blurred the line between knowing secrets and being a good magician.

It also cheapened the value of all the books I obtained legally. After all, who cares about learning Ammar's cups and balls when you have forty other variations instantly accessible on your computer?

But all that is now behind me. My hard drive is unclogged and I can now breathe freely. In the immortal words of who the hell knows, "Hoo-Rah!."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Brooks' Long Lost Twin?

I have a confession to make. Occasionally I visit the MagicCafe and make a post. Yes, the guy who runs the site is an overbearing and self-important jerk, to say the least. But a small minority of Cafe members actually offer helpful advice.

Most, however, are idiots. Like Ross MacRae. I made a post on the Cafe asking how to deal with kids who interrupt me with irrelevant stories or comments.

Ross, the rotund fountain of wisdom, had this to offer.
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So ... you want an audience of little robots sitting reverently and silently while "wonderful you" performs his art? Get a TV show!

Entertainment is never "me to you exclusively." You are there to have an interaction with the audience even if their input consists only of applause and the occasional gasp of astonishment. And when with children, it's never limited to that.

I can't say that your attitude as expressed is very likely to come across well to a children's audience (or, for that matter, with most adult audiences.) It may be what you want, but the disrespect simply drips from it. You're not there to be worshiped, you're there to entertain, and that means to SERVE - that's why entertainers bow to audiences, not the other way around.

True, you can't let idle conversation take over the show. But all of the comments you cited could be handled much better with an "Oh, really? How many people have grandpas who are magicians? That's a lot of you, I guess I'm going to have to try really hard to be better than a grandpa!"
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I am quite impressed. He managed to completely ignore the meaning of my question, and compose a shockingly irrelevant reply. That skill is limited to like, 90% of MagicCafe members.

I indicate a desire to have my audience's attention. Ross MacMoron thinks I want to be "worshipped" and turn the kids into "little robots sitting reverently and silently." What a vapid, stupid, condescendingly insecure fucker.

P.S.
His poorly designed website has a video of Ross inflicting himself on unfortunate audiences. It's no coincidence that volunteers' faces are blurred out and pixellated? Would you want to associate yourself with this tool?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Thoughts on The Camp Performance

Well, I did the show.

I have never performed for so many kids (45) before, and I didn't feel as 'in charge' as I usually do. Still, a majority of the kids enjoyed the magic and were enthusiastic. It makes me so happy when these kids shout down the hecklers.

Something interesting happened with the magic coloring book. I have considered eliminating it from my repertoire; it's a cliche prop that is included in many beginner magic sets. I was apprehensive about bringing it to the camp show, but I was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I took it out, one girl exclaimed "Oh, I love this trick!" Quite a few other kids expressed their agreement.

The tricks themselves went off without a hitch, but I had some difficulty managing the audience. A few kids would constantly interject about how "my grandpa does magic" or "once a magician did (fill in the blank.)" I don't think they weren't doing it out of rudeness, they just were over-eager to tell me their stories.

There were other problems, although minor. I was hampered by my lack of a proper prop case. I had to lay everything out on a chair next to me, and those got tossed in a cardboard box when I was finished them. It was awkward, difficult, and did not feel or look professional. I plan to buy a nice case ASAP.

I also had trouble calming down the kids who wanted to volunteer, but weren't chosen. I promised a young girl that she could help with the next trick. I didn't even realize what I did, I just said it to get her off my back. When it came time for the next trick, I specifically picked someone who I needed, but the girl just ran right up and joined him. What was I gonna do, tell her to go sit back down?


Having 2 volunteers made it harder for me to do the trick, and neither of them had much to do. It was a foolish mistake.

But I think the show went pretty well. I haven't done a paid kids show for months, and things could have gone a lot worse. Also, one of the kids wants me to do her birthday party, and I'm putting on another show for the camp this week. It's good experience.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My New Expense Account

This magic thing at camp is working out really well.

I asked the camp director if she'd be interested in having me do regular performances for the kids. It would probably be 3-4 times a week, for between 10 and 20 minutes. I was really going out on a limb, but she was interested in paying me for it.

The extra cash will be nice. I have most of the props I need, but I might take the opportunity to buy some new stuff from the magic store. This is not something I do very often, so I'm kinda excited about it.

I'll let you all know how it works out.

Was I Really THAT Good?

I don't usually make two posts in the same day, but something bizarre happened today. Actually yesterday, since I'm making a late post, but what the hell.

I took a job as a camp counselor at a local camp. I was doing magic with cards, coins, pens, and whatever I could get my hands on. And that was just the first day. I have no idea how I'm going to survive two weeks with 40 kids constantly begging me to perform.

All of my campers think I have a photographic memory because I can dead cut to the four aces, or any card named. Actually, I'm just a scam-artist who's really good at culling, but that's irrelevant.

Now I'll get to the point. Two kids asked me if I am "really magic," if I really do have "powers." One was probably 11 years old, the other close to 13. Their question totally took me by surprise. (I wasn't even doing mentalism, just sleight of hand). I never expect a question like that from someone older that 7 years old.

I had no clue how to react. After some thought, I said "It's not real magic, but it's what real magic would look like." (I have no clue who's line this is, but I've heard it somewhere.)

Obviously, the easy answer would have been "No," but I thought that would've been too blunt. Not in keeping with the "actor playing the part of a magician" stuff that we abide by.

I'm still not sure I answered adequately. How would you have handled the question?

While I'm waiting for your answers, I'll be coming up with new ways to scam my campers into believing in my amazing memory powers.

Buy This Bike!

I recently bought "A Bicycle Built for Five," a wonderful packet trick that defies the genre.

You show five jokers. One joker, the leader, is set face down. One by one, the other jokers turn face down to match the leader. Then you turn the jokers over to reveal that they have disappeared. There are only empty bicycles on the cards. It's a weird, beautiful thing.

You turn the leader joker over, all five jokers are balancing on one bicycle. Or, if you prefer it, sitting around a table drinking beer.

Although it's not self-working, it's really not very difficult. The cards are well made and I expect them to last a long time. And the pictures of the empty bicycles and groups of jokers are quite amusing.

The trick is only $15, which is quite reasonable,considering that it's imported from Japan.

I've been having a blast with a Bicycle Built for Five, and I wholeheartedly reccomend it to you.