Losander Needs Our Help

Straight from Dirk Losander himself:

I Need Your Help. Our little baby “Ione” was born 6 days ago. Today we found out she needs a heart operation and our insurance is not going to pay for it. I am not writing you this to beg for money but if you need to buy something from my website now would be the time to help us out. Every Dollar counts and we really need all the support we can find right now! So if you feel like supporting this cause, go to my website and find your self some great magic and make this operation happen for us. www.losander.com

Even if you are a non magician, we just came out with a new dvd “Las Vegas Greatest Magicians” teaches you easy to learn magic. You can find it right here
or if you just want to donate some money for us please send it via pay pal to losander@mac.com or just keep us in your prayers. Thank you so much for your support.

Dirk Losander
9850 S. Maryland Pkwy Suite A5#190
Las Vegas NV 89123
702 501-9973

Monday Night Magic Moving

Monday Night Magic, New York City’s longest-running Off-Broadway magic show, is moving to our biggest and best location yet! Now in our 11th continuous year as New York’s home for magic, we are thrilled to announce that on June 23rd – that’s just three weeks away! – the curtain will go up on Monday Night Magic at The Bleecker Street Theatre.

The Bleecker Street Theatre is newly renovated with comfortable seating, an intimate theater design, a spacious lobby (soon to feature its own bar and caf

Cerca Trova

What is Theory 11? In case you have missed all the buzz on July 25th Lee Asher posted a cryptic message to several online message boards: The Magic Cafe, Dan and Dave, Decknique there are also threads over at Penguin and the Magic Woods amongst others.

Since then every Monday at Midnight EST there has been a new video from a different magician, so far we have seen Lee Asher, Dan & Dave Buck, Chris Kenner, Aaron Fisher, Dan White & Wayne Houchin.

In those videos and web-page source were hidden clues to hidden web-pages that contained additional footage, pictures and further clues. The trail has involved calling phone numbers, reversing audio, translating codes from Binary, Hex and Base64 etc. at one stage random people recieved mail from Chris Kenner with a copy of Magic Man Examiner and a pack of Jerry’s Nugget cards.

It was speculated that following the departure of Jonathan Bayme from Ellusionist, he would somehow be involved in Theory11, a mysterious video appeared on Digg which was rapidly deleted, but seemed to hint that T11 would be some kind of online shop. The verdict is still out on this.

That is a basic recap if you have missed all this, to save you having to trawl through the hidden clues, and hundreds of pages of message board threads, I have been keeping track of the hidden links etc. so as to not spoil it too much if you don’t wish to know, and want to investigate a bit yourself, I have put together a seperate page with a list of the hidden links and transcriptions of the public videos:

Theory 11 links

This will be updated if anything else appears. Bottom line is this launches at 11pm EST this Friday 31st August, so you have a little bit of time to catchup before launch day.

I am still in two minds about this, after all I have said on this blog about hype in marketing magic, this has to be the biggest, and they have certainly played to a certain target market, posting on the above boards, yet I can’t help be a little excited when you see the list of potential people that are involved in this, and the time and effort put in to the campaign.

Yet if this isn’t something really specical, if it turns out to be just another webstore/dvd/trick I think there will be a lot of dissapointed people, but if this is as incredible as they make out, we could be about to witness something special. I for one can’t wait to find out. Will post more if any updates happen between now and Friday!

Jack Parker

It’s always upsetting when someone in our magic community dies. It is particularly painful when that person is still young, and with a bright future ahead. Andi reported that Jack passed away this weekend, having lost his battle with bone and kidney cancer. Jack saw his Cookbook project come to fruition, and has left a legacy that Andi is currently preparing, in the form of a new book 52 Memories. I posted a review a couple of years ago on his Set to Stun e-book, I said “…but most of all you get the feeling that Jack really knows how to construct his effects, selecting the right moves and sleights to give you the cleanest and fairest possibly setups, with the most powerful climax possible.” I think that was an understatement, seeing Jack’s work progress through his numerous e-books, magazine contributions and online effects and videos was a real privilege. I just posted this on TSD, where Jack was prolific and generous to a fault with his sharing of ideas, tricks and videos:

I was fortunate to meet Jack on a couple of occasions through Andi & Rob’s Session Convention, chatted to him on IM and e-mailed him a bit, but I didn’t know him that well, but I like others on TSD have been affected by Jack, his immense humour has made tears of joy roll down my face, his thoughts and words made me think about my magic, and his video and trick contributions made my jaw drop on every occasion, for me his ability was in the construction of the routine, with very few sleights he got the maximum magic possible, usually taking the trick down the path less explored in the process.

