Mac: This marks my 12th column as a co-reviewer with Mike Close. Mike and I began this endeavor as what you might call very good acquaintances. Over the course of the past year, through working on this column and hanging out at conventions, we've gotten to know each other better and better. And that's why this is my last column as a reviewer. I have discovered that I can't stand Mike Close. That's just a joke. Actually I can't stand Stan Allen. O.K., that's a joke, too.
The truth is, this is my last column as a reviewer. The reasons, however, are numerous. Mainly, this is a boatload of work. Reading the books, trying the tricks, and watching all those tapes is really time consuming. Of course you learn a lot that way, but it has just gotten so I don't have the time necessary to do this job in the way that it deserves to be done. The other bad thing about this job is the fact that a couple of times I've felt compelled to give bad reviews to products put out by people I really like. I absolutely loathe being in that position. I think it's a very good thing that magazine reviews have taken on a more honest bent, but it is unbelievably difficult for me to comment negatively about something in a public forum like this one.
Mike Close deserves my heartfelt appreciation for continuing this column all alone without anyone to share this burden. It is a huge load. In the past, he and I could divide the task up and split the responsibility of saying something less than nice about someone's product. Next time you see him, be sure and say, "Thanks!"
Mac: This is the second volume of Roberto Giobbi's four-part series on how to grow up to be a great card magician. Mike and I discussed Volume One in our first column together [May 1995]. Everything that was said then applies to this volume as well. It is nicely produced. The translation from Giobbi's original German by Richard Hatch seems so good as to be rendered invisible. There are many clear illustrations to eliminate all doubt as to exact finger placement for any described sleight. And there is plenty of stuff described here.
In Volume One, a whole mess of "fundamentals" were taught: overhand shuffles, false cuts, forces, controls, riffle shuffle techniques, the glide, a simple double lift, the top change, some simple flourishes, and just plain ol' basic card handling technique.
Volume Two builds on that foundation. There are more advanced overhand shuffle techniques, the top palm, the pass, false counts, a more advanced double lift, the crimp, the glimpse, the reverse, more advanced false cuts, more advanced flourishes, and a hefty chapter on theory. These chapters follow the same pattern as those of Volume One. The move is described and then a trick or two using the newly acquired knowledge is explained. The course is cumulative, that is, knowledge of previously explained material is assumed, but you don't need to know the stuff from upcoming chapters.
A year ago, Mike and I spent a great deal of our time talking about whether or not you should buy Volume One of this course or go for Hugard and Braue's venerable The Royal Road to Card Magic. Having only Volume One of Giobbi's work to look at, I was teetering on the edge of the fence. Now that I have two volumes to pore over, I jump off that fence into the Roberto Giobbi pasture. If you buy Volume One and Volume Two and learn everything in them, you'll be one of a handful of great card magicians in the world. But I suspect that many of the people who read these books will pass over the last 75 pages of Volume Two and thus miss what I think is a really remarkable achievement - a card magician's bible that preaches on the necessity of the audience in creating a great performance. This section (comprising about a third of Volume Two) is really terrific. Giobbi states that the goal of magic is not just amusement, but creating a "sensation of boundless astonishment that makes us feel both childlike and reverent." Damn.
I suspect that it is possible to impart that sensation, and that Giobbi's Card College is now the best way to begin your quest of that goal. Everything is well taught. All of the important (and subtle) points are carefully explained. Even if you don't agree with all the answers provided in the chapter on theory, you will be thinking about the right questions. The section in the theory chapter on "Directing Attention" is especially good. I think, as with all such discussions, it takes careful reading. Each of the points Giobbi so carefully delineates are in reality so inseparably interwoven that you must read, study, practice, perform and re-read the information many times to gain full understanding of this weighty material.
I enjoyed reading this book very much. Like Volume One, there are (in addition to the well-described sleights) some great card tricks taught here as well. The routines for "The Homing Card" and "The Ambitious Card" are both top-notch. My favorite part of the book, however, is a section in the theory chapter on "Outs for Disturbances and Disasters." There is a method presented for dealing with an obnoxious, challenging spectator, which is simply hilarious.
How about you, Mike? You wrote the bulk of the review for Volume One of this. What'd you think of Volume Two?
Mike: I concur completely, Mac. This volume is uniformly excellent and the presentation of material in the theory section is outstanding. (On behalf of all English-reading magicians, I give a huge tip of the hat to Richard Hatch for producing such a readable translation. I know from talking with Richard that this was an immense task, but it was worth it.) If someone were to read, assimilate, and intelligently incorporate the material in this theory section and combine it with Wonder Words and Leading With Your Head
(both reviewed this month), they would immediately become one of the best magicians in the world.
There's no doubt about it. The Card College books are the way to go if you want to gain a basic foundation of top-notch card handling. I eagerly look forward to the next two volumes.
