If the TV programming schedules are correct, we will have been hit by another round of exposure programs by the time you read this. As before, we will hear cries of anger and anguish throughout magicdom. Editor Stan offered some thoughtful comments last issue. Let me give you a few more things to think about.
Do I think that there is anything we can do to stop these programs? No. Our society seems to be focused on tearing down rather than building up. We are obsessed with the revealing of secrets, whether these are secrets of our personal lives (or the personal lives of those who govern us), secrets between countries, or the mundane secrets of magic tricks. Those who willfully hide secrets come under attack, and magicians are an easy target. I believe that interest in these exposure programs will die down over time, as people come to realize how profoundly uninteresting the nuts-and-bolts methods of magic really are. But until that time we're going to have to bite the bullet. However, there are some ways to make the rough times ahead more bearable.
First, remember that people have very short memories. If you don't believe me, try this: Get out a handkerchief and do the trick of Phoa Yan Tiong that Tom Mullica explained on the first World's Greatest Magic program. My guess is that you can't even remember what the effect was, and if you do, you can't reconstruct the handling. (Don't feel bad. I can't remember it, either.) So, over time, people will forget the details of what they see on TV. You may have to drop an item from your program for a while, but in time you can safely reinstate the exposed trick.
A second suggestion: Be smart. Or, if you're not capable of being smart, at least be smarter than your audience. Close-up magicians (especially restaurant workers) have long suffered from an insidious form of exposure: the wise-ass who has bought a few tricks from a magic shop and thinks he knows what's going on. If you've ever started to vanish a cigarette and heard the phrase, "I've got one of those plastic thumbs!" you know what I'm talking about. The solution is to be several levels more advanced than these bozos, and the way to do that is study, practice, rehearse, and be the best magician you can be. If the mysteries you perform in a restaurant can be easily unraveled by someone just walking into a magic shop, then you should either rethink your repertoire or your profession.
Number three: Be realistic. Let's be honest for a moment. If a woman gets into a box, and then something magical happens to her while she's in the box, and then she gets out of the box and everything's back to normal, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion that the box had something to do with the trick. I think that a lot of what has been revealed on TV is not really exposure; it has simply been confirmation of people's suspicions. They knew that the box was faked somehow, they just didn't know exactly how. This is a problem stage illusionists have faced from day one - how do you transcend the focus on "the box"? The good illusionists have learned to minimize the problem, the hacks never seem to.
(As an adjunct point, I cannot help but notice that, given the multitude of illusions which have been created over the years, only a handful are ever performed by the majority of stage magicians, and this fact makes such illusions an easy target for the exposer.)
Finally, consider the purpose of your performance. If, during your show, the thought foremost in the audience's mind is "How does this trick work?" I think you're doing something really, really wrong. Making the secret (and the establishment of who knows the secret) the primary factor in your show can only lead to audience resentment and the proliferation of television shows which, by their blatant exposure, demean and minimize our craft.
Am I angry that these shows exist? You bet. Am I going to let them affect me? Not at all.
At this point I should mention that I bring up the subject of exposure because I want to discuss four books which are available to the general public. I do not consider any of the four to fall under the category of "exposure." All four are well written, and all four contain information which I wish had not been revealed in a general publication book. However, this doesn't bother me in the least, because the books are expensive enough that the merely curious won't pay the price, and even the interested layman won't read and learn the material anyway. (How can I say that with such confidence? Because the majority of magicians don't read and learn. Why should laymen?) Anyway, here's a quick rundown on books from Penn and Teller, Giovanni and Jon Racherbaumer, Harry Lorayne, and Dr. S. Brent Morris.
Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic is the sequel to the dynamic duo's best selling How to Play with Your Food, and it is written in the same irreverent, witty, and intelligent style as its predecessor. The theme here is tricks to do while on the road, although in this case "the road" could more accurately be defined as the journey of life, since the first trick involves death, immortality, and a cenotaph. You'll discover ways to torment the passengers in your car, produce a laugh and a possible upgrade at the airline ticket counter (courtesy of Tom Mullica), find a selected card using a Gideon Bible, prove that you are the God of Carbonation (using the Paul Harris/Eric Mead "Fizzmaster"), produce a spirit photograph of the Virgin Mary (although the image looks more like the Virgin Teller), romance your significant other from a great distance, and perform an amazing psychic effect at a random restaurant. (This last effect, although credited to a gentleman named Aye Jay, first appeared in The Astonishing Executive, and is the creation of Paul Harris and Bill Herz.)