I remember chatting to him at the first Session, when he was scheduled to do a flash-talk, he was worried, hoping that people would like and take to his material, I assured him that they would and he wouldn’t have any problems, he taught his Three Stooges routine and Kentucky Fried Aces, and got lots of positive feedback. I don’t think Jack needed to worry, with the sheer strength of his material and Andi’s publishing skills, Jack’s book will stand-up to be an instant bestseller, and a true modern classic of magic, that will live on for generations to reference, credit and enjoy, but most of all for us to use that material to astonish audiences all over the world, and to bring a bit of Jack’s magic to everyone.

Rest in peace Jack, you will be missed, thoughts and prayers to Tracy and family.

Open Letter from Steve Johnson

Edit: Seems like there maybe two sides to this story, check out Inside Magic for the scoop.

While browsing the web recently I discovered something troubling. I saw an e-book being sold that contained several routines for an invisible thread reel. The names of the tricks were identical to the names of the routines that were published in my 1991 book, “Floating Freely in a Fine Fashion”.

This prompted me to dig my book out of the word processor archives and review it’s contents. (It took some time as the book was written with software that doesn’t exist anymore!) Sure enough, the titles of the routines were as I remembered them and almost precisely matched the titles of the routines in this advertised e-book.

I was NOT happy. It looked very much like my copyright was being violated!

I bought the book and waited patiently for them to e-mail my copy. After a few hours I received my e-book sent in Microsoft Word format. I opened the file and took a look.

It was my book.

Text had been added to the book, mostly self-serving propaganda, but all of the sections from my book were there. They hadn’t even corrected the typos and grammatical errors that I made in ’91.

After seeing this proof, I was REALLY unhappy. With some more checking around, and a few phone calls to the right people, my beliefs were confirmed – My copyright is being infringed upon.

After considering legal action to be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone, I decided to do something far more satisfying (and effective).

We don’t live in the Wild West anymore. Clearly, you can’t rob someone without there being reciprocal action. We are in a day and age where people are held responsible for their actions – especially with the use of the Internet.

With this viral way of thinking, my decision is to now give every single person, interested in the art of magic, the authorized version of my manuscript – FOR FREE!

After reviewing the old text, making some small revisions to bring the older manuscript up-to-date, and changing several typos – It’s time to give away electronic copies, free, on the Grand Illusions website.

All you have to do is just click the link below, and you will land on the download page. You can have it for no monetary charge.

I ask only one small favor.

Whether or not you choose to download the authorized version of my electronic book for free, please tell all your magic friends about it. Tell them that they can have the book for free too!

When they ask you why Steve Johnson is giving away his material for free, tell them he was being ripped off and didn’t want to let it happen anymore. He was sick and tired of it, and finally did something about it.

I’d rather EVERYONE have the material at no charge than let some unethical magic dealer sell unauthorized copies at an outrageous price!

Tell your friends this is my way of combating the copyright infringement, my stand against the increasingly popular trend of stealing intellectual property.

When you’ve downloaded it, please save my electronic book to your hard drive, copy it to your PDA, or print it…it’s yours to do with as you wish.

The only thing you can’t do is sell my free manuscript or use it as any part of any profit making offers or ventures like the unethical magic dealer who started all of this.

But, why would you lower yourself to his standards anyway? That’s not how you operate, nor I.

If you see my electronic book for sale anywhere, please take a stance and remind the seller that their actions are both unethical and illegal. And certainly don’t trust your credit card number or hard earned cash with someone like that.

But enough of me talking; go download the authorized version of my electronic booklet on the invisible thread reel right now.

Click or paste this link now!

Please enjoy it; it’s my gift to you and the whole international community of magic.

When you have a moment, drop me an email at webmaster@grandillusions.com and let me know if you agree with my stance on ethics, let me know your feelings about my execution of this grass roots action and obviously comment on the free e-booklet you’ve downloaded and shared with all your friends.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Johnson
Grand Illusions
December. 2006

Indecent Proposal

Here we are on the eve before the launch of yet another well-hyped trick, yet somehow this one seems to have come full circle even before the official release date.