The Looking Glass
Edited by Richard Kaufman, Jon Racherbaumer and Stephen Hobbs
Mac: These three guys are no doubt familiar to readers of MAGIC. They have all three, at one time or another, written for this magazine.
This new project is a magic quarterly. I gather from the first issue (Winter 1996 -scheduled to appear in January, but not actually sent our until the end of February/beginning of March) that they are trying to provide their subscribers with a mix of good magic tricks and timely essays on various magic-related topics. They are the right guys for the task. I enjoyed reading the 40-plus pages very much (future issues are said to be between 32 and 40 pages).
This first issue is rather card trick heavy for my taste (Richard assures me that future issues will be less so), with card contributions by Jack Birnman, Phil Goldstein, Brother John Hamman, Geoffrey Larta, Bob Farmer and Justin Hanes. There is a thorough discussion (along with a bibliography) of "The Hotel Mystery" card trick by Jon Racherbaumer, a clever coin move by Michael Rubenstein, and David Ben contributes a couple of really smart sleeving techniques of Ross Bertram and Emil Jarrow. Also thrown in the mix is a review of the new Paul Harris video, accompanied by a very fascinating three-way discussion among the editors of Paul's overall contributions to magic. Additionally, each of the editors writes a column discussing whatever topics they wish. Richard Kaufman's explanation for why he is doing yet another magic periodical is particularly cheery.
The look of the thing will be dramatically different from other magazines of this ilk. The cover is printed with two colors on heavy stock (like the cover of a paperback book) and features a John Tenniel drawing from Lewis Carol's Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass. Many of Tenniel's other Alice illustrations are featured throughout the magazine. All of the tricks are clarified by Richard Kaufman's distinct illustrations. I found this an enjoyable read, and you will too if you like reading stuff written by people who really like magic, really think about magic (whose opinions are sometimes even colored by events which take place outside the cloistered world of magicdom), and who really know how to write.
Mike: I very much enjoyed this magazine, as well. Although Mac and I received a galley copy, the production values of the finished magazine will be very high. And with Kaufman, Racherbaumer and Hobbs as the editorial team, you know that there will be something interesting to read in each issue. For me, the two best items (and they are actually worth the price of the issue) are Jack Biruman's hilarious "Dyslexic Psychic" trick and David Ben's wonderful sleeving article. Calvin andHobbes is gone. Richard and Jon and Hobbs is here. No imaginary tigers, but fun nonetheless. I look forward to future installments.
Mike: Do the terms "Unspecified Referential Index," "Metaphor Restriction Violations," "Presupposition Formulas," ''Embedded Commands," ''Modal Operators, "Nominalizations," or "Anti-advice Words" mean anything to you? Well, they didn't to me until I listened to the four audiotapes in the first volume of Kenton Knepper's Wonder Words series.
The above terms come from the field of Neural Linguistic Programming, and Kenton has applied this information to the field of magic performance. The resultant information can raise the deceptiveness level of your performance to heights you had previously believed unimaginable.
This review is going to be short and sweet: I was totally blown away by these tapes. I am a proponent of intelligent and carefully conceived patter, and I discovered that I had instinctively used some of the principles set forth in the tapes, but without understanding what I was doing or why it worked. Using the systematic approach that Kenton lays out, it is now possible to construct patter that achieves maximum deceptiveness without having to go through a long trial and error process.
In addition to the analysis of various NLP devices and examples that utilize these devices, Kenton also includes some tricks. These tricks are great, they would fool you if you didn't know the method, and they all are based on the deceptive use of the language. Three of them are going into my repertoire right now.
Let me balance out the enthusiasm of the above paragraphs by mentioning that NLP is a subject that is not free from controversy. There are areas, especially concerning the interpretation of a spectator's unconscious physical gestures, which may not work. (Kenton mentions some of these on the tapes, and I would place them into the category of "iffy.") But the use of specific words to influence spectators makes sense to me, since I find a correlation in my own work, and I didn't know what I was doing - pretty much the story of my life. (By the way, Roberto Giobbi must also be a fan of NLP, since he cites a NLP reference in Card College Volume Two.)
Bottom line: If you want to be a better performer, you must own these tapes. To my knowledge there is nothing like this on the market. Kenton says that he plans on Wonder Words being a continuing series. Let's support his efforts and make sure that this happens.
Mac: I must admit that I haven't heard these tapes (nobody sends me squat), but I have heard of Neural Linguistic Programming. It sounds like these tapes are probably very useful, but you should know that the guys who started NLP funded some research to test their theories. That research was, I understand, considered very inconclusive. Of course, that doesn't mean that these tapes aren't useful.
Contrariwise, I trust Mike. If he says they're good, I believe him (but it's possible that I've been influenced by his words).
