Beautiful Anguish

René Levand wants to hurt you. He wants to get your brain in a vise grip and squeeze so hard the tears come. As he states in the Prologue to The Mysteries of My Life, "The kind of magic I do is really not for amusement, but rather for amazement. I try to amaze the audience, really shock them, choke the audience good and hard. I strive to bring them to a point of profound anguish." That Señor Levand is able to do this single-handedly, using only a deck of playing cards, is a remarkable achievement. Also remarkable is the fact that the twelve tricks which comprise Señor Levand's act perfectly compliment his personality and serve as an expression of his life. To me, this is the highest accomplishment of a great artist, an accomplishment which is often seen in music and art, but which is rare in the world of magic. It is as if Señor Levand is saying, "Here is my life, full of struggles, triumph, pain, and profound mysteries. My life has been affected in ways I cannot begin to explain. You will see things that you cannot explain, and in this way, you will be affected as well."

I realize that I'm gushing, but The Mysteries of My Life is an absolutely fabulous book. A perfectly structured, completely integrated, profoundly amazing act is a rarity. Most of us have repertoire, from which we pick and choose the routines which we will use in any given performance set. But few performers have designed their close-up shows with a clearly defined dramatic structure and a seamless integration of techniques. There are performers in the United States who are capable of developing such acts, but the venues here tend to preclude this approach. Señor Levand's act is about 45 minutes long, and demands a venue in which the audience can sit quietly and appreciate what he does. Where does one find such a venue? Even the Magic Castle does not allow such a long show.

The Mysteries of My Life is divided into two parts. The first, written by Richard Kaufman and marvelously illustrated by Earle Oakes, explains every nuance of the twelve tricks which comprise The Act. The second half of the book, titled "My Life: Shuffling Memories," was written by Señor Levand and translated by Tina Lenert. In these reminiscences you will learn much about Señor Levand's approach to creativity, performance, magic, and life.

Many of the tricks in the Act have appeared in the three earlier Levand books, Slow Motion Magic Volumes 1 and 2, and Magic from the Soul. Even if you have these books, you will appreciate Richard Kaufman's clear writing and the manner in which each effect is integrated into the whole. The act begins with a simple two card transposition, titled My Visiting Card. This is followed by a version of Triumph and a miniature Ambitious

Card segment. At this point comes one of Señor Levand's most famous routines, Why Do the Colors Alternate Themselves? This is a variation of Bill Simon's Call to the Colors in which the cards (which have been thoroughly shuffled by this time) suddenly alternate red, black. Then they alternate in pairs of reds and blacks, then singly again, then in groups of three. To the audience it appears as if Señor Levand is simply dealing cards off the deck and the order of the cards changes. (Curiously, this is one of two times in the Act in which Señor Levand gets a monumental reaction from simply dealing cards.) There now comes a version of Follow the Leader and Señor Levand's It Can't Be Done Any Slower, a devastating handling of Oil and Water. This is followed by an Elevator routine, a routine in which Señor Levand divines the identities of several cards while his head is turned, an unbelievable Card to Pocket, and I Know Them and I Don't Know How, in which Señor Levand rapidly calls off the entire order of the deck as he deals them with his head turned. (Remember, at this point the deck has been shuffled dozens of times.) It is hard to believe, but this routine consistently generates a standing ovation. This occurs because of the incredibly clever routining, which leads the audience to believe that there is no way that Señor Levand could know the order of the cards.

Two short encore pieces follow: The Deck is Feminine and Remembering My Credentials. Señor Levand generally concludes his performance by telling a couple of touching stories (including a classic O'Henry tale), and these are included in the text as well.

