Acclimation

Mike: My brother-in-law and I have completely different tastes in movies. Movies that he raves about I usually don't care for, and ones that I enjoy he doesn't like. Of course, I didn't find this out right away. It took some time to discover that our opinions were diametrically opposite, but now that the pattern has been established his opinion is of value to me; if he hates a movie, I know I'll probably like it.

As product reviewers, Mac and I are in the same relationship with you, the readers. We will become more valuable to you over time, as you purchase the products we review and you discover whether our opinions are similar to your own.

The more you understand our thought processes (and our personalities, preferences, and prejudices) the more quickly you can decide whether our opinions jive with yours, or whether we serve the same function as my brother-in-law. For this reason I'm going to go into some detail comparing two new tricks. Both use gaffed playing cards, and both involve leaving the gaffs on the table when the trick is done. But only one is performable in the real world.

Free Fall By Steve Brooks

Stranger's Gallery By John Bannon

"Free Fall" was created by Steve Brooks, and is manufactured and distributed by The Magic Zone. The effect is this: A card is selected (forced) and is returned to the deck. The deck is placed into the card case. The case is shown on both sides and the magician's hands are completely empty. The left hand holds the card case by the long edges, parallel to the tabletop. The right hand raps the top of the case and the selected card falls face up onto the table, apparently having penetrated through the case.

So, what's wrong with that? Well, a couple of things, the first and foremost being that the card that lands on the table is a gaffed card. I have in my repertoire several routines in which gaffed objects are placed on the table where the spectators could grab them if they chose to. The key to getting away with this stratagem is to make sure that at the time the gaffs are within grasp something else in the routine is of more importance. But look what happens in this trick: the deck is cased, the case is in your hands, and the only thing lying on the table is the gaffed card. Am I to believe that people are not going to try and grab for that card? And if you pick it up before they get to it and start to slide it back into the card case and someone asks to see that card, what do you do?

Let's suppose that this is not a closing trick, but an opening trick, and you are going to remove the deck from the case and continue with other tricks. How do you keep the audience from reaching for the card as you uncase the deck? Assuming you can do this, we hit problem number two: the manner in which the gaff is constructed. The gaff is thick. Very thick. It does not snap like a real playing card. Assuming you can get the gaff back into the deck without a spectator grabbing it, what do you do now? You can't palm it off (the gaff won't curl), and you can't use the deck with the gaff in it.

Here are a couple of other points. The teaser on the back of the instructions says, "Card case may be examined if desired." This is true only after the card has penetrated the case. Also, if you want to do the total no-brainer handling of this trick, you will need to have on hand a common magician's substance. This is not mentioned in the teaser.

Now let's take a look at John Bannon's "Strangers' Gallery" which was originally published in Smoke and Mirrors. The effect is this: The magician removes three cards from a blue-backed deck and places them aside face down. The spectator selects a card (forced). Each of the previously removed cards is shown to be identical to the selected card. The backs of these cards now change (to radically different colored backs) and then the entire deck is shown to be red backed. (Or if this is your closer, you can use a rainbow deck.)

This is a very strong effect that requires only average card handling ability. The gaffs were printed on regulation card stock by the U.S. Playing Card Company, so they feel and snap like real cards. But, most importantly, let's look how the gaffs are handled and how the audiences' attention is controlled.

As each of the gaffs is shown to have a different colored back it is placed on the table. At the end of this sequence there are four cards face down on the table, three of which are gaffs. The audience could reach for these cards, but they won't because the trick doesn't stop there. Almost immediately the deck is spread to show that the backs have changed to red (or rainbow). This revelation is infinitely more interesting than the change of the three gaffs. The audience's attention is drawn away from them.

How do you clean up? If you use this as an opener, then the gaffs and the extra blue-backed card can simply be picked up and pocketed, since they do not match the deck that is now in play. (In doing this, the blue-backed card is slid under the other three so the face of the packet can be flashed.) If you are using a rainbow deck, its appearance is so strong that the audience will dive for the deck. This is fine, since (other than its multicolored backs) it is ungaffed. The packet of four cards can be added to the rainbow deck and the whole thing pocketed.

This trick is one that can be performed for real people in real life conditions. And it is one that I would consider adding to my repertoire.

So much for a little peek into my brain. Whether or not my comments have any validity for you, I hope that this detailed analysis speeds up our acclimation process.