Mike: "Astro Diary" is a version of the "Birthday Book," an effect that has appeared in various forms over the years. The effect basically goes like this: The conversation turns to birthdays, and a spectator is asked the month and day of his birth. He is given a small pocket calendar (or date book, or diary) that has a different playing card written next to each day of the year. He then chooses a card from the deck. This card marches the card written next to his birthday in the pocket calendar.
The method of this trick relies on two things: forcing a card, and knowing which card is next to which date in the pocket calendar. In "Astro Diary," there is a bank of ten cards repeated throughout each month (plus an extra card for months which have 31 days). A formula is given so the performer can calculate which card must be forced when the spectator reveals his birthday. You are also provided with the diary (which is non-year specific) and card stickers that must be placed next to the appropriate days (the method for doing this is clearly detailed in the instructions, and this is a one-time preparation). There are also several forces explained, none of which require much technical ability.
I have a lot of experience with this type of effect, so let me offer you some thoughts before you fire off your $30. The method I use involves a memorized deck, a diary prepared using suggestions from Simon Aronson and Eric Mason (this information has been published), and a force of my own devising. The routine gets an unbelievable response from laymen for two reasons: the diary can withstand fairly rigorous examination, and I can "sell" the force. One problem with "Astro Diary" is that, because of the repeated bank of ten cards, the diary can only be cursorily examined. If the spectator checks the 1st of each month, he will see the same card. (Using Simon's preparation, there is no such correlation, and I can use this fact to "sell" the randomness of the diary.) Most magicians are not willing to "pay the price" and master a memorized deck. If you are one of them, "Astro Deck" may be a suitable compromise, although the end result pales against what is possible with this type of effect.
Here are a couple of added notes: The ads for this trick are deceptive. In describing the effect, the ad states that the spectator selects a card before revealing his birthday. The only way that this can be accomplished is through pre-show work or gaining the information from someone else. If you buy this trick because of this aspect of the ad, the only one who is going to be fooled is you. I should also mention that the instructions list a few references for other diary effects. Unfortunately, Alex Elmsley's name is not on this list, and it is Elmsley who came up with the idea of using the bank of ten cards to simplify the memorization. Elmsley had a different calculation formula and a different force, but otherwise, the tricks are identical. (You can find his routine in The Collected Works of Alex Elmsley Volume Two.)
The Houdini Bolt
Mike: The magician displays a large brass bolt with a matching nut. A spectator places his ring on the bolt and then threads the nut down onto the shaft of the bolt. The magician places the bolt under a handkerchief (or under the table or behind his back) and instantly removes the ring. The nut and bolt are handed for examination.
This is a nicely made unit consisting of a gimmicked bolt (with nut) and a matching bolt and nut. The instructions mention that Fred Lowe and Richard Resor were inspirational sources. The bolts are made by hand; they are not store bought, retrofitted bolts. The design allows the gimmicked bolt to be separated and rejoined very quickly and quietly. The instructions come with four possible routines. I could see how this prop could easily be incorporated into a routine in which a ring must be secured in some fashion.
The only negative comment I have is that when I first removed the bolts from their carrying pouch, I could immediately tell which was the gaffed bolt. This criticism is minor, however, because the spectators will never see both bolts at the same time and the discrepancy is small. I just thought you should know.
The Magic of It All!
Mike: This is Illusionworks' second compact disc of original music designed to accompany the presentation of standard illusions. In this case, the illusions are "Sub Trunk", "Broom Suspension," "Origami," "Zig-Zag," a levitation, "Shadow Box," and "Crystal Casket." Two different pieces of music are provided for each illusion. In addition, there are intro and exit music, a comedy music piece, and three pieces designed to accompany the magical appearance of a person (or animal).
There are 21 different musical cuts on this disc, and the pieces range from 0:41 to 4:15 in length. As in the first disc, the music is well produced with very punchy drums and percussion, and features synthesized sounds. The musical styles are more varied on this disc than on the first release and, consequently, there is a much greater likelihood that you will find music that suits your needs. As before, by purchasing this disc you are relieved of any BMI or ASCAP licensing fees.
You might want to check out my earlier review [June 1995] for other musical options. I suggested in that review that Illusionworks offer a sampler cassette so prospective buyers could audition the music. As far as I know they haven't done that, so if you purchase this disc, you are buying blind. However, considering the variety of music offered on this latest release, I think that the odds are good that you will find something that you can use.
Mike: I participated in the 1996 edition of the Convention at the Capitol held in February in Sacramento, California [see "Convention Guide" for review]. As happened last year, a mountain of talent was in attendance. In fact, you couldn't spit without hitting a great magician (and heaven knows, I tried). I skulked around, and here is some of the cooler stuff I encountered.