Now having raved about the quality of the material and the brilliance of the construction, let me tell you that if you're looking for material to add to your repertoire you will probably be overwhelmed, because these tricks are hard. I mean really, really hard. Señor Levand performs false riffle shuffles, second and third deals, false cuts, double lifts, triple lifts, and other sleights with one hand. You could, of course, substitute two-handed versions of these moves. But even so, the technical demands are still great. In addition, the techniques and presentations are so married to Señor Levand's personality that it will take considerable effort to adapt them to your own style of working. In this way The Mysteries of My Life very much resembles Showtime at the Tom Foolery, which chronicled the act of Tom Mullica. In both cases, the performer's personality so infuses the material that it is difficult to even consider performing it.

Having said that, I do think The Mysteries of My Life is an outstanding book, one which should be in your library. You certainly do not want to imitate Señor Levand, in fact, to do so would be impossible. However, you can learn from his example. A careful study of the structure of his act will reap valuable rewards. I highly recommend The Mysteries of My Life. It is my pick of the month.

Cyclops By Bob Farmer

You know Bob Farmer from his excellent Flim-Flam column in this very magazine. (And by the way, welcome back, Bob, we missed you.) Bob is a student of magic, and all of his marketed items show great scholarship and ingenuity. Bob's newest release is Cyclops, an offbeat Cups and Balls routine.

Actually, I should have said Cups and Ball routine, because this routine uses three cups and only (apparently) one ball. (And having written that, I'm not sure why the routine is called Cyclops, since the Cyclops of mythology had only one eye. Perhaps Bob knows something only the Cyclops' closest friends knew. But I digress.) Bob's routine has some interesting aspects: it requires no special equipment; it can be done in almost any performance environment; and it is not particularly difficult. Perhaps the most unusual aspect is that Cyclops uses big balls (Bob suggests 2 inch solid rubber balls). This greatly increases the visibility of the routine.

Cyclops is divided into three acts, each act containing several effects. Bob gives a summary of each act on the back cover of the Cyclops booklet, which is an excellent learning aid. The big ball vanishes, appears at the magician's elbow, jumps from cup to cup, penetrates the bottom of a cup, vanishes from the magician's pocket and appears under a cup, and finally multiplies into three balls. For those of you who may feel that the production of three balls tips the method, Bob offers several alternative endings.

One of Bob's gifts is his ability to describe complex routines in an easy to understand way. Each phase of the routine is introduced with a bold-faced paragraph heading which explains exactly what you are going to be learning. All the illustrations are grouped at the back of the manuscript, and you may want to remove the plastic comb and lay out these pages so you don't have to keep flipping back and forth.

If you're looking for an offbeat Cups and Balls routine, Cyclops is certainly worth your consideration. It's easy, effective, and practical. And at $10 it's a steal. Recommended.

Magic Squares By Mark S. Farrar

Magic squares are not magic, but the knowledge of how to construct them seems to be one of the ancillary skills which a magician ought to possess. In Magic Squares, Mark Farrar has provided a useful reference book for those who want to learn about these fascinating mathematical curiosities.

Mr. Farrar gives a brief history of magic squares, and then gives some general information on the types and classifications of magic squares. Next, he presents general formulas for constructing magic squares, and then provides analyses of 3x3, 4x4, and 5x5 magic squares. Following this are 18 routines in which magic square are utilized in a conjuring context. There are some offbeat ideas here, including a routine which utilizes a memorized deck, and one which combines a magic square and origami. Some of these routines are only sketchily described, and you may have to seek out the original source (which Mr. Farrar refers to) in order have all the information you need.

The book concludes with a useful bibliography and five appendices which provide information on various summation combinations for 4x4 and 5x5 squares.

Magic Squares is an excellent reference book for those looking for information on this subject.

Electronic Wizardry By Dr. Tom N. Todd

If you're a do-it-yourselfer, be sure to check out Tom Todd's Electronic Wizardry. Dr. Todd covers a variety of subjects, including batteries, pyrotechnics, wireless remotes, solenoids and valves, sound systems, lighting and special effects, and high tech spy stuff. You'll learn how to make flashpots, hand flashers, confetti cannons, and a bunch of other cool stuff. The text is geared to those who already have some experience with electronic projects, but Dr. Todd provides resources for those who are new to the subject. I recommend Electronic Wizardry. There are not many books available on this subject. However, let me offer the following warning: Some of the devices explained here could be potentially harmful to the magician or the spectators. Use common sense and be careful.