Mac: When I performed the "Free Fall" trick for my test audiences (my wife and the guy at my mailbox place) they both responded in the exact way you feared that they would. They both wanted to see that card. The mailbox guy, being less polite than my wife, actually made a grab for it. While it's certainly possible that the problem lies with me, I tend to agree with you that this is a problem inherent in the trick itself, and that considerable revision in both the construction of the effect and the management of the spectators would be necessary to make this into something useful.

I also felt, like you, that John Bannon's "Strangers' Gallery" trick was a far better use of gaffed cards. But, I feel that there is one thing that you didn't mention that would keep me from ever adding this trick to my repertoire. You cannot do this trick without a performing surface. You must perform this on a table (or on the floor). Of course, this will not affect those people who usually work on a table. My other tiny beef about the trick has to do with the choice of colors for the three gaffed cards. Yellow and white are great, but black? When the blue-backed card changes to a black-backed card the change is not as eye-popping as it should be. You almost have to point out that the card has changed color.

Interestingly enough, even though your suggestion of substituting a rainbow deck for a red-backed deck is not mentioned in the instructions, I had that same exact thought as I was working through the trick. I think that addition would not only make for an even stronger pull of the audience's attention away from the three gaffed cards, it would also greatly increase the overall power of the effect.

Mike: As a matter of fact, John Bannon mentions the rainbow deck idea in the original write-up of this trick in Smoke and Mirrors.

Infinity and Beyond By Martin Nash

Mac: This two-tape set is pretty much dedicated to a bunch of applications for one move (what Martin calls "The Infinity Principle"). If you read the descriptions before you watch the first tape you will probably be disappointed to find out what this is. I really don't think this is revolutionary stuff.

At this point I find myself in a quandary. I don't want to tip exactly what this is that Martin is teaching on these tapes, but you should know that everybody I've asked, "Have you seen Martin Nash's Infinity?" replies simply, "It's just a so-and-so." They don't actually say "so-and-so." They say the name of some relatively common magic deceit - and they are right! Basically, Martin has added some tiny modifications that make this artifice practical with any deck. Not that that wasn't previously possible, but he does reveal a very efficient method for doing it with a borrowed deck. That said, he has included performances and descriptions of a number of very good tricks that use this ruse.

The second tape is promoted as being "personalized instruction on the elusive tabled faro." This shuffle is mentioned and even discussed slightly, but if you can learn it from the tape, you're a better man than I. Instead of an in-depth discussion of the tabled faro, this second tape is basically a gambling routine which makes use of the tabled faro, plus the Infinity stratagem and a couple of false shuffles and cuts which, like the tabled faro, are not that well taught here either. Though the actual routine is a pretty good one, Mr. Nash is just not a very good teacher.

Mike: I think these tapes are definitely a situation where the phrase caveat emptor applies. If you have a passion for playing cards and are interested in the fine points of subtle card handling, then these tapes may be of value. The card routines that Mr. Nash demonstrates and explains are top notch, but many of them are very difficult. If you're a guy who bangs out three hours of magic each night at TGI Friday's, I'm not sure that you will feel you are getting $60 worth of useful information.

As far as the Tabled Faro Shuffle goes, the ads concerning this are totally deceptive. Mr. Nash explains what he is doing, but he does not teach. And while the ads claim that people have learned to do perfect tabled faros in an hour, I would bet that they had the advantage of having Mr. Nash there in person. The faro shuffle is a "knack" move, and is most easily learned via personal instruction. I am in awe of Mr. Nash's extraordinary facility with the tabled faro, but as far as teaching this most difficult move, the tape was a total letdown.

Mac: Did you see the movie Toy Story yet? It's really terrific. In it there is a character, Buzz Lightyear, who is a toy spaceman. But he thinks he's a real spaceman. All the other toys know he's just a replica of a genuine spaceman. Buzz doesn't realize that he's just an action figure until he sees the Buzz Lightyear Show on television. Suddenly he comprehends his delusion. I mention all this because Buzz's catch phrase is "To infinity! And beyond!!!"