I mentioned in the February review column that I was less than enthusiastic about Steve Brooks' trick "Free Fall." Well, Aldo Colombini has come up with a handling for this trick that eliminates just about all of the problems and makes it a performable item. How good is this? Aldo fooled Steve Brooks with it. The trick is now being sold with Aldo's handling included. If you have already purchased "Free Fall," drop a note to Steve and get the updated info. (Another piece of news concerning this trick: Stephen Minch published a routine called "Melt!" in the October 1987 issue of Tannen's Magic Manuscript. This uses the same gaff as "Free Fall" and predates it by at least nine years. The Minch routine also avoids the problems inherent in the original "Free Fall" routine. You might want to try to track it down.)\
Ken Martin has some new work on his origami trick "Fusion Loops" [reviewed August 1995]. This includes a modification of the ungimmicked loops and a revised switch. Drop Ken a line for details.
Thread-heads will want to pick up a copy of the Sorcery Shop's new Ultimate Thread Reel Video Volume Three. There is some intriguing material on this, including some "Cup and Ball" moves (!) and some really deceptive hoop moves.
Jerry Camero loaned me his new "Bean Bag Pad" to use when I lectured. This is a pad built into a wooden frame. A black bean bag can be attached to the bottom of the frame with velcro. The bean bag allows you to keep the pad level if you are sitting in a chair and the pad is on your lap (a great thing for you video learners). The bag also allows the pad to tilt to give a better audience viewing angle (which is how I used it), or the bag can be removed when not needed. Jerry calls this the "Zeus Pad" and it is worth your consideration.
Gordon Bean showed me what has to be the finest version of the "Princess Card Trick" that I have ever seen. It's called "The Limited Edition" and is the creation of Bean and Larry Jennings. There is no sleight-of-hand, the patter story is logical and affecting, and it is one of the few packet tricks I've seen where my mental response was, "This goes in the repertoire!" Buy this before somebody else fools you with it.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Gary Kurtz. Gary blew me away with his stand-up act in Sacramento, an act that incorporated some of the following items (write to Gary for exact prices and payment preferences, but everything is within the $15- $25 range): 1. Notes from the Summit contains an excellent handling of the Shaxon "Invisible Cards and Envelopes," "Counterfeit," a wonderful stand-up handling of the "$100 Bill Switch," "Folded Card in the Card Case," and the "Amplified Ace Assembly." All this material is top notch. Relentless is a coin routine that incorporates just about every trick in the book. It's only drawback is that it must be performed seated. 2. "U.P" is probably the ultimate version of the progressive ace assembly trick. 3. "Shrinker" is a version of the shrinking card case that is designed for platform work. 4. "The Bill, the Cigarette, the Match, and the Lighter" puts a twist on the classic "Bill in Cigarette" trick. This got a tremendous reaction from the Sacramento crowd. 5. "Thoughts Across" is an almost self-working version of the "Cards Across" theme using two decks. Maximum impact, no effort. I unreservedly recommend all the above Kurtz items to you; you can't go wrong with any of them. But I saved the best for last. Leading with Your Head is a 42-page treatise on using physical and psychological techniques to control and direct audience attention. I am not suggesting that you buy this. I am insisting that you buy this. This is the best presentation of this material that I have ever read. The price is $20. Put down this magazine and send Gary a check right now, or you'll never get to play with the big boys.
Mac: I wasn't in Sacramento, but I heard that it was a fun time. And I can certainly say from past experiences that Gary Kurtz has some great stuff. I should clanfy Mike's comments on the stuff Gary has for sale. We don't have all the specific ordering information for Gary's various items. You should just write to Gary and get the current list of what he has for sale.
Mike: In the past 12 months, Mac and I have reviewed 31 books, 40 videotapes, 34 tricks, 9 magazines, 10 sets of lecture notes, and 2 compact discs. The process of doing dual reviews was unwieldy at best and, when both of us were on the road, was at times a logistical nightmare. But regardless of the hassles, it was always fun. I don't think that we were completely successful in pulling off a "Siskel and Ebert" style of reviewing; trying to achieve a natural sounding dialogue when the two participants were 2,000 miles apart was difficult. And we discovered early on that there just weren't that many items with enough depth to warrant a great deal of back-and-forth comment.
But the past year was a learning experience, and one thing I learned is that some readers may have a misunderstanding concerning our job as reviewers. We review product; we do not review people. In the course of doing this, Mac and I have also tried to be honest, even when that honesty put friendships in jeopardy. The reviewer's job here at MAGIC is to provide you with an informed opinion so you can spend your money intelligently. Other than the fact that I will be going it alone, none of this will change.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Mac. He is not only one of the best performers on the planet, he's also a nice guy. Have safe travels, my friend. The road is a long one, and I'm glad we had the chance to walk together for a while.
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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.