There are some hilarious gags which, if you have any brains at all, you will never ever attempt, such as the "I Sleep with My Eyes Open" gag, the Charles Hardin "You've Got My Hat" gag, and the guaranteed-to-get-your-butt-tossed-into-the-slammer "Airport Security Laptop Computer" gag. Interspersed among all this stuff are some wonderful essays including Penn's report on NASA's quantification of comedy timing, and Teller's evocative sketch of the Philadelphia College of Physicians' Mütter Museum. (Curiously, the same day that I read Teller's essay, I did a gig at the College of Physicians. As beautifully written as Teller's piece is, it in no way prepares you for how profoundly disquieting the museum is.)
The entire book is make-you-laugh-outloud funny, and the tricks are good ones. (And even better than the tricks are the presentations.) Laymen are going to read this stuff and completely dismiss it as a joke. Don't make that mistake. If you're smart, you'll get a copy, study it, and learn a lot about what magic is all about. I really enjoyed this book. I think you will too. Highly recommended.
Capitalizing on the current "Let's light up something really stinky in a public place" craze, Giovanni Livera and Jon Racherbaumer have released The Amazing Cigar, subtitled "The Connoisseur's Secrets to Smoke Rings, Mystifications & Other Cool Things." The title pretty much says it all: these are simple tricks, stunts, and puzzles with cigars and their associated accouterments. Most of the information here has been revealed many times before, but Jon Racherbaumer's fine writing and Earle Oakes' outstanding illustrations make this a definitive source for this type of material.
You'll find a chapter on how to blow smoke rings (featuring techniques from Bert Pichel and Harry Garrison), tricks using cigars (such as the suspended cigar, the immobile cigar, the cigar from miniature purse, the rising cigar, and Jack Tillar's "Blister"), tricks using the cigar band (such as the jumping cigar band, and the band which moves along a rubber band), tricks with matches (such as the come-back match, the thieves and sheep, the piano card trick with matches, and a trick using the paddle move), tricks using matchboxes (in this section the Haunted Matchbox is explained), tricks with ashes (such as the card revelation on the arm, and the ashes on the spectator's hand), and puzzles with matches. I'm sorry that the Haunted Matchbox handling and the ash trick were included, but such is life. The book concludes with some simple instructions for cigar box juggling.
This is a beautifully done little book, and I recommend it. It would make a nice gift to a friend who smokes and is interested in magic. Even if you're not interested in buying it, you should track down a copy to familiarize yourself with the tricks that are tipped so you can adjust your repertoire accordingly.
Harry Lorayne's The Magic Book was first published by G. P. Putnam in 1977 and it was geared for the general public. L&L Publishing has reprinted The Magic Book, and as far as I am aware, does not plan on distributing it outside of the magic community. This is a good thing, for if a book ever qualified as being "too good for laymen" it was this book, for it is a virtual gold mine of information on beginning and early-intermediate sleight of hand. Harry is an excellent writer and teacher and he makes all the material understandable and learnable.
The book begins with easy card moves such as the ribbon spread and the Charlier Cut, and moves on to slightly more advanced techniques such as the jog shuffle, the Hindu shuffle, the Double Lift, the Top Palm, and the Glide. There follow two sections of excellent card magic, including a cutting the aces routine, a color-changing deck routine, and a handling for the Ambitious Card. Coin magic is the next subject discussed, and among the sleights explained are the Finger Palm and the Retention of Vision vanish. The section on Coin Magic contains some outstanding routines, including a Copper-Silver routine, a Four Coin Assembly, and a handling for Coins Through the Table.
Also explained are Mental Effects, Number Magic (including Harry's routine for the Instant Magic Square) and Miscellaneous Effects (including the ash trick, Stewart James' "Sefalaljia," and a Paul Curry/Jack Avis shoelace penetration). All the routines and sleights are explained with Harry's usual attention to detail.