The Money Maker Machine Manual By Algonquin McDuff

Rhett Bryson and Dexter Cleveland are back with the sixth book of the infamous McDuff Trilogy. This time around they tackle the venerable Money Maker Machine. (This machine has two rollers; you feed a blank piece of paper into the rollers, turn a handle, and the machine apparently prints a genuine dollar bill.) You may find out more about the Money Maker Machine (hereafter known as the MMM) than you really wanted to know.

The Money Maker Machine Manual begins with a history of the device, including the diagrams from four U.S. patents. Most magic dealers have included a MMM in their catalogs, and there is a chapter with the various ads which have appeared. Next is a chapter with photographs showing a wide variety of MMMs which were produced over the past hundred years. Included here is a model designed by Derek Verner, Dai Vernon's son.

The last half of the book contains routines for the MMM from contributors such as Martin Gardner, Frank Herman, Charles Pecor, Marv Leventhal, George Schindler, Al Cohen, Warren Stephens, and Dan Garrett. There are some very nifty ideas here.

I would imagine that all of us have owned a MMM at some point in our magical lives. The Money Maker Machine Manual provides a lot of information in the usual lighthearted McDuff style. I enjoyed it. I think you will too.

The Little Green Lecture Notes The Little Green Lecture Video By Pit Hartling

Pit Hartling won second place in the card magic category at the 1994 FISM convention in Yokohama, Japan. He is a member of the Flicking Fingers, a talented group of young German magicians who made a strong impression in 1997 at the Dresden FISM and in 1998 at the Desert Magic Seminar. Pit gave a few lectures around the United States last year. The Little Green Lecture Notes and The Little Green Lecture Video contain five clever card effects, none of which require advanced card handling ability.

My two favorite effects are Cupit and Chaos. In Cupit, the Joker acts as the God of Love, pairing up all the cards of the deck, so that each card lies next to its mate. The method is offbeat, and would fool you if you saw it performed. Chaos is a two card location which is completely self-working, but which is extremely hard to reconstruct. Also included in the Notes are: Robin Hood, which combines the Cards Across and The Collectors plots; Defect, a rising card routine with a comedy kicker; and Triathlon, a three card location. All the routines are clearly explained, and Pit offers some additional tips, hints, and suggestions at the end of each routine.

The Little Green Lecture Video contains all the routines from the Notes, plus two more: Chameleon, a handling for the Universal Card which is very visual; and The Ultimate Coincidence, an effect in which every card in the performer's deck matches the cards in a deck which a spectator has shuffled. This effect is not explained, and I would imagine that magicians are going to wear out the Slo-mo button on their VCRs trying to figure out how this trick works. (Incidentally, there is a mistake in the description of this effect on the video box cover. It says that the spectator's deck is borrowed. This is not true. The magician hands the deck to the spectator to shuffle.) The video is well produced, and Pit's explanations (and his English) are excellent.

Whether you choose to buy the Notes or the Video, I think you'll find The Little Green Lecture to be worthwhile. Recommended.

The Big Picture By Woody Pittman

Woody Pittman is a very successful comedy magician. He started out in comedy clubs, but lately has been plying his trade on cruise ships. His stage persona is a marvelous combination of charm and weirdness which makes him a delight to watch. The Big Picture is a set of notes in which Woody discusses character development for magicians. Woody explains how he created and developed his character, how you can create your own unique character, how to develop unique presentations, how to motivate your character's actions, and how to choose assistants from the audience. These are notes, consequently Woody does not go into great detail about any of these subjects, but his advice is practical and useful.

One of the most difficult aspects of the performance of magic is finding your own unique voice. No one has all the answers, but The Big Picture will point you in the right direction.