For those that aren’t aware yet (you mean you haven’t been listening to the Podcasts?) Wayne Houchin of Sinful and Stigmata fame is releasing his Indecent trick tomorrow via DVD and Download over at Ellusionist. The trick is basically card into Ziplock bag.

The hype has been running for around the past month, with two Podcasts and news of a huge competition.

Fine you say, whats my point? Well besides all the hype, the podcasts, the competition, the long running MagicCafe threads etc. you get a supposed teaser video of the trick, but once again just like the Stigmata demo, Ellusionist have chosen to only show you the ending to the trick, merged in with lots of reaction shots, and more hype. The crucial bits of the trick are not there.

Now I can see why they did this from the sense of a sales point-of-view but once again as a potential purchaser it doesn’t help me to see the full effect and get a sense of what my spectators will see. A point I have made several times on this blog is why should we as magicians have to be fooled and tricked by the marketing, we are trying trick our spectators and hide the method from them, we who part with our hard earned cash to do so shouldn’t have to go through the same experience.

I believe these kind of internet demo videos are the new-age kind of dealer ads, instead of helping by giving us the full effect and a sense of what the trick looks like, they only serve to fool us into buying Snake Oil.

Why I mentioned at the start about it coming full circle is interesting. The exact audience that the Ellusionist market is aimed at, with the podcasts, competition, hyped up demo video/dealer ad etc. are now the same audience that are using the same modern day tools to fight back! Weeks before the official release you could go onto YouTube and do a search for ‘Houchin Indecent’ and you can see an unedited clip of Wayne himself running through the whole trick, along with several teenagers giving us their versions. And remember this is before the effect has even gone on sale!

Wayne mentions that he had this clip on his site but it was taken down because of the number of hits it got after the release of Sinful and Stigmata. I’d like to believe that, but could it possibly have been removed because the video shows the exact effect, and we have ended up with reverse engineered badly performed demos that potentially expose the method. Why didn’t Ellusionist run with the existing video, they instead chose to shoot a video dealer-ad and call it a teaser video.

So whats the answer I don’t say I agree with other peoples videos of the trick appearing before or even after the release, but with today’s technology and the huge surge in social video sites, it means anyone with a web/phone cam can now host a video for free for millions of people to see. So dealers that choose not to release certain information about what the trick looks like, or what exactly the trick consists of, or indulge in marketing wordplay, will become powerless to stop people releasing their own no-holds-barred demo’s of tricks.

The point is of course this doesn’t mean that the average lay-person could work out how the trick is done (could be an interesting experiment to show the uncut Indecent video to some lay-people?) no its to stop unscrupulous magicians from looking at the demo and working out how the trick is done and then not bothering to buy the trick. I don’t agree with that either, but there has to be some balance that makes us want to part with our cash, but that means we are not fooled into buying something that will just line the dealers pockets and land up at the back of the sock drawer.

Its interesting that Scott Kahn on the MagicCafe was touting his version of Card to Ziplock bag that was going to appear in his updated lecture notes, but then after discussions with Wayne Houchin he decided not to release it. Why was this done? Possibly because Ellusionist thought they could market it better and sell a lot more one-trick DVDs to the newbie crowd of DVD watchers, than people who would buy the lecture notes. Why can’t both versions exist out there, even if they do both use identical (and the most obvious) method.

If the method is that obvious to a magical brain that it takes just one viewing of the trick to work out, then is it worth releasing an entire DVD for? I bought Banachek’s notes at FISM that had a page of text in on the Stigmata trick, this gave me all I needed to know to do the trick should I wish, plus a lot more Banachek goodness all for half of what it would be to purchase the Houchin DVD.

And just in case you think this is a post putting down Ellusionist, its not, they have all the marketing gimmicks in place for their target audience and they are doing everything right to capture them and you could argue they have even moved on magic production to a new level.

I just find it interesting that here we are on the eve of what could mark a shift in magic marketing, a stand-off between dealer hype in the form of carefully edited adverts, podcasts and videos, that tell you how wonderful the trick is, what it doesn’t use, but neglecting to tell you any of the useful information on the restrictions, necessary sleights, angles and even something as simple as what the trick actually looks like etc. And the consumer who can in one click of a mouse destroy all that with a post on a forum, or a video demo. So where do we go from here, whats the answer, I don’t know but I’m going to enjoy the ride!

