Gimmick It Yourself by Ben Williams

Ben was kind enough to provide me with a free review copy of his latest download.

In the present days of magic publishing – one-trick-downloads and unfinished ideas being published as highly priced e-books – it is really nice to see that Ben has published an over two-hour video download containing 5 solid pieces of magic, with additional thoughts and routines.

The underlying theme, as the title suggests, is a set of 5 effects that use simple gimmicks. Ben takes you through the general idea behind the method. We then get into the DIY portion as Ben shows you how to build the gimmicks, and finally how to use the gimmick in a routine.

The gimmicks are all simple in nature, and very easy and cheap to build, so if like me your arts-and-crafts ability is zero, don’t fear!

We start off with Off Balance with which you can impossibly suspend items like sharpies, sunglasses, forks, and they can be borrowed and handed out afterwards for immediate examination. The display is almost that of the old Broomstick Suspension illusion and the gimmick reminds me of Mark Elsdon’s iBalance however this will work for other objects.

As an aside over the past few years, for me, and the performing I want to do, I have really, really enjoyed reading Andy’s posts over at The Jerx blog. If you have never heard of this, where have you been! Andy is an anonymous writer, and writes about social magic and performing as an amateur, and the opportunities that affords. The reason I mention this here, is that one of the performance styles Andy recommends is something called The Distracted Artist, you can read about that in his Presentation Week post and also in his post entitled Return of the Distracted Artist.

I can certainly see how I could use Off Balance in this scenario, just sat in a coffee shop and distractedly trying to balance my fork. This would be a perfect fit for this performance style and makes me excited to give this a go!

The next effect SOS stands for Secured on Sharpie and is an easy ring flight where the spectators ring ends up duct-taped to the lid of the sharpie in your back pocket. This is a secure ring-flight and affords a very clean vanish. The gimmick is very easy to setup and construct and does most of the work. Ben also shows us a full routine where the ring appears and vanishes a few times before ending with SOS. For me until Dave Bonsall produced his excellent Ring Flight Revolution I wouldn’t consider using Ring Flight because of the hokey looking ring cases. SOS brings that organic feel back to the trick and uses an item you already have on your person as a magician.

Stash is a gimmick you can use to hold-out a card or cards whilst the spectator shuffles the deck for example. The out-of-the-box thinking Ben has applied to come up with this gimmick is what makes this such a brilliantly simple idea. The cards can be loaded and retrieved with ease and the gimmick hides in plain sight, and takes up no pocket space. The one possible issue, if there really is one, is that this might be more suited to informal dress, but I am sure I can come up with a way around this. Ben provides us with a number of ideas for its use, including an Ace production, and a commercial use to make a message appear on the back of a card.

The last two gimmicks involve Envelopes. Enveload is a super simple take on the Paul LePaul Envelope load, born out of necessity for Ben he has come up with a super simple way to create a sure-fire loading gimmick, for pennies, that can be used without having to buy expensive wallets or other devices. Again Ben shows us a routine with the envelope involving a signed card and banknote appearing in the sealed envelope.

Finally Shadow Envelope is a way of shining your mobile phone flashlight through an envelope to show that it contains a prediction or folded card of some description, you can then cleanly remove the folded item, and show the envelope empty, yet you have switched in a signed card, or a business card with a thought of word written on. Again this gimmick takes minutes to make, and is simple yet effective. Ben’s Any Word prediction is a great way to use this envelope, under the guise of a gag mind reading effect you can then cleanly pull out from the envelope a card that contains the word the spectator said moments before, and show the envelope empty. But more than this Shadow Envelope is a utility that gives a strong convincing illusion to plug into your own routines.

All in all the download runs 2 hours 15 minutes, and is simply shot, you see what you need to see for the gimmick construction, and because they are so simple to construct the DIY portion doesn’t take up too much of the video, leaving room for Ben’s thoughts, ideas and routines which are welcome additions.

Gimmick It Yourself can be downloaded from Ben’s website for £15.

Ultramodern by Ryan Matney – Review

Ryan has managed to invoke a sense of nostalgia in me with this publication. In the days of one trick downloads, and ebooks, that you can purchase instantly, with nothing more than your Paypal password, it feels good to hold a physical product in your hand. Something that you know will contain good solid commercial magic, and not a heavily edited trailer in sight.

In releasing this publication I believe Ryan hoped to capture the spirit of the magazines and trick journals of days past along with the anticipation of waiting to receive them in the mail. Lots have come and gone that I remember, Onyx, Channel One, Antinomy, Penumbra to name a handful. They all had one thing in common good solid magic from well respected magicians and you always looked forward to receiving the next issue to get that trick fix.

In current times lots of magicians are now experimenting with the self-publishing format, and it is something that works very well for this type of booklet. You receive a smart, well printed 100 page booklet containing 12 tricks. Ryan introduces each trick and they all contain black and white photographic illustrations.

To simply list the tricks would lessen the anticipation if you intend to order this, and you should. I will point out a few of my favourites however, the volume starts with Robin Robertson’s very simple quick version of the fusion plot, one of my favourite card magic plots. Staying with the simple in the spectators hands card magic, Paul Hallas’s contribution Voodoo Jokers is a version of a Steranko/Hollingworth classic. Paul has distilled this into its simplest form and it may get dismissed for its simplicity, but I can see this playing very strongly.

