Absolutely Magic is a small magic shop centrally located in Andrew J. Pinard's sprawling farmhouse, which is located in the heart of New Hampshire. The shop faces an old cemetery, which provided a peaceful background for the writing of this month's column. Andrew and his wife Jill were kind enough to allow the Great Traveling Lecture Tour to camp out for four days, and Lisa, Pablo, and I are grateful for their hospitality. At this point (32 lectures into the tour), not having to drive for four days in row is a great luxury.
Space is at a premium this month, so the reviews are briefer than usual.
The idea behind John Anders' "Direct Link" is quite old; Professor Hoffman mentions it in Later Magic. Tommy Wonder and Alexander DeCova have also published their handlings for this idea. By incorporating a John Cornelius idea (popularized by Michael Ammar), Mr. Anders has designed a device that allows you to vanish small objects and then retrieve them from your left trouser pocket. In effect, you are lapping while standing up.
During my stint as MAGLC's product reviewer, I have tried to avoid revealing the methods of reviewed items. However, in the case of "Direct Link" I don't think I can give you enough information to make an intelligent buying decision without explaining (to some degree) exactly what it is that you're buying.
What we're talking about here is a belly servante, a device that allows you to toss objects down the front of your pants. The device John sells is a slightly curved, plastic receptacle which is about 6.5 inches wide, 5.75 inches tall, and 1.25 inches deep. The top and the left sides of the device are open. The device goes into the front of your pants where it is held in place by pressure between your belly and the waistband of your trousers. If you perform a little surgery on your left pants pocket, you can retrieve anything that you toss into the device.
The first problem I encountered with the device is that I don't own a correct pair of trousers. You will need a loose fitting pair of slacks, probably of the "Sans-a-belt" style. I discovered that with all my belted trousers the "Direct Link" juts out at the bottom, which makes it look as if I'm wearing a medical contrivance. There may also be a tendency for the device to slip downward, and Mr. Anders offers some suggestions on how to counteract this.
The second problem is the size and shape of the device itself. Everyone is built differently, and the device may not fit your body well. I also think that this device is designed for slender men. If you are stout, you may not be able to use it at all. I am also disappointed that Mr. Anders made the decision to cut the opening in the left side of the device. This means that you must use your left pocket; no other option is available. It would have been more useful if the side openings had been perforated, allowing the user to punch out whichever opening would be most useful.
Now let's talk about using the "Direct Link." Mr. Anders provides a videotape in which he demonstrates and explains several effects using the device. Not one of these effects inspired in me a desire to use the prop. In fact, I question the manner in which Mr. Anders uses the "Direct Link." To my eyes, objects were ditched at psychologically ineffective moments, and the ditching action was obvious and completely unnatural. I believe that the "Direct Link," the Topit, and Sleeving are most effective when used to "clean up," and the action must occur during a moment of audience relaxation (such as at the end of a trick). None of Mr. Anders' applications use the device in this way.
In one very amusing segment of the videotape, Mr. Anders explains how to cover the upper opening of the device. This involves some minor gaffing of your shirt, which is explained in a way that would make Harry Anderson wince.
So, what's the bottom line here? If you think you're buying the wonder device of the ages, you're wrong, and you're probably going to be disappointed. Before you spend $80 I think you should already have in mind a very good application for a gaff like this. Check out Volume 2 of The Books of Wonder to learn Tommy's work on the device. (Unfortunately, Alexander DeCova's book is not available in English.) Used sparingly, at psychologically sound moments, and with intelligently choreographed movements, I think that the "Direct Link" could be an effective tool. If overused, it just looks obvious, and I don't believe it will fool anyone. Would I ever use it? Nope, but I'll never use a Topit either.