Podcasting and Magic

So what is Podcasting? If you read the Wikipedia link this pretty much covers it, basically it is the combination of a created Audio file (usually an MP3 file) and the ability to publish this file within a RSS/ATOM syndication feed, so users can keep track of seperate feeds and if using podcatching software, download the audio automatically, and in some cases transfer it to their personal audio players. Usually the audio files consist of talking and/or music, usually on a specific subject. I have given a couple of examples below of what I believe to be some of the first examples of Podcasting related to the field of Magic, Penguin Magic reckon they have one in their Performers Podcast by Tyas Frantz, I would argue this is not a true podcast, as it requires the syndication, and automation behind it, rather than just uploading an MP3 file to their server and announcing it in their e-mail newsletter.

How will this effect magic then? Just like magic themed blogs seem to have come of age just recently, it might take a while for this new technology to catch on, but we already have Magic radio shows, such as Magic Broadcast and Express Radio, I think that what Podcasting will do, just like blogs, will enable the individual to easily publish their own thoughts, ideas and views on the magic scene, and like the S.A.M. are doing to provide an information service. They will be able to do this on their own terms, on their own schedule, if you like, a less formal basis than the current setup, with a lot more people taking part, with their own diverse interests, ideas and thoughts brought to the table, combined with blogging this brings us ever closer to the idea of Citizen Journalism where everyone can potentially become a journalist, “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information”. It also means you won’t have to be tied to a computer to listen to these thoughts, ideas and information, as you can easily copy them to your personal audio player of choice, and enjoy them anywhere, at anytime!

So how do you create your own Podcast? Its still a little in its infancy, but tools already exist to do this, from the automatic, down to the roll-your-own option, quite handy if you already own a blog of some sort. The S.A.M. have favoured using Audioblog which is a pay-for bandwith service, at $5/month for 1GB of bandwith, it also gives you the tools to easily publish your Podcast and also offers another exciting feature of Video Podcasts. Go Magic Go is using LibSyn the pricing is not based on bandwith or a static amount of storage, it is based on how much space you require to store your audio, e.g. for $5/month you can upload 100MB of files, which are then archived, and your 100MB gets renewed, a bit like the model Flickr is based on. Odeo is another of these services, from the guy that originally brought you Blogger, at the minute Odeo is in beta, which means it has all the catalogue features in place, where you can find Podcasts in their directory, subscribe to feeds, use their Sync utility to download them, the ability to create and publish your audio will be coming in the near future.

For a more DIY version Zefhemel has a good guide to using Audacity a free cross-platform audio recorder/editor. You can then upload the resulting audio to your own server space, or even better if you want to conserve your own bandwith, look at other places to store your audio such as Ourmedia which will save your audio and video clips for free, with no bandwith restrictions, and no time limits, as long as you are prepared to share your content with other people, thanks to the generosity of the Internet Archive. Other pay-for alternatives are Podlot which is $5/month for 150mb and unlimited bandwith, or Podbus which is $5/month for 300mb and 5GB of bandwith.

Once you have found somewhere to store your media, you need to create the syndication in your blogging software, I use Nucleus, and there is a plugin available, similarly I believe the newest version of WordPress will automatically put the required enclosure tags into your RSS feed. Also you could look at using Feedburner which takes your feeds and not only gives you some cool options to publicise, optimise and analyse your feed, but also using their Smartcast technology, you can simply link to your file, like in WordPress, and it will put in the necessary enclosure tags into the Feedburner feed.

So how could you use this? Again recently Skype has seen a great takeup, and with good reason, as people realise what a great way this is to chat with friends, in whatever location, for free, with crystal clear audio. Why not use this to conduct interviews, chats or discussions. Unbound Spiral has a good guide to recording Skype conversations that will cost you around $40, similarly another hardware solution from Make you go Hmm. Or two software packages for this purpose are Freecorder (there is a free version or a premium version at $20, or Hotrecorder there is a free version which is ad-supported, or a premium version for $15, which gives you access to a no-ad version and access to the audio converter.

So you have made your own Podcast, uploaded it, syndicated it, and told your friends. Or you have found a number of podcasts you want to track and listen too, what Podcatching software is out there, well obviously iTunes is a good favourite, but if you don’t want to use Apple’s software, or if you don’t have an iPOD (which is not in anyway necessary to take part in Podcasting!) then check out Doppler which is a podcast aggregator, which will subscribe to RSS feeds, fetch the files and automatically add them into your preferred media player. Then there is iPodder which is a cross-platform piece of software to subscribe and download your Podcasts, or iPodderX which is still in beta, but offers similar functionality.