Renaissance Rope By Dick Barry

Mike: This is a quick opening effect that is suitable for the stand-up performer. The magician holds two short pieces of rope, one in each hand. The ropes are placed together for a moment as the magician asks, "Has anyone seen the trick where a rope is cut in two and then magically restored?" When the entire audience answers in the affirmative, the magician drops his hands, dejectedly. When the hands are raised, the ropes are seen to be tied together in a knot. The ends are pulled, the knot pops off, and the rope is now restored.

If this effect sounds familiar, it should. As the instructions indicate it owes more than a little to Bill Neffs rope restoration. What Mr. Barry has found is an interesting material to use as the pull. It can stretch to three times its length without breaking. An extra 26" of this material is included, so if you make use of such devices in your work, you will probably find that this is worth the price charged. The rope restoration itself looks very good, but considering the necessary set-up, I cannot visualize that it can be used for anything but an opening trick. The trick is not difficult to do, but some mirror practice is required to get the timing right.

Mac: I am a big fan of strong, visual rope magic. I have fiddled around with the "Bill Neff Miracle Rope" a bunch. It is a great trick. I think Dick Barry's addition of the "PopOff Knot" to the basic trick is a really smart idea.

In addition to Dick Barry's "Renaissance Rope" and "Neffs Miracle Rope" (which I think is still available from Abbott's), everybody should check out a similar item in the book Al Baker's Pet Secrets. As a matter of fact, you should check out the Baker book even if you hate rope magic. It's stupendous.

Cardian Angel Video By Mike Maxwell

Mac: This is a video with Mike Maxwell teaching alternate handlings and sharing tips for the popular Paul Harris card trick "Cardian Angel." There are a couple of interesting bits here, but mostly I found this to be a waste of time. I feel like this could all have been included in about four extra pages of instructions with the actual trick.

Mike: I thought that there were a couple of clever ideas on this tape, but the basic problem is one we have discussed before: Just who is this tape for?

Any advanced card guy, who has any interest in this trick at all, is going to come up with his own handling for it. Those hobbyists with limited technical ability are going to use the methods given in the original instructions (if they actually perform the trick at all). So, who is this tape for?

And you are probably correct, Mac. The ideas that I found to be worthwhile could have been incorporated into the original instructions.

The Reformation By Guy Hollingworth

Mike: I was sitting at a table in the bar of the Congress Hotel in Chicago. With me were two of England's finest, Steve Bedwell and Guy Hollingworrh, who were in town for the S.A.M. convention. Guy had me select a card. It was a King of Clubs. He had me sign the card along the edge so that the pattern of the court card would not obscure the signature. He tore the card into four pieces, counting them very openly from hand to hand. He placed two of the pieces between his lips and then somehow restored the two pieces in his hands. He was now holding a half card. A piece was removed from his lips and joined to the half card he held. He now had a three-quarters restored card. Finally, the last piece was joined to the three-quarter card, and he handed the restored card to me. My signature was on it. I was completely fooled and, given the circumstances, I did the only thing I could do - I took out a gun and killed him.

If the above description sounds familiar, it is because Guy's handling exactly duplicates the torn-and-restored baseball card that David Copperfield performed a few years ago. The big difference is that Guy's method can be done anywhere, anytime, standing or seated, with the spectators a foot or so away. In other words, it is a real-world method.

Around the time that Copperfield performed this trick on television, there was advertised something called "Torn Asunder," which supposedly was the work on the baseball card trick. There is some conjecture as to whether anyone actually received this trick, and to this day there is still discussion concerning it. (Tony Giorgio mentioned it in his column. There was a want ad in the December1995 issue of Genii for someone looking for this trick, and I even got a letter from a man who had apparently purchased the trick for $250 at a swap meet, but lost the instructions, and "could I fill him in on the details of making the gaff.") Whether or not "Torn Asunder" actually exists is no longer of any consequence, because Guy Hollingworth has the work on this trick, and he is the man to talk to.

Guy had demonstrated this routine for several magicians at the convention, and several months later I heard some buzzing through the underground that a few people were beginning to work out handlings of their own. For those of you who don't indulge in such things, I should tell you that it is much easier to reconstruct someone else's handling (once you see that a handling is possible) than it is to create a handling out of thin air. I got word to Guy that this was happening and I told him that it would probably be in his best interest to establish his creation before he picked up a magazine and read somebody's variation of his trick. This he did. Guy demonstrated the effect at the OPUS convention last June, and offered the instructions on a PAL format videotape that he sold. Other than this, the trick has had a very limited and quiet distribution.