I have been impressed with the products released by The Magic Smith. I'm also a fan of Eric Maurin, who's 1992 booklet Secrets contained some fine material. "Bar Code" is Mr. Maurin's elaboration of Fumio Inagaki's bar code gag. You're probably familiar with this gag, it's in the repertoire of many magicians. The magician holds up an envelope which contains a prediction concerning the results of a spectator's imaginary visit to a supermarket. The spectator states aloud the name of her favorite supermarket and decides on an item in that store. The prediction is removed and it contains a large picture of a Universal Price Code Bar. Mr. Maurin has turned this into a close-up trick, and has expanded on this in the following ways: The bar code is actually a "readable" bar code (a Doug Wicks idea). When the prediction card is tilted the bars become legible writing, and through a play on words it appears as if bars do contain the spectator's item and price. As a kicker, the card is turned around, and on the back of it is the name of the supermarket which the spectator chose at the beginning.
You need to know a couple of things. First, you will not always be correct on the name of the supermarket. Whether or not the name is revealed is an "out." Second, The Magic Smith has done a big no-no in my book and has advertised this product with a very deceptive ad. If you look at their ad on page 23 of the September 1998 issue you'll see that the name of the supermarket is written in the center of the card. But, because of the limitations of the method, this is not where the writing will appear. It appears in a visually weaker position on the card.
"Bar Code" is basically a gag trick anyway, but the ad makes it seem as if you are able to end with a miraculous prediction. You don't. For $10 this is not a bad close-up gag, but if you think you're getting a miracle, save your money.
The "Ball, Cone, and Handkerchief' was one of Dai Vernon's favorite routines. It is also one of the most requested routines in the repertoire of Harry Riser. (Harry's routine eliminates the handkerchief and incorporates a Morrison Pill Box.) However, Ball and Cone routines do not seem to have entered the repertoires of the general magic populace. This may be due to the fact that the required props have not been readily available. Aldo Colombini has come to the rescue with "Cone-tact," which provides you with a cone, three balls, and a silk handkerchief. Also included is Aldo's adaptation of the Vernon routine.
Let's talk about the props first. The cone is 6 inches tall and the mouth of the cup is 2.25 inches in diameter. It is orange-ish tan in color and has a stamped design around the base and the top. There is brown, vertical, crosshatched stitching at the juncture point which forms the cone. The balls are made of a "clingy" rubber and are 1.5 inches in diameter. The silk measures 18 inches on a side.
These props differ quite a bit from the ball and cone set which I remember Harry using. The cone Aldo provides is quite supple; you can easily squeeze it flat. Harry's cone was of a much stiffer leather. Because of this, you will need to learn to handle Aldo's cone with a light touch. Also, Harry's cone was of a darker leather, and the seam in the cone was not obvious. Aldo's cone resembles a folk craft object. Harry's routine (and Vernon's routine) used billiard balls. Aldo provides you with rubber balls. I guess the point I'm trying to make is this: If you look at the pictures in The Dai Vernon Book of Magic and think that this is what Aldo's props look like, you'll be disappointed. This is not a criticism of the "Cone-tact" props, but you should know that the Vernon props look elegant, while the "Cone-tact" props are more casual.
Aldo provides you with an eight phase routine in which the ball is produced from the silk, penetrates the silk, vanishes, penetrates the cone, changes color twice, multiplies, and finally disappears completely. The instructions are well written and are accompanied by many clear illustrations.
If you have thought about incorporating a Ball and Cone routine into your repertoire, the "Cone-tact" set is well worth your consideration. This is a sleight-of-hand routine, but it is not particularly difficult, and the manipulative lessons learned will serve you well in other applications. Should the routine become a staple of your repertoire, you could easily upgrade to different types of balls, or go to the (sizable) added expense of having a cone custom made for you.