This post turned out longer than I thought it would, but its helped get this thing straight for me, and I can say that I am very excited to see how this will be picked up by the Magic community, and watch this space as I might even be experimenting with this in the future!

Conjuring and Commercialism

Share and Share Alike: Read John W. Leblanc’s interesting piece on Filesharing and how it applies to Magic. I agree with most of what he has to say, but I do think that we are seeing a radical turn of events in today’s market, where the consumer is wanting more power in there buying decisions. For example no longer will we put up with having to pay excessive amounts for a music album that we may only want for one or two of our favourite tracks, now we can go and pick and choose the tracks we want, and even listen to previews of the tracks before purchasing.

I’m very much a book guy, which is now-a-days pretty much what I buy in magic, yes the odd DVD, download, trick and consumable, but mostly books, and then only ones from reliable authors, or ones that I want to use for researching a particular trick. Mike Close in his very last column in MAGIC magazine pointed out that the magic market is being flooded by mediocre products, not bad, not good, mediocre. Somone needs to take some responsibility, in vetting the products they sell, too many times I have seen the big distributors in magic churning out the crap with no quality control, anything to make a fast buck, never mind if its a slight variation or even worse a blatant copy. But along with that control should come IMHO more open marketing, yes you have to sell your products to us the consumer, but not at the extent of lies and deception, we are supposed to be doing that to our audiences for entertainment, we shouldn’t have to put up with it when we buy your products.

If I went to buy a new car for example, do you think I would do it sight unseen without a test drive? Would I go on the word of the sales-person telling me this was the best thing ever, and listing all the mouth watering qualities whilst conviniently skirting round its shortfalls. Yet everyday in the magic world we are bombarded by the latest all-singing all-dancing product that comes with quotes from top-names and has attached an un-ending number of impossible sounding claims, and is hyped up beyond fever pitch in certain quarters even before the product reaches the shelves. In fact lately the trend for some effects has been to even omit a proper description of the trick itself, with the apologetic view that it will give the game away… No more, I demand that as a consumer I be given a full and frank and honest description of the effect (yes even just from the audience view, but it must be an honest assessment, if there are multiple outcomes tell me, I don’t mind!) what if any skills are involved, what I might need extra to the trick to make it workable etc. If this spoils or gives away the trick, then maybe you should be thinking of another avenue to release this, maybe a magazine or in your latest lecture notes… I can hope!

Just recently a few studies have been carried out that suggest the downloading of MP3s does nothing in the slightest to harm the sales of albums, in fact quite the opposite, people are just becoming more wary because of the mediocre crap they have to wade through and are looking for more and more information before committing, I think in some ways we are coming close to this in Magic, with the advent of the necessary video-demo that seems to accompany every release and the huge message board threads that accompany nearly every new product. At least now I can see a performance of the trick before I buy, and even if I can recreate or back-engineer it I will buy it so I have the right to perform it, the honest thing to do, I guess that is one advantage of the bricks-and-mortar magic shops, the fact that the owner would tell you if the trick was for you, and what suited your skills, I have never really known that kind of scene, as in my lifetime living where I do the nearest shop that sells proper magic, is a few hours drive away… so I have always bought over the net, basing my purchases on getting all the information I can from magazine reviews, peoples online comments, demo videos etc.

I still want to see open, honest marketing, accompanied by all the information that I need to make a frank and well-judged purchasing decision, but I’m not holding my breath!

Performance, Poker Face, Practice

Been busy lately, hence the slight relapse into no-post land… amongs that have been a couple of the too-rare opportunities I get to perform… One was for a local magic club, as a sort of exchange for HMC, and the other was for living breathing humans The difference was quite interesting, its fair to say I slightly messed up one of my tricks for the magic crowd (it went right every time in rehersal!) so wasn’t on the best of form, but it did give me some insight into what can go wrong and the ability to think on your feet! But also the difference was highlighted between performing for magicians and for the regular joe public. No reaction to any jokes, bits of business or by-play for the magicians, now I’m not getting at or criticising the club in question, I believe from watching lots of magic with other magicians, this is a common occurence, we are all to engrossed in watching the mechanics, rather than just enjoying the whole. When I am watching another magician I do try and react like I think I should at all the right places, but not too over the top so it seems fake. But its never going to be quite the same as a reaction from the lay-person, as witnessed the night after.