Steve Dusheck contributes a very commercial time-travel themed piece ideal for giving away your business card. John Carey in his usual style of simplifying method contributes a novel and easy two deck ACAAN.

Ryan himself contributes a a coincidence effect utilising a powerful Paul Cummins technique. I am a huge John Bannon fan so I read his contribution first which is an Any Mate at Any Number routine based on a JK Hartman trick, and as you would expect from Bannon you get a lot of effect for minimal sleight of hand. The last trick in the book from Gordon Bean is a version of one of Ryan’s tricks. It is a very strange, freely selected card through box routine, that again takes place in the spectators hands. It has a kicker ending they won’t see coming, and on top of all that works very well for walk-around as it doesn’t require a table.

The other tricks I haven’t mentioned I will leave you to read and digest, you should have at least some anticipation and excitement to receiving a book in the mail! I believe Ryan’s wish is to make this a regular publication and he is already soliciting contributions for volume 2, so seek him out if you have material to give. If not buy this volume and every volume after that safe in the knowledge you are receiving good solid magic, a well produced physical product, and a little bit of anticipation and excitement as you wait for it to arrive!

Ultramodern can by purchased for $25 at Ryan’s website Retro Rocket Magic

Nicholas Einhorn Bill to Marker →

Nicholas Einhorn bought the rights to Antonio Romero’s Bill to Marker and he is now releasing this through Vanishing Inc.

I got to take part in filming the trailer which you can see on the Vanishing Inc. site linked above along with my cameo appearance! This came about from attending The Session Convention back in January and the filming of the trailer happened on the last night after all proceedings had finished.

In the description on the Vanishing Inc site they tell you exactly what you get, and show you the performance. In light of the recent Dan Sperry controversy with his facebook video calling out magic producers (Vinc being one of them) for selling rubbish and not showing proper trailers I can fully endorse this product. I saw the performance first hand and Nick was kind enough to chat to me and show me the gimmick after the filming, this is a very well made gimmicked marker pen, that does the job extremely well, and Nick’s routine as you would expect is smart, engaging and makes use of the prop to its fullest, the price is surprisingly cheap for what you receive, and if you have a place for this in your show you won’t be disappointed, with this one product you are certainly receiving exactly what is described and shown in the trailer, and it is highly recommended!

At the Magicians Convention →

Review of the recent International Convention in London. I had a fantastic time and it was a great weekend with lots of talent, and some great lectures and shows, this convention is highly recommended, if you don’t already attend add it to your calendar, next years dates are the 16-18 November 2012.

Secrets of Card Magic – Christmas Offer

Chris Burton from Secrets of Card Magic wants to let people know about his membership site for people wanting to learn card magic, sleight of hand and flourishes, he has about 350 plus videos of performing and teaching.

He has put together a Christmas offer where people interested in magic can have the whole 8 phases as a one time offer without waiting for each phase which lasts a month. Saving them time and money.

Here is the offer

The youtube channel

Magic Money

Avia have teamed up with magician Pete Hathaway
to deliver their pension message in style. Pete Hathway hit the streets of Brighton and London performing street magic for people in their 20s working in the cities.

They said “We had a great time as you’ll see from our films – but we are also trying to communicate a different message. We want to demonstrate that by starting a company pension early, your money could grow …as if by magic!”

Magical Mathematics

Watch out for a review of this coming soon, I am still working my way through this but for now take a look at the press release and place your order at Amazon.

MAGICAL MATHEMATICS by Persi Diaconis & Ron Graham

The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks, after 25 years in the making and with a foreword by Martin Gardner, Persi Diaconis & Ron Graham finally reveal the secrets of amazing, fun-to-perform card
tricks—and the profound mathematical ideas behind them—that will astound even the most accomplished magician. Renowned magicians and mathematicians Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham provide easy,
step-by-step instructions for each trick, explaining how to set up the effect and offering tips on what to say and do while performing it.

Each card trick introduces a new mathematical idea, and varying the tricks in turn takes readers to the very threshold of today’s mathematical knowledge. For example, the Gilbreath Principle — a fantastic effect where the cards remain in control despite being shuffled—is found to share an intimate connection with the Mandelbrot set. Other card tricks link to the mathematical secrets of combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, topology, the Riemann hypothesis, and even Fermat’s last theorem.

Diaconis and Graham are mathematicians as well as skilled performers with decades of professional experience between them. In the book they share a wealth of conjuring lore, including some closely guarded secrets of legendary magicians. MAGICAL MATHEMATICS covers the mathematics of juggling and shows how the I Ching connects to the history of probability and magic tricks both old and new. It tells the
stories—and reveals the best tricks–of the eccentric and brilliant inventors of mathematical magic.

MAGICAL MATHEMATICS exposes old gambling secrets through the mathematics of shuffling cards, explains the classic street-gambling scam of three-card monte, traces the history of mathematical magic back to the thirteenth century and the oldest mathematical trick—and much more.

Magicians Scrapbook →

Two old scrapbooks that contain magazine and newspaper clippings collected by a amateur magician from 1900 to the 1930′s. Covering all aspects of magic from the beginning of last century, from small close up tricks to the greatest Magicians of the time revealing their secrets.

These articles have been scanned in from the scrapbooks and provide a fascinating insight into magic from that era, you can see what is coming up in each volume in the volume 1 and volume 2 index. I was particularly drawn to this article on Do’s and Don’ts for Young Magicians from 1906