We've just left I-44 and merged onto I-40 on the west side of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We're on the way back to Las Vegas, and the surest sign that we're pointed in the right direction is that the sky is big again. We've swapped the Dodge Caravan for a U-Haul truck, and trying to type on the laptop is an exercise in frustration; the sensitivity of the computer keyboard combined with the vibrations of the truck cab produce words with about a third too many letters. I'm strongly tempted to tell Lisa (who's driving) to bypass our exit and keep heading west. I-40 is the most direct route back home. But there are still four more lectures remaining, which means we can't go home just yet. Our route will be circuitous, with a few more adventures ahead of us. Now I know how Odysseus felt.
I visualized this lecture tour as a vision quest, hoping that life on the road would provide me with some insights, some deeper understanding of myself or the world around me. Perhaps an answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. I've traveled 14,000 miles, stayed in 60+ cities, and the only thing I've learned is that sarcasm is wasted on hotel front desk clerks. They simply don't have the wit to appreciate it.
However, I have gained some insight into what it takes to survive a long lecture tour. I'll pass these tips along to you at the end of the column.
The rigors of the last three weeks of the lecture tour have made it very difficult to get this column done. I'm sure that editors Stan and John have been pulling their hair waiting for me to get this in to them. If you have sent in a product for review and it has not yet appeared in Marketplace, be patient. Your product is probably waiting for me back in Las Vegas. All will appear eventually.
Finally, I forgot to wish you all a happy holiday season. I hope 1999 is a safe, fun, and prosperous year for you.
By Fraps, Thun, and Willich
The magicians known as Die Fertigen Finger were one of the highlights of the 1997 FISM congress in Dresden, Germany. Here's what Mike Caveney had to say about their lecture: ".. .ten young Germans performed a carefully scripted show that made you forget you were actually listening to a magic lecture. Hilariously funny and brilliantly entertaining. All fine magicians individually, but as a group, an absolute knockout." I had a chance to see Die Fertigen Finger at this year's Desert Magic Seminar, and I agree with Mr. Caveney's assessment. These young men are thoughtful, clever, serious about their magic, and very, very funny. These traits are clearly displayed in The Book, a large collection of close-up magic and theoretical essays from the various members of Die Fertigen Finger.
The subtitle of The Book is "Don't Forget to Point," an obvious bit of advice from a group whose name in English is The Flicking Fingers. (The history of the "Don't forget to point" admonition is explained at the beginning of the book. It is a very funny story. Throughout the book there are photographs chronicling the History of Pointing. These photos are also very funny.) The Book is divided into four large sections titled Close-up, Cards, Ideas, and Theory. There is a wide variety of material explained, and the technical requirements are varied enough as to appeal to a wide audience. I'll mention some items that I found particularly interesting.
The Close-up chapter begins with a very pretty coin routine by Thomas Fraps in which three half dollars are produced using a pair of tweezers. Rainer Pfeiffer offers a routine called "Change" in which two coins (a copper and a silver) continually penetrate through a small coin purse. This routine is perfect for walk-around situations. If you have an interest in Cup and Ball routines, be sure to check out "The Fruit Cups," created by Pfeiffer, Manuel Muerte, and Helge Thun. You'll find some interesting approaches here. Finally, be sure to take a look at Jörg Willich's "Gummi-Bear Penetration," the perfect trick to do when you and your pals are wine tasting in the Napa Valley.
Card guys will find much to keep them busy in Chapter Two. Among my favorites: Thun's "Providence '93," in which a selected card visually changes several times and ends up in a folded condition under the magician's watch; Muerte's "It's Shoe Time," in which a selected card and a wine glass appear in the magician's shoe; and Jörg Alexander's "The Sympathetic Ten," a very clever version of Herbert Milton's "Sympathetic Clubs."
The Ideas chapter has some nifty ones (ideas, that is), including a visible production of a hammer, and some useful card moves from Pit Hartling and Thomas Fraps.
Finally, be sure to pay attention to the Theory chapter. There are four excellent essays here, covering a variety of subjects. It is this diversity of areas of expertise that makes The Flicking Fingers such a potent and vibrant creative force. Each member brings to the mix knowledge from fields outside of conjuring. Willich offers suggestions on "Being Creative with Magic," Fraps discusses "The Blind Spot," an essay on how the eye and the brain process information, Gaston writes on the subject of "How to Act Wrong," and Thun offers methods for dealing with difficult spectators in his essay "Status and Improvisation."