I got the chance to perform with a group of good friends, for a small select group above a local pub, what a buzz, I have to get out and do this more often! Screams, Laughter, Gasps, Looks of amazement, it was all there, and reminded me why we all do this magic lark! Anyway my belated new-years resolution is to get out there this year and do some more performance.

I was trying for the first time a new routine I have thrown together, its a kind of pseudo-mind reading/body language/psychology type routine, themed on the expression ‘keeping a poker face’ and being able to read peoples body language. None of it is my own, I have just routined it so I hope it gets more impossible looking as it goes on. Its only really just come together, but I have had the idea in my mind for a while. Basically I will be a bit vague on this so as not to expose too much, but it starts off with Mr Draun’s move to get certain information, which is revealed through some pseudo-body language reading, ie. pressing down on there hands to reveal colour/suit as they concentrate on it, then on the fingers to get the value. Then I use Mr Wimhurst’s similar but even more impossible looking move, and reveal after a spectator shuffle, with Paul Wilson’s Think Stop type reveal, after saying that this time I won’t use body-language I will just show them cards, and they have to try and keep a poker face, and just think stop when they see the card. If I want to continue I generally finish using something similar to the trick that is on Steve Youell’s Scruffy CD using a similar technique, so it looks as though it is all out of my hands when the spectator shuffles their cards, looks at a card in their hands, with my head turned and then I just put the cards back in the box without looking at them or even showing them to the spectator, and then thanks to a recent purchase (no hints here, but its a fairly new card item from a UK mentalist!) I can then go on to seemingly just read their thoughts and tell them the card they looked at when the cards where out of my hands. For those with card experience you can piece it together from that I hope!

I only got chance to road test this a few times the other night, but it did get the required looks of amazement, which I am getting used to, and I will take over laughs and applause any day! But I want to run this in some more, and play with it…

Lastly I’ve decided to take a little leaf out of Scott’s book (check out his blog it’s a good read) and start concentrating on and working on one routine a week (may be longer in my case!) in some hope to somehow steer my practice time that I have available (which isn’t that much atm), I’m starting off with the pile of ever growing stuff that I have, top of that is Bob Farmer’s Bammo Monte Monster, have just purchased his reloaded version as well, so I can work on the Skinner variant, so will let you know how that works out…

Your Chosen Vehicle

Having just recently started to listen to MagicBroadcast, I caught Robert Baxt being interviewed by Gerald Kirchner. Robert said some great things about how to make your magic meaningful to your audience, by taking even the most simple of things and giving it a personal meaning that they could identify with. This would then take it away from being just a simple trick, to an experience that they will remember.

The interview closed with a question posed to Robert about if he found himself in an impromptu setting, what card trick would he do? Robert’s answer was something along the lines of he wouldn’t do a card trick as what meaning does the Seven of Clubs or the Eight of Diamonds have to someone, other than when you do a gambling routine. He would much prefer to do a money trick as he felt people would better relate to this.

For someone who’s first and foremost love in this art is card magic, I must say I disagree! Bear with me while I quickly give you my views on the old argument of ‘Card Tricks are boring’. I do hear this suprisingly quite a lot, but usually from magicians, magicians relatives/partners/friends. Sometimes I do get the reaction of ‘Seen that one’ when I pull out a deck of cards, but usually that happens when I have been working with other magicians who are also doing card tricks. Briefly I believe they only think they are boring because they have seen a lot of bad and boring card magic. Also because there is a lot of card magic out there, and its quite an ‘easy’ option then lots of magicians use this vehicle to show a quick trick and it’s easy to do so without much thought to presentation or the why’s and wherefore’s. That’s why I think they automatically assume that all card magic is boring, its easy to condemn when you see a lot of the same style of bad magic.

I could easily harbour this opinion about manipulation acts, the linking rings or the cups and balls, as a magician you are subject to so many of the same kinds of tricks, with the same routines, but just every so often you get a little ray of sunshine that makes you re-evaluate, Just watch the manipulation type acts of FISM Winners Norbert Ferre and Mirko watch someone like Mark Raffles do the rings, or David Regal’s presentation for the Cups, what these people have in common is that they have thought about standard routines, and how best to change them to suit their style and to make them meaningful to the audience.