The Eye Deceived, the Ear Amused, and the Mind Astonished! By Gary Hunt

William Augustus Reich was born in Salem, North Carolina in 1883. He was a pacifist, but joined the North Carolina 26th Regimental Band during the Civil War, and played the bass drum. (This makes perfect sense to me, because I've worked with drummers who use the bass drum as a lethal weapon.) As a band member he also worked as a hospital attendant, and saw most of his unit wiped out at the battle of Gettysburg. Between battles he gave concerts and magic shows and later became known as Professor Gus Rich, the Wizard of the Blue Ridge.

You may know of Gus Rich because of Max Howard's marvelous recreation "The Great Southern Sleight of Hand Show." Gary Hunt gave a talk on Gus Rich at a recent Magic Collector's Weekend. The Eye Deceived, the Ear Amused, and the Mind Astonished! are the notes from that talk, and they include biographical information, reviews of Gus Rich's shows, photographs of his props, and a brief article by Max Howard on the evolution of "The Great Southern Sleight of Hand Show."

There are a limited number of these manuscripts available. If you want a copy, contact Mr. Hunt right away.

Sylvester Pitch 98 By Dan Sylvester

Dan Sylvester is a walking special effect. His character, Sylvester the Jester, is a living cartoon, and it is a tribute to Dan's creativity that he has been able to bring to the stage effects which have only been seen in the world of animation.

Dan is also an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician, and he has developed a utility move which will be of interest to close-up and parlor magicians. The Sylvester Pitch (also known as the Inertia Pass) allows you to secretly transfer an object from right hand to left hand as the left hand openly tosses an object to the right hand. The beauty of the Sylvester Pitch is that the hands are not close to each other, and the secret transfer happens at the exact same time as the overt tossing action.

In the video tape Sylvester Pitch 98, you'll learn how to perform the pitch, and you'll learn the extended Miser's Dream routine in which the pitch is incorporated. The pitch is not particularly easy, it will require some conscientious practice in order to master it. But the time spent is worth it, for this is a utility move which will allow you to secretly transfer any small object, and large objects as well.

The tape begins with excerpts from the Sylvester the Jester stage act. Then Dan performs and explains the pitch and the associated routines. While Dan's explanations are clear, he does not completely abandon his "Jester" persona during the teaching segments, and some may find this off-putting. The camera work is also good, especially considering that the pitch is a three-dimensional move, and needs to be seen live to be completely appreciated.

The Sylvester Pitch is an excellent utility move, and Sylvester Pitch 98 explains it very well. If you're a sleight-of-hand guy, it is worth your serious consideration.

Automatic Thimbles From Creative Enterprises

Also from the folks who brought you "Inferno" is this set of thimbles which allow you to perform interesting manipulations with a minimum of technical ability. The thimbles come in two varieties, white or multicolored, and you get four thimbles in each package. These are big magician-style thimbles (you'd never find a seamstress wearing something like this), and they are about 1.25 inches tall and the mouth of the thimble is 1 inch in diameter. The size of these thimbles caused me some problems. Because of my small hands and skinny fingers the thimbles fit very loosely and insecurely. If you have normal hands this probably won't bother you.

Included with each set of thimbles is an instruction sheet which explains the basic production move. The basic move is this: You show a thimble on your forefinger. You do this very cleanly. You then immediately produce another thimble on your middle finger. This move looks very good and is quite deceptive. The instructions give you the information you need to produce four thimbles.

While the instructions do a satisfactory job explaining the thimble productions, I think that anyone who is seriously considering using these thimbles should also invest in the companion video, titled Automatic Thimbles Movie. Steve Sheraton demonstrates and explains several routines, and (as he has done in several other videos) he does this silently. This means that if English is not your first language you'll still be able to understand what's going on.