This is an outstanding book, and it would be one of my first choices to any beginner who has a serious desire to learn magic. I'm happy that it's back in print, and I'm even happier that it's not being offered to the general public. It's just too good. Highly recommended.
Dr. S. Brent Morris has advanced degrees in both mathematics and computer science from Duke University and Johns Hopkins University. As his bio states, "He is believed to have the only doctorate in the world in card shuffling; his dissertation is entitled 'Permutations by Cutting and Shuffling: A Generalization to Q Dimensions.'" If what you have read so far makes you hot, you're going to love Dr. Morris' new book Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling, and Dynamic Computer Memories, in which he sets out some of the mathematics of the faro shuffle.
This book is geared toward the mathematician who enjoys fooling around with a deck of cards, or the magician who has a background in mathematics. If you enjoyed (and more importantly, understood) Martin Gardner's column in Scientific American you will probably enjoy this book. I should warn you, however, that the math part is pretty serious, and (as a unsuccessful math major) was far beyond my comprehension. The card tricks included are good ones, but you'll have to be able to do perfect faro shuffles. Fortunately, this I can do, but a comfortable facility with this sleight is beyond most magicians, and would certainly be far beyond anything that a reader from the world of mathematics would be able to do. Dr. Morris explains a method for doing the faro shuffle, but I don't particularly think that it is the best method. My suggestion is (and has been for quite a while) to obtain a copy of a small booklet called The Faro Shuffle by Ed Marlo. You can get it from Magic, Inc., and in my opinion it contains the most efficient method for performing the shuffle.
You should know that the card tricks explained include Paul Swinford's "Seekers", a trick which combines Eddie Fields' "Invisible Pen" and "Cool Spell" with a faro placement principle, a variation of Alex Elmsley's "Book of Fortunes" (which uses Dr. Morris' book as one of the props), and Paul Gertner's "Unshuffled." I would recommend this book only to card magicians who are serious about their math. If you are already an experienced faro shuffler, then you probably are already familiar with the card tricks explained. Everybody else is going to be jumping into the deep end without a life preserver.
(By the way, if you'd like a feel for what is in this book, check out the Linking Ring from September to December 1997. Portions of Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling, and Dynamic Computer Memories were serialized therein.)
Doc Eason Live! Volumes 1-3 By Doc Eason
In the summer of 1977 William Eason left California on bike trip to the Rocky Mountains. He and some friends stopped in at the Tower Bar in Snowmass, Colorado to have a few drinks. He never left.
Working behind the bar that night was Bob Sheets, one of the great magicians of our time, and a student of the legendary Heba Haba Al. William Eason watched Bob and decided, "This is what I want to do." And he did.
Young Mr. Eason apprenticed himself to Sheets, waited tables at the Tower, and began to study magic books. (Curiously, one of his first was the aforementioned Magic Book by Harry Lorayne.) Sheets eventually left the Tower Bar to open the Jolly Jester in downtown Aspen, and "Doc" Eason took over the position as the Tower's magic bartender. He has held that position for twenty years.
Doc Eason is now doing something that most professionals are reluctant to do: he is releasing the material with which he has made his living during his tenure at the Tower Bar. When a professional does this, I sit up and pay attention, because I am going to gain information which can only be garnered over a long period of time, and I am going to learn material which has proven itself through the test of fire - material which is completely practical, completely worked out, and completely effective for entertaining an a lay audience. If you want to just skip the rest of the review and get to a phone and order these tapes now, do so. They are truly excellent. If you want more info, read on.
The video crew of L&L Publishing captured Doc on several nights performing at the Tower Bar for audiences of real people. Considering the restrictions of such a shoot, the performances came out very well. Everything is clear and understandable, and as a viewer at home you'll be able to appreciate the impact of each trick. I should mention that a few times edits were made in which the camera shifts to a spectator reaction or action. Sometimes during these cuts, Doc does something "sneaky." Do not feel cheated by this. One of the problems of magic on video is that it takes a three dimensional, free moving art form, and sticks it into a box. Misdirection which works perfectly in real life fails miserably on television. Rest assured, if you were watching in person, you'd be looking right where the camera is looking when the dirty work occurs.