The Book is an excellent compilation from a very talented group of young men. I'm glad I had a chance to see The Flicking Fingers in action, and I expect great things from them in the future.
This is the second book of publisher Richard Kaufman's Five Times Five series. (The first featured the magic of Japan.) The idea of the series is to focus on five creations from each of five magicians from a specific country, and while the concept is an excellent one, Mr. Kaufman mentions that bringing such a project to fruition is a difficult task. (In his prefatory comments Mr. Kaufman amusingly notes, "I have yet to find five French magicians who would agree to allow their tricks to be in the same book with each other.") Five Times Five Scotland does not strictly adhere to the format (there are three routines from each of ten magicians), but the material is excellent, and we get five extra tricks to boot.
Four of the contributors should be familiar to American readers: Roy Walton, Gordon Bruce, R. Paul Wilson, and Peter Duffie (who authored the book). One of the delights of a book of this nature is discovering material from people with whom I was previously unfamiliar. The book focuses on card and coin magic, and will appeal to those with intermediate and above technical skills.
If you're interested in coin magic, be sure to check out the three routines by Walter "Sonny" Day. Of particular interest is a version of "Chink a Chink" which uses a most unlikely gaff. While the performing conditions for this routine are a bit restrictive (you must be seated and using a close-up mat), the method is a fooler. (Sadly, Mr. Day died before the publication of this book.) I can also highly recommend the two coin routines of R. Paul Wilson, who is one of the finest creators and technicians of his generation. Paul offers interesting (and challenging) variations of two of John Ramsay's classic routines.
For commercial card routines, take a look at Dave Campbell's "Dotty Spots," Duffie's "Delirium," Steve Hamilton's "A Welcome Return," Wilson's "Card on Case in Case," and Walton's "Ghostly Spells." (Concerning the Campbell trick: You should investigate the possibility of doing the trick with business cards, which would leave you in a position to hand out your card at the end of the trick.)
Peter Duffie's explanations are very clear, and Ton Onosaka's illustrations are magnificent. Five Times Five Scotland is a top-notch collection of close-up routines from some very clever creators.
Birthday Magician's Handbook By Dave Fiscus
For many magicians, performing at children's birthday parties provides a substantial part of their magic income. And though many may denigrate children show performers, they are truly warriors in the trenches; an audience of children places great demands on the performer.
Lloyd Jones published the first edition of Dave Fiscus' Birthday Magician's Handbook in 1980. Unfortunately, the book suffered from poor production values. Lee Jacobs has revised and updated this book, and it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in this area of magic.
Dave Fiscus has been an educator, an administrator, and a school principal. He is currently teaching science to gifted children. During the period of time he was an administrator, he feared he was becoming too far removed from children, and this was one of his main reasons for becoming a birthday party magician. His purpose for writing Birthday Magician's Handbook was to provide information on both the performing and the business aspects of the birthday show market.
The book begins in an interesting way by discussing the disadvantages of being a birthday party magician. Aspiring magicians should seriously consider these factors. Mr. Fiscus then describes a typical birthday show scenario and follows this with advice on getting to the show, setting up, dealing with parents, warming up the audience, and using children as assistants. The next few chapters explain how to prepare the show, including suggestions on style, showmanship, practice, continuity, routining, and audience control. Mr. Fiscus then spends several chapters explaining how to deal with the various age groups the birthday magician will encounter.
Having a well planned, carefully rehearsed birthday show will do you no good if no one hires you, so Mr. Fiscus next explains the business side of birthday shows. The information presented here (on advertising, estimating costs, setting fees, selling, bookkeeping, and getting paid) is clearly presented and very valuable.
Finally, the last third of the book presents many routines that Mr. Fiscus has used in his birthday shows. All use standard props, and are within the ability of the average magician.
In revising this book, Lee Jacobs enlisted the aid of Chris Carey, Helene Mark, David Ginn, and Samuel Patrick Smith. They have done an excellent job updating the material and adding alternative viewpoints. If you are considering entering the birthday show market, Birthday Magician's Handbook is a book that should be in your library. And more experienced performers will also find it to be a useful reference book.