I'm not a thimble guy, so I don't know if these thimbles can be used for routines such as those of Joe Mogar in Digital Effects. But if you're interested in a simple thimble routine, the Automatic Thimbles and the Automatic Thimbles Movie will certainly fit the bill.

Bound Ambition By Rev. Alan Geddes

Here's an offbeat and simple card effect. The magician brings out a curious deck of cards. The side of the cards have been punched and a plastic comb binder has been placed through the holes, thus producing a deck which makes sleight-of-hand impossible. The magician riffles through the cards and a spectator says, "Stop." The card at that point is noted. (Incidentally, during this riffle it is seen that all the cards are different.) The cards are squared. The magician then pulls away the plastic comb. The deck comes free, but one card remains, hanging from the plastic comb. It is the selected card.

This is not an earthshaking effect, but the prop is novel, and it is completely self-working. You receive a gaffed deck, an ungaffed deck, a duplicate force card, and an extra comb in the event of breakage. If the effect appeals to you, "Bound Ambition" is worth checking out.

Silk Dream By Werry

This little trick has been getting a lot of advertising space. Here's what happens: The magician shows his hands empty. (They are actually empty.) He slowly reaches out and apparently grabs something from the air. The magician then makes a small tossing motion and a silk appears in mid-air.

First off, let me say that the illusion produced by this device is quite good, however it will take some time and practice to coordinate all the actions so they generate the desired result. The "Silk Dream" device is a one-shot deal - you produce one silk and that's it. You can produce the silk at any time during your act. There is some noise when the silk is produced. You will need to cover this noise with music or a forceful vocal outburst. The ads say, "Never do your hands touch your body or your clothing." This is slightly deceptive. You must make contact with the device in order to trigger it. You can use your wrist or your forearm, and this can be done in a very subtle and non-obvious way, but this is not a "no touch" device.

Another factor is the size of the silk which can be produced. The ads say that you can produce an 18 inch silk. I think this is only possible if the silk is extremely thin or is cut diagonally. I tried this with a 12 inch silk, and the silk had to be packed very tightly in order to fly out freely and produce the desired illusion.

On page 59 of Bruce Elliott's Magic as a Hobby there is a trick called "Popper" which is the barehanded production of a silk. This requires no gaffs, although you would have to perform the production near the beginning of your act. I would suggest tracking down this book and trying out this production to see if you like the effect. If the effect appeals, and if you have a reason to include such an effect in your act, then Werry's "Silk Dream" may be exactly what you're looking for.

Murphy's Chest From Bazar de Magia

In The Book Without a Name, Ted Annemann had an effect called "Seven Keys to Baldpate." There have been many variations of this effect, including popular mechanical versions such as "Key-r-rect" With "Murphy's Chest," Bazar de Magia has produced a practical, simple, and fairly foolproof method for performing this effect.

There are many presentational approaches, but here's a simple one: The magician brings out a small wooden box. It has a lock on the front, and sticking out of this lock is a small key. The magician (or a spectator) turns the key and unlocks the box. The magician drops a $100 bill into the box, closes it, locks it, and removes the key. He now brings out four more keys which are similar to the one which opens the box. He mixes all five keys in a large brandy snifter and each of four spectators chooses a key. The key which remains is taken by the magician. Each spectator will try his key. If it opens the box, he get the $100. Any of them may switch keys with the magician at any time. All the spectators try their keys. None work. The magician (or a spectator if desired) tries the fifth key, and it opens the box.

The wooden box has a mahogany veneer and is 5.5 x 4 x 8. It is gimmicked in an ingenious way which allows for almost hands-off operation. You receive all the necessary props, two duplicate keys, and a small instruction manual. (Important note! If you buy this prop, turn to page 11 of the manual and read the entire page before you play around with any of the props! You could easily screw something up. I almost did.) The manual contains several routines, including an idea from Ted Lesley.

I like this very much. The box looks good, the method is ingenious, and the handling is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, at $389 this item is only practical for professionals and wealthy amateurs. But if you fall into one of those categories, I think that you'll get a lot of use out of "Murphy's Chest." Recommended.