The highlight of Volume One is Doc's remarkable Card Under Glass/Multiple Selections Routine. If you know anything about music you'll understand when I tell you that this is a 30 minute routine in classic Rondo form, with the A section being the revelation of a signed card under a drinking glass. Doc gets the card under the glass eight or nine times, and the impact on the audience is overwhelming. Also included in this "hunk" is an ambitious card routine, a handling of Dai Vernon's "Triumph", and a Three Card Monte routine which contains some really fine work on the bent corner dodge. As a finale, Doc has 15 cards selected, and not only finds all 15, but he remembers the names of the people who selected the cards. This is what commercial magic is all about. If you can only afford one tape of the series, start with this one. You will get a feel for how Doc works, and you will gain information far out of proportion to the money spent.
Volume Two contains material which Doc calls "stand alone" routines. In other words, these effects are not tied into a longer routine, and consequently can be used when there is a sparser crowd, or when folks come back into the bar to see "just one more trick," or they can be used to break up longer routines. The two routines which are worth the price of admission here are the "Happy Birthday" trick (which can be adapted for any special occasion) and Doc's presentation of Steve Spill's handling for "Bill in Lemon." The latter is the kind of routine which, after the taping is over and the euphoria wears off, the performer thinks, "I wish I hadn't given that away."
Volume Three contains a variety of material suitable as openers, closers, and individual hunks. Of particular interest is Doc's handling of "The Anniversary Waltz" (this trick, in the parlance of the bar magician, is guaranteed to GTFM), Max Maven's "Tearable," and Doc's signature piece, "The Card on the Ceiling." You should be aware that Doc does not discuss his most famous variation "The Card Through the Ceiling Fan." This is a potentially dangerous trick (not to the magician, but to the spectators), and I totally concur with the decision to withhold an explanation.
On each tape there are three or four of "Doc's Prescriptions for a Long and Successful Performing Career." These brief bits of information are possibly the most valuable advice on the tapes. I was especially appreciative of the three prescriptions offered on the third tape. Listen, and take this advice to heart.
Following the performance segment and the prescriptions, Doc discusses and explains all the routines in a conversation with Michael Ammar. These explanations have a casual and loose feel to them. Intercut throughout the explanations are Super Practice Sessions which give close-up, overhead views of the moves involved. Doc is passionate about his material, and he should be; this material made him a living for twenty years. His enthusiasm will rub off on you.
One more point you should be made aware of: Doc is not a technician, although the moves he does he does very well. Nor is he an inventor of radical new plots or ingenious new sleights. He is a performer and an entertainer whose gifts lie in the ability to routine and structure material for maximum audience involvement and impact. You probably already know more tricks than you'll ever use. What you may not know is how to make those tricks as entertaining as possible. You'll gain insight into this from these tapes, and you'll also gain insight into the skills required to hold a gig for twenty years. These are marvelous tapes, and they're a tribute to one of magic's finest performers, and, more importantly, one of magic's nicest people. Very highly recommended.
(By the way, if you'd like an autographed picture of Doc along with your tapes, you can order a set from him at Doc Eason, Rocky Mountain Magic Inc., 524 Park Circle, P.O. Box 50, Basalt, CO 81621. Visit his website at www.doceason.com for more details.)
Easy to Master Card Miracles Volumes 4,5, & 6 By Michael Ammar
If you can't read, prefer not to read, don't have the time to read, can't understand what you read, don't know what to read, or just plain don't like books, Michael Ammar has come to your rescue with three more videos jam packed with top-notch card magic. As in the first three volumes of this series, Michael (along with his merry men Paul Harris and Eric Mead) has scoured the annals of card magic (and you know how painful that can be) and has found more than thirty really good card tricks which he demonstrates and teaches in his inimitable style. If you're looking for material, you'll find it here; many of these routines are in the repertoires of professional close-up workers around the world.
In addition to finding these routines for you, Michael, Paul, and Eric have done two other important things: they have invented interesting presentations for the routines; and in many cases they have reworked and simplified handlings (for example the no-palm method for Dr. Daley's "Magician vs. Gambler"). I would not qualify this material as "easy." There are some virtually self-working routines, but the majority of the routines require early-intermediate to intermediate card skills. In particular, the neat handling of double cards is a prevalent technical demand. So, you will have to practice. But everything you need to know is on the tapes.