I do believe you can make card magic (as in any kind of magic) meaningful to your audience, it just requires a lot of thought, care and attention to do so, which is only what your audience deserves.

So I guess our job should be to try and lift all of our material to the realm where people can care about and relate to it, be it card magic, kids magic, mentalism, manipulation or whatever vehicle you choose to bring your magic to others.

Predict Boredom

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about selection of material, and how what I choose to do reflects my performance character, but more about that in a later post! I’ve wanted to do a version of Simon Aronson’s Shuffle Bored ever since seeing Ali Bongo’s excellent version. The only trouble is that the more I think about it the more it raises my in-securities about predictions in general. I know that Simon has raised this point before about the prediction version of this effect. To paraphrase the problem I believe is that the trick includes such a fair and powerful random looking shuffle sequence, that to then pull out a printed, pre-conceived prediction just blows this out. Which in a way is the problem I have with most predictions, if your audience has any powers of deduction, when they backtrack surely they realise you must have spent time printing your prediction, and that is permanent and non-changeable. Therefore in order to bring the effect to a successful conclusion you must have somehow controlled what went before, no matter how fair it may have looked.

Which is ok if thats what you claim to be doing in some kind of mental/psychic way, influencing people to come to a certain conclusion. Maybe thats what is missing from the presentation of most predictions that I see, but I don’t believe thats how Shuffle Bored should be performed, as the procedure is so fair, the idea, for me anyway, is that it can’t possibly be controlled, therefore how can you possibly have printed out the outcome hours in advance? In Paul Cummins workshop when he teaches a version, he suggests writing the Ali Bongo prediction, even in front of the clients, this is slightly better, and at least it gives the prediction some kind of immediacy, but I’m still unhappy with this way of doing it.

Off on a slight tangent, I did what I usually do when I want to add something to my repetoire and aquired a lot of versions of this trick, when did it become ok to release Simon’s effect (when in the original manuscript he categorically asks that this not happen), with Ali Bongo’s prediction, with the justification that you have a slight change of script to go with it? I have seen this on at least two occasions, with hardly a fleeting mention to either…

Anyway back to the plot! Recently two versions have been released that have caught my attention, Bill Goldman’s Little Bunny is a great addition to the Ali Bongo style prediction, and does in my opinion justify its release, but it still suffers from the problem stated that this is a printed prediction, that is more over-prepared than even the Bongo one, the outcome is a printed book(let) that is not going to change between performances, so we are back to the problems above. Simon recently released his Random Sample version, which I aquired in person, when we met in Chicago, boy was I miffed when it came out in MAGIC! This is fantastic and almost goes far enough to solving the inherent problems with the prediction style of this trick… almost. I believe that using the booklet style of multiple prediction as in Little Bunny, is a significant improvement, and that that Simon’s presentation does take some of the sting out of the full on prediction, by suggesting this is how the common outcome of a shuffle is recorded, still with possible margins of error/freedom, almost into the realm I mentioned of influencing the shuffle, in increasingly impossible ways.

I believe the main issue I have with predictions is the obvious way of backtracking to a solution from the outcome, if you can somehow soften this, or change it in some way then in some instances I think you could lead the spectator away from the only possibly method of you ‘somehow’ controlling the outcome. In other words having someone for example select a card and then immediatley showing your prediction to match, is to me bad magic, how else could you have done it if not influenced them to somehow select that card.

A similar situation can be seen in the trick, where the magician continually forces the same card on someone, and uses that as the effect. WHY!? What are you trying to show? How clever you are at making them select the same card, how you can influence them, how stupid they are for falling for it? Does this not amount to some kind of exposure, especially if you are using such a fair looking procedure such as the classic force or hofsinzer spread. For me you could forget doing any pick-a-card tricks after that, they already know that you can make them pick whatever card you want, so whats the point? Why waste such a fair and free looking procedure, on such a stupid outcome… much like the prediction shuffle bored.

So whats the answer? For me at least it means changing the outcome and premise, there are various different ways to utilise the shuffle bored procedure which are outlined in the original manuscript, or fortunately for me John Bannon has done this in his version Waiting for Dark, or a souped up version of this style of presenting it can be found in Mnemonica. I really like John’s thinking and his way of presenting this, even with the ending which does somewhat violate what I’ve said about the prediction side, but not in such an in-your-face way that hopefully will just twist the knife ever so slightly!