The Pro-Folio By Andy Nyman

Also of use to working professionals is this elegant prop from British mentalist Andy Nyman. "The Pro-Folio" is a leather business portfolio. It measures 9.5 x 13 inches and is made of black buffalo hide trimmed with brass corners. Built into the portfolio are a peek device and an impression device. Neither device is high-tech, but both work like a charm. (The manner in which the peek is obtained is particularly ingenious.)

Andy provides you with the necessary prop and a manuscript which details all the handling. He also includes several routines, including an excellent one based on graphology.

Andy's motivation was to design a prop which would look at home in a corporate setting. Both the price and the nature of the material performed with this prop place it outside the realm of the inexperienced or the merely curious. However, if you are a working mentalist, "The Pro-Folio" would be an excellent investment. Recommended.

The Psycho-Kinetic Pen From Grand Illusions

Here's an easy-to-carry way to prove your telekinetic abilities. The magician brings out a black Bic pen. He places the pen on a table, allowing half the pen to project over the edge of the table. The magician makes mystic passes over the pen. In a few seconds, the pen tumbles over the edge and onto the floor.

You get three pens (one gaffed and two ungaffed) and a page of instructions. The pen is easy to use, reset is simple, and the effect packs small and plays big. If you're anxious to have your own "Uri" moment, "The Psycho-Kinetic Pen" is worth checking out.

Details

The Mysteries of My Life by Richard Kaufman and René Levand. 8.5 x 11, hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 169 pages. $40 postpaid in U.S. From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016

Cyclops by Bob Farmer. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 12 pages. $10 postpaid ($12 outside North America). From Bob Farmer, Box 1262, Brockville, Ontario, Canada K6V 5W2

Magic Squares by Mark S. Farrar. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 107 pages. $30. From H&R Magic Books, 3839 Liles Lane, Humble, TX 77396-4088

Electronic Wizardry by Dr. Tom N. Todd. 8.5 x 11. 38 pages. $22 plus $3 p&h. From Tom Todd, 1312 N.W. 12th, Suite 111, Moore, OK 73170

The Money Maker Machine Manual by Algonquin McDuff. 6 x 8, plastic comb bound. 102 pages. $20. From Jester's Press, P.O. Box 3442, Spartanburg, SC 29304

The Little Green Lecture Notes. 8.5 x 11, stapled. 37 pages. $15

The Little Green Lecture Video. $35. Both by Pit Hartling. From H&R Magic Books,

3839 Liles Lane, Humble, TX 77396-4088

The Big Picture by Woody Pittman. 4.25 x 5.5, stapled. 38 pages. $10. From Woody Pittman. P.O. Box 845, Hollywood, CA 90078-0845

The Eye Deceived, the Ear Amused, and the Mind Astonished! by Gary Hunt. 8.5 x 11, stapled. 24 pages. $10 plus $2 p&h. From Gary Hunt, 3209 Rugby Road, Durham, NC 27707

Sylvester Pitch 98 by Dan Sylvester. $34.95 plus $5 p&h. From Inferno, 4255 D, E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104

Automatic Thimbles. $19.95

Automatic Thimble Movie. $15. From Inferno, 4255 D, E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89104

Bound Ambition by Rev. Alan Geddes. $17.95. From Showplace Magic, 50 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84144

Werry's Silk Dream. $30. Available from most magic dealers.

Murphy's Chest. From Bazar de Magia. $389. From Bazar de Magia, Casilla de Correo No. 58, Sucursal No. 1, (1401) Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Pro-Folio by Andy Nyman. $175 plus $15 p&h. From Andy Nyman, 67 Hammersmith Grove, London, W6 ONE, England.

The Psycho-Kinetic Pen from Grand Illusions. $26.95 plus $3 p&h. From Grand Illusions, 7704 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael, CA 95608

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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