Komedy Kid-show Kassettes By Ginn, Smith, and Taylor
Kid show performers looking for practical, real world advice should pick up Komedy Kid-show Kassettes, a three cassette set featuring David Ginn, Samuel Patrick Smith, and Steve Taylor in a round table discussion. Each of these gentlemen is an experienced kid show performer, and the insights they offer come from performing hundreds of shows.
Each cassette focuses on one aspect of kid show magic. Cassette One gives suggestions on how to produce a kid show. Topics discussed are: creating a show, structuring a show, writing effective patter, developing a performance personality, adapting shows for pre schoolers and older children, show lengths, practicing and rehearsing, and suggestions for repeat performances.
Cassette Two deals with performing kid shows, and included advice on using sound systems, lighting and backdrops, handling nervousness, picking cooperative volunteers (the suggestions here are worth the price of admission), handling problem kids, organizing your props, dealing with performance mistakes, and suggestions on the inclusion of livestock in your show. Cassette Three gives information on promoting your show, and includes advice on: determining your fees, free show requests, how to time mailings, who to contact, closing the deal, using contracts, and using referrals.
The three cassettes total four hours in length. I believe that all kid show performers will find valuable information here. Combine the Komedy Kid-show Kassettes with the Fiscus book reviewed above, and you'll have a graduate and postgraduate course in kid show magic.
The Watch Steal Video By Charles Bach and Chappy Brazil
Chappy Brazil was a vital and vibrant member of the Las Vegas magic community. He was also a master of the wristwatch steal. The night that this video was completed, Chappy was tragically killed in a traffic accident. While his loss is still palpably felt, it is fortunate that the information on The Watch Steal Video remains behind, for it is the best information on the subject that I have seen.
On The Watch Steal Video, Chappy and illusionist Charles Bach discuss how to steal three types of watches: buckle type watches (this is your standard leather strap type), flip tab watches, and metal clasp expandable band watches (Rolex watches are of this type). The information on the Rolex steal is worth the price of the tape, for many believe that this type of watch is impossible to steal.
The tape begins with an examination of each type of watch. Then Chappy and Charles take each type in turn, and demonstrate how each watch can be stolen. We first see Chappy out on the street, performing for laymen, stealing a watch. Then the steal action is explained in detail, and we again watch Chappy's street performance, with a voice over explaining each step of the steal. There are several important points here, including the use of a trick to cover the steal, and the very clever (and non-insulting) method for returning the watch.
Three types of watches are not discussed on this video: the hard rubber band watch (like a diver's watch), the stiff plastic band watch (like a Swatch watch), and the no-clasp expansion band watch. Chappy's advice is simply to avoid attempting to steal these types of watches.
Next, Charles and Chappy offer ways to practice the watch steal, and then discuss several ways to incorporate a watch steal into a magic routine. One offbeat routine involves loading the stolen watch into a can of soup. The idea is clever, but I think it is only practical for a stage magician who uses an assistant.
Many magicians use a watch steal in their acts. Most that I have seen do the steal in a clumsy and inelegant way. The methods taught on this video are absolutely top-notch, and will allow you to get watches from the most attentive spectator. The Watch Steal Video provides the best methods I have seen, and the material is presented in way that you will be able to learn from it. Highly recommended.
I hereby declare that from this point forward Gregory Wilson (he of the "Stockholder," "It," Off the Cuff, and "Kiss Off") is to be known as the Greg Wilson, and Mark Wilson's son Greg will be known as the other Greg Wilson. My reason for doing this is that I have run out of funny ways to refer to Gregory as "the other Greg Wilson."
Gregory's new video Card Stunts features eight card routines, each of which has a very visual (or in some cases "flourishy") aspect. Greg performs all eight routines in an extended set in the Close-up Gallery of the Magic Castle. This is a one camera shoot, which means you get a fairly static long shot of the action. You'll be able to tell what's going on, but a few close-up shots would have been nice.