"POW!" is a further development of Pepe Monfort's "An Experiment in Black and White" which was published in the November, 1997 issue of Genii. You may want to track down that issue to check out the basic premise of the trick. The original trick used a sheet of paper which was torn into eight strips. This has been streamlined in "POW!" through the use of eight business cards. Here's what happens:
The magician shows the spectator eight business cards each of which has words printed in blue on one side and in red on the other side. It is explained that the words printed in red are the opposite (that is, antonyms) of the words printed in blue. The spectator is shown the cards, one at a time, and he indicates a card by saying, "Stop." He thinks of any word on this business card. The cards are gathered and turned over. The spectator is asked to find the antonym of his selected word. When he indicates that he has found it, the magician reveals both words.
This is a clever trick, and I think that both magicians and laymen will find it quite puzzling. Obviously, with any trick of this nature in which the choice is limited to a relatively small number of words and the selection procedure is somewhat contrived, you are not going to convince people that you are a real mind reader. For that reason, "POW!" is more suitable for a magician who wants to perform a mental-flavored effect rather than someone who presents himself as a mentalist. But if you're looking for a simple, effective mental trick that you can carry in your wallet, "POW!" is worth your consideration.
By now you've probably seen the ads for this trick. The picture that accompanies the ad shows a Bic ™ type pen floating a few inches above a pad of writing paper. A hoop is being passed over the pen. The picture is an accurate representation of how the floating pen looks. Here's how the effect goes: The magician brings out a pad of paper (measuring 5.25 x 8 inches) and sets the pad on the table. The pad is opened and a sheet of paper is removed. The spectator writes the word "float" on the piece of paper. The paper is then rolled into a tight tube, in which form it resembles a magic wand. Meanwhile, the magician has displayed a small bracelet which is placed aside. The magician retrieves the pen from the spectator and holds it above the pad. The spectator waves the paper wand toward the pen, and the pen floats above the pad of paper. The bracelet is passed over the pen, apparently showing no means of support. Finally, the pen is lifted away from the pad and is put away. (The pen could probably be examined; the pad of paper cannot be examined.)
The idea behind "The Incredible Floating Pen" is not new. More than twenty years ago, I watched a very clever Chicago magician utilize the same principle in a charming miniature levitation. I don't know if Mr. Snowden was aware of this early trick, but no mention is made of it in the instructions. You may have made some guesses as to how "The Incredible Floating Pen" works. In all probability, you are correct.
Now, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the illusion of the pen floating is quite good. (It should be, the pen is actually floating.) The bad news is that this is not a self-working trick. It will require some concerted practice in order to present it smoothly and effectively. I also think it is possible that some laymen may be familiar with the underlying principle that makes the trick work. "The Incredible Floating Pen" is a static flotation; the pen hovers over the notepad, but nowhere else. Nor does it levitate up from the pad. Because of this, you should decide whether it is important to you if the floating object moves through space. The pen is static, it does not move. In a trick like the Floating Dollar Bill, the bill does move up and down.
At $290 this is a very expensive trick. It is far too expensive to be a toy. In fact, when you get this, you may wonder if what you receive is worth the price. It is possible to perform this in a walk around situation (if there were tables to set the props on), and the trick resets quickly if you have done adequate preparation ahead of time. You could also display it on a shelf in your house and perform it for visiting friends. But I would offer a final word of caution. If you're looking for a miracle, this probably isn't it. "The Incredible Floating Pen" looks good, but you'll pay a price, both in dollars and in practice time.
I Spell Magic F-U-N More I Spell Magic F-U-N By Dick Stoner
Dick Stoner is a very successful trade show magician. His magic shop on South Harrison Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary at the same location. This store holds fond memories for me. When I was six years old my parents took me to this store and Dick Stoner sold me my first magic tricks.
On I Spell Magic F-U-N and More I Spell Magic F-U-N Dick Stoner performs and explains many of the routines from his professional repertoire. These are Dick's bread and butter routines. He has made a living from them, and you probably could, too.
To demonstrate just how commercial these routines are, the majority of the performance segments are drawn from Dick's many appearances on the Nashville Network. Using these actual television broadcasts is a great idea: the production values are great, and you get to see how a real life audience responds to this material.