Well, the good news is that Guy has made the tape available in NTSC format (the format used in the U.S. and Japan). The bad news is that there are a limited number of copies available, and there is no intention of duplicating these again when the original stock is gone. So, if you want one, do it now. But before you do, read the next paragraph for some more bad news.

This is a tough trick. How tough? Well, not as tough as learning to do 120 shifts per minute, but a lot harder than "Card-toon," and infinitely harder than "D'Lite." If you are not accustomed to intelligent, disciplined practice, then save your money. This is not for you, you will end up butchering this trick in performance, and you will only be disappointed. If, however, you are willing to "pay the price," I can only tell you that this is the best torn-and-restored card I have ever seen, and I am now putting in the hours in front of the mirror trying to get it to look as good as it does in Guy's hands.

Two more things. In the "Details" section of this column we will give the price in pounds Sterling. Do Guy a favor and send him an international money order in pounds. It's easy to do and will save him big hassles. Second, (and boy, am I being naive about this) if you purchase this trick, please, please, please, respect the secret involved. Perform it for magicians if you must, but don't tip the handling. I know I won't.

Mac: He's not lying folks. He hasn't even let me see the tape.

Bill Goldman's Magic Bar and Grill

Mac: Just yesterday I received a folksy little deal from Bill Goldman, a trade show guy from Chicago. It's kind of a newsletter, kind of a magazine. It's got a couple of Bill's tricks and some of his opinions all wrapped up in six 8-1/2" by 11" pages. I guess you'd say it's a periodical, because there is no exact publishing schedule. It just comes out periodically -whenever Bill feels like it. The one I got says Number One, October 1995. Each issue is $10, which is kind of steep for six pages, but the two main tricks in the issue I received are both killer. One of them is easily worth the ten bucks just by itself.

The Magic Box

Edited by Daniel Stashower

Mike: Get ready for a long sentence. Shambala Publications has produced a small, 5-1/4" x 7" lidded box filled with "exotic ephemera from the world of magic" that will delight and amuse those who collect this sort of thing, and that will also catch the eye of people shopping for a gift for a friend who has an interest in magic, but who, unbeknownst to his gift-buying friends, has absolutely no interest whatsoever in "exotic ephemera from the world of magic" since he cannot entertain himself in front of a mirror with any of it, but will accept the gift graciously and will play with the contents for approximately seven minutes and then, carefully replacing everything, will toss the box into the bottom of his magic drawer where it will fit very nicely since, as I mentioned earlier this month, the box is only 5-1/4" x 7".

I sense among you a shortening of breath and a quickening of pulse as you expectantly wait for me to detail exactly what "exotic ephemera from the world of magic" are in this little box. "The Magic Box" contains: a 20-page booklet by Heathcote Williams (no relation to Ted, Joe, Andy, Cindy or Tennessee) telling the story of "Charles Dickens, Conjuror"; 24 very attractive 5" x 7" cards, 20 of which are in full color (ten have magic tricks on the back) and four of which are in black and white; a 22-page booklet of magic tricks originally distributed on cigarette cards by the Austria Company of Munich and Berlin; four die-cut reproductions of simple card tricks and puzzles; an eight-page pamphlet from 1896 on how to be a contortionist; a paper Ouija board; two pieces of paper, one of which reads "Soo! Soo! Soo! There is only one Soo!" and the other which reads "Is Chung Ling Soo Mad?" the purpose of which I cannot begin to fathom; a short essay by Will Self (no relation to your, her, him or my); and the instructions for a trick that can be done with the box itself.

As Bob Farmer would say, "My Lord, Winnona! That is a mess o' ephemera!"

So what else can I tell you? The production values of "The Magic Box" are very high. The pictures are suitable for framing. The tricks are (for the most part) the standard ones which get exposed time and again. If this is the sort of thing you like, then you'll like this.

And if you don't, it does fit neatly in the bottom of your magic drawer.

Baseball For Boys

Baseball For Boys

Since World War II, there has been a tremendous change in the makeup and direction of kid baseball, as it is called. Adults, showing an unprecedented interest in the activity, have initiated and developed programs in thousands of towns across the United States programs that providebr wholesome recreation for millions of youngsters and are often a source of pride and joy to the community in which they exist.

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