As far reviewing the material presented, I will simply mention a few favorites. On Volume Four I liked "J.C.'s Super Closer," Dr. Daley's "Magician vs. Gambler," and Larry Jenning's "Ambitious Classic" (although I prefer the original Jenning's handling.) On Volume Five be sure to check out "Virginia City Shuffle" (a no-gaff version of Martin Lewis' "Sidewalk Shuffle"), Henry Christ's "Fabulous Four Ace Trick," Michael's work on "The Card on the Ceiling," and Harry Riser's "Hofzinser All Backs." On Volume Six I would direct your attention to Larry Jennings' "Close-up Illusion," Roy Walton's "Oil and Queens" (which Derek Dingle used on a television appearance many years ago), and John Bannon's brilliant (and really easy) "Play It Straight Triumph." Actually, there are no clinkers in the bunch. Regardless of your taste in card magic and your skill level, you're going to find some tricks that appeal to you.
Each tape includes a brief written summary of each trick (which you could give to a friend who likes to read) and a set of gaffed cards which allows you to do a "Bonus Trick." The real sleeper in the bunch is Nick Trost's "Ace in the Hole." As a treat to yourself, if you buy Volume Six don't look at the gaffed cards until you see the trick performed. I guarantee you're going to get totally fooled.
The production values of these videos are excellent, and Michael is to be commended on both the competence of his performance of material which is not in his normal repertoire and the clarity of his explanations. There is tremendous value for the money here. Highly recommended for those who prefer video as their learning medium.
Miracles with Cards Video Series Volumes 1, 2, & 3 By James Swain
Previously in this column I have mentioned that I am a big admirer of Jim Swain's card magic. His creations exemplify intelligence combined with subtlety combined with skill. Jim knows that simple does not mean easy, and often the most direct and deceptive method is going to require advanced technical skills. Jim possesses these skills (and so could you if you practiced) and he puts them to excellent use.
The material on these three videos comes for the most part from Jim's book Miracles with Cards. This book and it's predecessor Don't Blink should be in the library of every aspiring card man. Each tape contains outstanding material, and I will again simply mention some favorites. On Volume One: "Airmail Card" and "Poker Interchange" (Jim has a new, streamlined method for this which eliminates the set-up and reduces the work). On Volume Two: "Four Robbers," "The Swain Full Deck Control," and "Vanishing Aces." And on Volume Three: "Boxed B'Wave," and "The Well-Traveled Card."
In addition, each video contains a segment in which Jim explains one or more forms of the pass. Jim is an expert practitioner of this move, and the information given here is easily worth the price of admission to someone who wishes to add this move to his arsenal of sleights. In particular, "The Miracle Pass," (Jim's handling of the Riffle Pass) is an extraordinary move.
Now for a bit of bad news. Unfortunately, the production values (and in particular the camera work) of these videos do not do justice to the quality of the material. For the most part, the routines are framed in a static medium shot which captures Jim, the surface of the table, and an assisting spectator or two. Occasionally there is a close-up shot, but I feel that these were done afterwards, and that the video was shot with just one camera. What this means is that much of the action is too far away to be completely distinct, and this is frustrating. This does not mean that you will not learn from these tapes, but I know that there will be several times when you'll be wishing that the camera would zoom in to catch more detail of an action. Your best bet will be to use these tapes in conjunction with Jim's books. Any details which are unclear on the videos will be clarified by the written word.
However, despite these production flaws, these videos are well worth your time and money. Highly recommended for upper-intermediate and advanced card enthusiasts.
The idea behind this prop was explained in Jon Racherbaumer's "Inside Out" column in the March 1997 issue of MAGIC. What you get with "Glink" is a pen which writes with a combination of glue and ink. The line the pen produces is narrower than that produced by a Sharpie, but bolder than that produced by a Flair. If you write on a playing card and then press the card against another card, when the glue dries the bond is more or less permanent. If you let the glue dry first, then the adhesion becomes removable, as if you were using wax.