The routines on the two videos are equally divided between stand-up material and card effects. Among the stand-up effects are: Dick's Linking Ring Routine (with the buttonhole link gag); a strong routine for the Wrist Chopper; the "Record Breaking Wrist Tie Routine"; a stand-up sponge balls routine; a handling for the Sympathetic Silks; and a "Long & Short Rope" routine. The card routines include: "The Columbo Clincher" (which is better know as "The Fingerprint Trick"); "The Las Vegas Glasses" (which uses a prop invented by Karrell Fox); and "Shuffled Off and Buffalo 'Em" which combines several flourishy shuffles with a Slop Shuffle finale.
Dick's philosophy is that magic is meant to be fun, and his presentations emphasize laughs. While you will not find anything which is earthshakingly new, you will find practical, commercial material which is well within the abilities of the average magician. The explanation segments were shot using one camera, which means that you don't get a lot of close-ups, but you will be able to learn from these videos. I do wish that more effort had been made to credit the material; almost no credits are given.
When I was a kid, much of the magic I did was inspired by the routines I saw Dick Stoner perform. His style was an early influence. At $40 each, these tapes are a bit pricey, but I think you'll find the material and the advice to be valuable.
Magic Menu editor Jim Sisti has taken a very old trick and cloaked it with an astrological presentation. "Signs of the Times" is based on the classic "Mutus Nomen" card location and uses Stewart Judah's shuffle sequence. Rather than using playing cards, Mr. Sisti provides you with 20 varnish-coated cards (about the size of business cards) which contain astrological and planetary symbols. The cards are shuffled and dealt out in pairs. A spectator picks any pair and remembers both cards. The cards are gathered, shuffled, and dealt into four rows of five cards. The spectator indicates which rows contain his cards. The magician names the two cards.
Mr. Sisti has added a nice touch which completely eliminates the memory work usually associated with this type of trick. The use of the astrological cards provides a natural lead in to cold reading. In fact, the only reason I can see for performing this particular version is to do an astrological reading. Otherwise, it seems like the magician is going to a lot of trouble just to divine the names of two cards. You should also know that this trick has some space constraints. You're going to need an area about 14 inches square to deal out the cards. Clearing this much space may be a problem in some venues. Because the cards must be overhand shuffled, you may want to lightly powder the cards so you can run them with surety.
"Sign of the Times" is not an earth-shaking effect, but it could be an effective routine for those of you who incorporate readings into your magic.
Causing a selected card to vanish from the deck and appear in an impossible location is a strong plot. Having the card appear in a bottle is a variation which goes back to Roterberg. Ariel Frailich has come up with a simple method and a very commercial "Bizarre" presentation.
A spectator selects a card (forced) and shuffles it back into the deck. The deck is cut into several piles, arranged into a circle. A bottle is placed into the center of the circle. Attempting to find the card, the bottle is spun. It stops at a packet. The other packets are shown; they do not contain the selected card and they are eliminated. The cards of the selected packet are distributed into several piles and the spinning/elimination process is repeated. This is done until one card remains. It is turned over, but it is not the selected card. The trick has apparently failed. The spectator picks up the bottle and looks inside. The selected card is inside the bottle.
Ariel provides excellent instructions, and offers several handling and presentational variations. The trick requires little technical ability and produces a strong effect. You should be aware that the layout will require some space, which may be a problem in some venues. For bar magicians this trick is a natural.
If you're looking for a simple, strong, and unique card routine, "Spin the Bottle" will suit the bill.
The Ultimate Snowstorm Set By Larry Maples & Raven
Recent legislation passed by the United States Congress has decreed that all stage magic acts must now end with Snowstorm in China. If you're hot and heavy to avoid the Confetti Police and join the "Let's leave the stage a mess club," you should check out "The Ultimate Snowstorm Set". You get a 15-inch red nylon fan, a six-pack of snowstorm confetti gimmicks (3 white, 1 red, 1 mylar, and 1 multicolor), and a 31-page booklet titled Secrets of the Snowstorm. The booklet covers various gimmicks, methods for stealing the load, tips on lighting, fanning techniques, types of fans, and 12 routines.