The opening routine, "Heavyweight Boxing," is visually quite stunning, as the card box continually jumps back and forth from your pocket to around the deck. "G-Force" is a repeat card forcing routine. "Reset with a Hook" is just that - a variation of the classic Paul Harris routine with a presentational hook which explains why the cards are transposing. "Revelation in Spades," is a handling of a Ricky Jay plot. All thirteen spades are produced (in order) in a flourishy way.
Gregory explains each of the routines clearly and effectively. These are not routines for the beginner, but most are within the abilities of the average card magician.
This type of visual, rapid-fire card magic will appeal to many magicians. The tricks are fast, flourishy, and will certainly establish in the minds of the audience that you are someone who has skill with a deck of cards. If this approach to card magic appeals to you, Card Stunts will definitely provide you with some new routines for your repertoire.
Most books and videos these days focus on close-up magic. Very little product is geared toward the stage performer. (Especially the performer who does manipulation.) In his new video Coins!, Michael P. Lair offers some routines involving the manipulation of large plastic coins. These routines are not particularly difficult, and could provide a pleasant interlude of silent manipulation in your stand-up act.
The main idea presented in Coins! is a method for visually producing a large plastic coin. This method is based on an old gambling idea, and looks quite good. A large coin is produced, vanished, reappears, and eventually turns into silver confetti (or a long mylar streamer). Michael offers several variations using the production technique. The tape concludes with a method for vanishing a coin, and a method for sleeving a coin. Unfortunately, I felt that both of these techniques were unconvincing.
The production values of this video are good, and the big coin routine is worthwhile. If you're looking for stand-up manipulation ideas, Coins! is worth checking out.
Tim Wright's Zombie By Tim Wright
No doubt about it, "Zombie" is a classic of magic. Many magicians use the effect in their stand-up acts. If you've never worked with the trick, and you're considering adding it to your repertoire, it would be worth your while to check out Tim Wright's Zombie, a video tape which provides a basic course in "Zombie" manipulation.
This is a self-produced video, and the production values are just average. We see Tim standing in his living room, and it is here that he discusses such subjects as the proper construction of the gimmick, the various types of foulards available, how to get into the routine, how to get out of the routine, and music, costume, and character ideas. (A note to Tim: Next time get rid of the cane. Watching you twirl it as you give your introductory patter was unbelievably annoying.)
We then watch Tim's alter ego Skilldini perform the "Zombie" at the Magic Castle. Skilldini is a comedy character, consequently much of Tim's routine is played for laughs. Tim discusses and explains all the moves in his routine, and most of the moves will be useful to the general practitioner, regardless of whether a serious or a comedy approach is desired.
There are two very interesting historical pieces included on this video. One is some rare footage of Joe Karson performing his creation on the streets of Colon. The other is a performance by Neil Foster at an Abbott's Get Together.
Tim Wright's Zombie is a worthwhile resource to a newcomer interested in performing this effect. It provides the basic information that will get you on the road to learning to float a metal ball. However, I would also suggest that anyone who is going to perform the "Zombie" must also study Tommy Wonder's essay on the subject. Tommy's information will help you turn a trick into a miracle.
MIB: Magicians in Black
These two tapes from Royale Productions feature two magic shows performed in a theater in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They are not instructional videos, they are just magic shows. Which to me means that you paying for the quality of the performances. So for me to review these tapes I have to judge the quality of the individual acts which make up each show. This is not exactly what a product reviewer is supposed to do. But here it goes.
I see no reason for the existence of either of these tapes. The caliber of each show is mediocre at best. They remind me of the excruciating opening night stage shows inflicted on magic conventioneers. The Magicians in Black video is somewhat saved by appearances of escape artist Dean Gunnarson and comedy magician Kerry Pollock, but Pollock (who is the Master of Ceremonies) looks as uncomfortable as the orchestra leader on the Titanic. He knows that no matter how well he does his job this ship is going down.
Save your money. Not recommended.
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.
Here's just what the magic world needs: another ring and rope routine. This particular routine combines elements of "The Professor's Nightmare" with ideas from George Sands, Daryl Martinez, Richard Sanders, David Williamson, and Aldo Colombini. The magician begins with three unequal ropes. They stretch and become the same length. Two of these ropes magically fuse into one long rope. This rope is tied into a loop and a plastic bracelet penetrates the loop several times. The ends of the rope are removed (leaving an endless loop) and then replaced. (Is any of this beginning to sound familiar?) Finally, the ropes return to their original unequal lengths, bringing the trick "Full Circle."