In addition to the pen, you receive a 19 page booklet detailing seven effects which use "Glink." Before you make a decision, read the effect referenced above to see if it appeals to you. A couple of things you should know: The "Glink" pen doesn't resemble any pen commonly in use in the United States. The pen is black, about 4.5 inches long and the barrel is .5 inches in diameter. It doesn't look particularly suspicious, but it is not a standard pen. The other thing you should know is that you must wait a minute or two for the "Glink" to dry if you want to have a removable bond. You'll need to have something going on presentationally to cover this time lag.
I will tell you that I have tried this (performing the trick from MAGIC), and the reaction was very strong. If the effect appeals, it is worth your consideration.
Kid show performers will definitely want to take a look at David Garrard's "Sketch-O-Magic" Here's what you get: Visualize an 8.5 x 11 spiral bound artist's sketch pad. The pad is held horizontally, with the spiral binding to the right. The pages of the sketch pad have been divided into thirds, horizontally. The each page of the top section shows the top third of a person's head, the middle third shows the person's eyes and nose, the bottom third shows the mouth and chin. The performer flips through each of these sections, displaying all the different combinations possible. A prediction is placed aside. Three spectators stop at three different sections as the magician flips through the pages. This produces the picture of a smiling, blue-eyed boy wearing a beanie. The prediction is revealed, the pictures match.
This is a very nicely made prop, which uses the old Coloring Book principle in an interesting way. You'll be doing it five minutes after you get it, and if you're looking to add a mental-flavored effect to your kids show, it would certainly fit the bill. Recommended.
It's Not Magic, But.
Longtime readers of MAGIC may remember a cover picture of Martin Gardner constructed of domino tiles. The tiles were arranged mosaic-fashion, and (if you stood back a bit and squinted) the spots on the tiles formed a portrait of Mr. Gardner. Computer scientist/artist Robert Silvers has advanced this concept to a degree which is mind-
boggling. He has written a computer program which constructs these mosaics from thousands of smaller, disparate images. The results are not only beautiful, but they are magical, even more so as you carefully examine each image and discover how the tiny photographs are incorporated into the whole.
Mr. Silvers has compiled 30 of these constructs into book titled Photomosaics. You'll find a portrait of Abraham Lincoln composed of Civil War photographs, Darth Vader and Yoda made up of tiny stills from the Star Wars movies, and a portrait of Bill Gates made from the scanned images of various world currency.
The book comes with a small magnifying glass so you can examine the composition of each mosaic. These are wondrous things, and they make a perfect way to pass a snowy afternoon.
(By the way, you may have seen Mr. Silvers' photomosaic of Princess Diana on the cover of Newsweek magazine in late December. You can also visit his web site at www.photomosaic.com. While you're there, be sure to read the short articles by Penn and Teller.)
Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic by Penn Jillette and Teller. 7.5 x 9 softcover. 226 pages. $18.95. From Boulevard Books. Available at most bookstores.
The Amazing Cigar by Giovanni Livera and Jon Racherbaumer. 6 x 9 hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 146 pages. $24.95. From Magic Marketing Concepts, P.O. Box 677055, Orlando, FL 32867-7055
The Magic Book by Harry Lorayne. 6 x 9 hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 306 pages. $29.95. From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142
Magic Tricks, Card Shuffling, and Dynamic Computer Memories by S. Brent Morris. 6 x 9 softcover. 148 pages. $28.95. From The Mathematical Association of America, P.O. Box 91112, Washington, DC 20090-1112
Doc Eason Live! Volumes 1-3 by Doc Eason. Each video $29.95 (any format). All three for $84.95 (Overseas orders add $7.50 for surface postage.) From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142
Easy to Master Card Miracles Volumes 4,5, & 6 by Michael Ammar. Each video $29.95 (any format). All three for $84.95 (Overseas orders add $7.50 for surface postage.) From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142
Miracles with Cards Video Series Volumes 1, 2, & 3 by James Swain. Each video $35. All three for $100. From Don't Blink, 18240 Wayne Road, Odessa, FL 33556
"Glink" by Jon Allen. $20. Available from most major magic dealers.
"Sketch-O-Magic" by David Gerrard. $25 plus $4 p&h. From Samuel Patrick Smith, P.O. Box 787, Eustis, FL 32727
Photomosaics by Robert Silvers. $19.95. (ISBN 0805051708). 96 pages. Published by Henry Holt. Available at most bookstores, or from www.amazon.com.
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