All kidding aside, "The Ultimate Snowstorm Set" is a good value and will provide the beginning (or experienced) snowstormer with everything they need to litter the stage with style.
The subtitle of Manacles of the World is "A Collector's Guide to International Handcuffs, Leg Irons & Other Miscellaneous Shackles and Restraints." It certainly is that. In ten chapters Mr. Gross gives an overview of shackles in history, discusses basic types and styles of shackles, and delineates a great number of British, American, Continental European, and Third World shackles. 170 photographs and illustrations accompany the text.
I have little knowledge or experience in this facet of magic, so I turned this book over to a couple of experienced escape artists. They were delighted with it. If you are a collector or have an interest in escapology, this book will be a valuable resource. And at $10 it is an absolute steal.
It's Not Magic But.
Aye Jaye is a performer, stand-up comedian, member of the Clown Hall of Fame, and a world-class schmoozer. Schmoozing is the art of treating others well, and Aye Jaye has put all his schmoozing knowledge in a book titled The Golden Rule of Schmoozing. You'll find techniques for schmoozing your boss, your co-workers, your customers, your significant other, your kids, your neighbors, and just about anybody else you'll encounter. The book is a fun and easy read, and the advice is practical and down to earth. If everybody read this book and took its advice to heart the world would be a kinder, gentler place to live. Magicians' interpersonal skills should be as good (if not better) than their technical skills. The Golden Rule of Schmoozing is a handbook for anybody who plans on standing in front of an audience.
(By the way, if you don't like to read, The Golden Rule of Schmoozing is available on audio tape, with the incomparable Penn Jillette doing the reading.)
The Direct Link by John Anders. $80 (for device plus NTSC tape), $75 (for device plus PAL tape.) $6 for p&h in Europe, $7.50 for p&h to US. From John Anders, Essehout 158, 2719 MG Zoetermeer, The Netherlands.
Bar Code by Eric Maurin. $10 plus $1 p&h. From The Magic Smith, 64 Seafare, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Cone-tact by Aldo Colombini. $65 plus $6.50 p&h. From Mama Mia Magic, P.O. Box 7117, Thousand Oaks, CA 91359
POW! by Pepe Monfort and Martin Kaplan. $15 postpaid. From Martin Kaplan, 817 Monterey Street, #4, Alhambra, CA 91801
The Incredible Floating Pen by Patrick Snowden. $289.95 postpaid in US. From Hocus Pocus, 2311 E. McKinley, Fresno, CA 93703
I Spell Magic F-U-N & More I Spell Magic F-U-N by Dick Stoner. Each video $39.95 postpaid. From Stoner's Fun Stores, 712 S. Harrison Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Sign of the Times by Jim Sisti. $20. From Jim Sisti, 21 Noe Place, Beacon Falls, CT 06403
Spin the Bottle by Ariel Frailich. $11 postpaid in US ($15 postpaid in Canada). From I Saw That!, 35 Candle Liteway, NorthYork, Ontario, M2R 3J5, Canada
The Ultimate Snowstorm Set by Larry Maples & Raven. $29 postpaid in US. From Larry Maples & Raven, Inc., 16 Weatherstone Way, Smithtown, NY 11787
Manacles of the World by T. L. Gross. 8.5 x 11, softcover. 162 pages. $10 plus $3 p&h in US (foreign orders add $5 for p&h). From T. L. Gross, P.O. Box 16896, Clayton, MO 63105
The Golden Rule of Schmoozing by Aye Jaye. 6 x 9 softcover. 192 pages. ISBN 157071-129-1. $12.95 From Sourcebooks, Inc. Available at most bookstores.
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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.