You get all the necessary props, plus a videotape which demonstrates the routine and then explains it. While the tape does an adequate job explaining the routine, I think a routine of this nature needs printed instructions as well, so that the student has illustrations to refer to.
The problem that I have is that "Full Circle" is a personalization which advances neither the effect, the method, nor the presentation. If you have absolutely no experience with ring and rope routines, you may find that "Full Circle" fits the bill. However, my suggestion would be to track down the original sources (by the inventors mentioned above) and devise your own personalization. But please, unless it improves effect, method, or presentation, don't publish it.
"Animental" is a simple mental effect from Danny Archer, who runs the Magician's Lecture Network. The magician shows four laminated cardboard strips. Each strip has the pictures of four animals on each side. A spectator thinks of one of the animals. The magician reveals the selected animal. This can be done for up to four people at a time. "Animental" is not a profound mystery, nor are you going to convince anyone that you have genuine psychic powers. However, it is simple and colorful, and would play well for both adults and children. If you're looking for an easy mental effect it may well suit the bill.
"Lucky Lotto" is a fun method for revealing a selected card. A card is chosen, lost in the pack, and the magician attempts to find it. He fails. As recompense he offers the spectator a lottery ticket. The spectator scratches off the ticket and finds the name of the selected card printed on the ticket.
With the current popularity of state lotteries, "Lucky Lotto" is a natural. Danny provides you with 25 lottery tickets, which represent four different force cards. (There is an easy way to tell which card is on which ticket.) Danny also gives you a sample presentation, and provides a simple method to force a card. "Lucky Lotto" is simple, effective, and worth your consideration.
It's Not Magic, But.
So, you want to go on an extended lecture tour, do you? Here are my top five suggestions for what you'll need to stay safe and sane on the road:
1) A traveling companion. Having someone share the trip with you not only eases the physical burden of driving, unloading, setting up, tearing down, and loading up again, but can also ease the psychological stress of the trip. 2) A laptop computer. A powerful laptop is not a luxury, it's a necessity. 3) Some type of street map program. We used a program called Microsoft Streets, and it was just great. The program not only gives you detailed maps of just about every city in the United States, but it also lists hotels, restaurants, post offices, and shopping malls. This program saved our butts many times. 4) Your own pillows. You are going to find yourself in some pretty crappy hotels. Having your own pillows can make the difference between a good night's sleep and no sleep at all. 5) Vitamins and herbs. Travelling stresses the body, and the greatest danger is getting sick while you're on the road. It's tough to eat healthy, and vitamins and herbs can make a big difference in your energy level and your overall wellbeing.
Good luck, and happy lecturing.
The Book by Fraps, Thun, and Willich. 8.5 x 11, hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 177 pages. $40 postpaid in US. From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016
Five Times Five Scotland by Peter Duffie. 8.5 x 11, hardcover with glossy dustjacket. 126 pages. $35 postpaid in US. From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016
Birthday Magician's Handbook by Dave Fiscus. 6x 9, hardcover. 214 pages. $30. From Lee Jacobs Productions, P.O. Box 362, Pomeroy, OH 45769-0362
Komedy Kid-show Kassettes by Ginn, Smith, and Taylor. Three audio cassettes. $38 postpaid. From Steve Taylor, P.O. Box 301231, Portland, OR 97294
The Watch Steal Video by Charles Bach and Chappy Brazil. $29.95 plus $3 p&h. From The Watch Steal Video, 4114 West Martin Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89118
Card Stunts by Gregory Wilson. $30 plus $3 p&h. From The Magic Smith, 64 Seafare, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Coins! by Michael P. Lair. $27 postpaid. From Michael P. Lair, 3300 Enfield Ave. NW, Canton, OH 44708
Tim Wright's Zombie by Tim Wright. $30. Available from most magic dealers.
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
Full Circle by Mystic Magic. $19.95 plus $3 p&h. From Mystic Magic, 111 S. Barranca Street, Suite 320, West Covina, CA 91791
Animental - $18. Lucky Lotto - $15. Both from Danny Archer, 303 S. Broadway, B-235, Denver, CO 80209
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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.