How the World Works

I'm not going to hop up on a soapbox this month (we have a ton of items to talk about), but I do want to take a moment to discuss the reviewing process here at MAGIC. Lately I have read some mail suggesting that there is a conspiracy afoot in which personal friendship, proximity (that is, West Coast vs. East Coast), or an advertising commitment to this magazine is required in order to have your product reviewed. The truth is far less sinister, and far more mundane.

First, I don't show favoritism to friends. After 5 ^ years of product reviewing, I don't have any friends. This makes it easier to play fair. I don't show favoritism to the West Coast, because I have no contact with West Coast magicians. In fact, I have almost no contact with magicians at all. I have taken myself out of the magic convention/magic lecture loop, so I very rarely see other magicians.

Secondly, simply sending a product to MAGIC magazine (or any other magazine for that matter) does not guarantee that it will be reviewed. When I began my stint as the product reviewer, I cranked out about 4500 words a month. This has grown to between 6000 and 7500 words a month. Each month I receive a ton of products to examine. If the number of pages allotted to Marketplace were doubled, I still wouldn't have room to write about everything that comes in. As it is, each month I single-handedly review more items than the three reviewers at Genii do collectively. Usually this is between 12 and 15 items. Because of the volume of products, I had to establish some type of "sifting" process to bring the amount down to a manageable number. I don't know what Genii's policy is, but here's how I have been organizing things for the past five years.

1. Items of excellence are assured a review, whether they are being heavily advertised or not. If a product is really good I want people to know about it. This is especially true if the product comes from an "unknown."

2. I try to make sure to review products that are being advertised heavily. (This does not mean that you have to have an ad in MAGIC to get reviewed.) I don't care where the ad is running, if a product is being heavily hyped I think it's important for my readers to learn if it is good, bad, or indifferent. (Note that there are a lot of products that fall in this category that are not reviewed because no sample is sent to us. Unfortunately, we don't have the budget to purchase every product out there.)

3. Products that are getting a lot of hype and are a rip-off (in my opinion) will definitely get reviewed, just to warn the magicians about them. (Again, this all depends on whether we get a sample to review.)

4. Everything else. This final category tends to include a lot of items that I think are of marginal worth. If I have room, I will write about one or two of the best of these. The problem is that a vast majority of products fall into this category. In many cases, the creators of the products are hoping that my review will serve as a free ad (or that an enthusiastic review will springboard an ad campaign).

There is one other situation, and that is a product that arrives without the necessary ordering info (price, postage, mailing address, fax number, email address, or web site). This product goes to the bottom of the pile because I simply don't have the time to track down the information.

We have discovered (and are in the process of rectifying) a couple of glitches in procedure here at the MAGIC office. There have been a few occasions when an item was cut from a review column due to lack of space and this item did not appear in the next month's column. We will be diligent to make sure this no longer happens. Also, we will be sending out a postcard acknowledging the receipt of your product. Because of the backlog of products, I have no way of letting you know when (or if) your product will be reviewed, but at least you'll know that it got to us.

My goal has always been to produce a column that will be interesting, informative, and helpful to the readers of MAGIC. No great Machiavellian schemes exist. My only loyalty is to the readers. I hope that clears things up.

Chan Canasta - A Remarkable Man

By David Britland. 6 x 9 hardcover. 111 pages. $100. Available from most magic dealers.

To call Chan Canasta enigmatic is an understatement. He was one of the most popular performers in England during the 1950's and 60's, hosting his own television program in England, and appearing many times on American TV. Magicians were ambivalent about his methods and his performing style, but lay audiences were overwhelmed by him. No Chan Canasta imitators ever appeared. At the height of his popularity he dropped out of the public view to take up painting as a profession. He returned to magic five years later, and made a stunning appearance on The Parkinson Show, a popular British talk show. He continued to perform around the world during the 1970's and 80's. He died of a heart attack on April 22, 1999 at the age of 79.

In Chan Canasta - A Remarkable Man, David Britland examines the techniques Canasta used to accomplish his amazing effects. Little is known about Canasta' methods. He published one small card trick "A Miracle Discovery," and was often surprisingly honest when discussing his methods with laymen. Generally speaking, his effects were accomplished using simple principles: a stacked deck, a virtuoso mastery of the classic force, psychological manipulation of the audience, and monumental nerve. Canasta was not afraid of failure, and very often he did fail. But when a risky trick succeeded, the impact on the audience left absolutely nothing to be desired.

In order to reconstruct Canasta's methods, Mr. Britland examined three recorded performances. The first, The Amazing Mr. Canasta, was a short film produced in 1953. The second analyzed performance is the March 23, 1960 episode of the series Chan Canasta is a Remarkable Man. The final performance examined is the aforementioned appearance on The Parkinson Show.

The Amazing Mr. Canasta performance consisted of five card tricks (Canasta preferred to call them "experiments") and a book test. In the first card experiment, two spectators choose the same card from two different decks. This experiment is followed by having a gentleman remove two cards from one of the packs. He places one of these cards in his right jacket pocket and the other card in his left jacket pocket. A woman selects a card from another deck that is spread face-up by Canasta. The card she chooses matches the card in the man's left pocket. The woman repeats the process. The second card she chooses matches the card in the man's right pocket. The third and fourth card effects continue the theme of having one spectator discern another spectator's selection.

The fifth card experiment performed by Canasta is particularly interesting because it involved the audience that was watching the film at the movie theater. Canasta riffled the faces of the cards toward the camera and asked the viewing audience to think of a card as the faces flashed by. An on-screen spectator picked a card out of the deck. It was the card that the majority of the audience had thought of. (And Canasta had a follow-up for those who had thought of a different card.)

Canasta's book test was truly remarkable. A spectator chooses a thick book from among several that rest on a table. Canasta riffles the pages in front of the spectator and asks that the spectator think of any page he sees. Canasta then asks the spectator to think of the number of one of the lines on the page. (For example, if the book had 35 lines on a page, the spectator might think of the number "19.") On a piece of paper Canasta openly writes down what he thinks lies at the 19th line on the thought-of page. The spectator announces the page he is thinking of. The book is opened to that page, and the 19th line is counted to. The words on that line match Canasta's prediction.

The effects presented in the other two performances analyzed by Mr. Britland are variations and refinements of the effects discussed above. Of particular interest is the fact that on The Parkinson Show the book test fails, and yet Canasta is able to bring the experiment to a conclusion that the audience finds completely satisfactory. Canasta's audience management and situational control were magnificent, and these abilities elevated simple methods to the point where they were unfathomable. In addition, Canasta was a master "de-constructionist." The instant an effect was over, he would begin to demolish the spectators' ability to reconstruct the method. Few contemporary magicians make use of this very powerful technique. (Juan Tamariz is one of the current masters of exploiting this type of misinformation.)

David Britland does a fine job deducing and analyzing Canasta's methods. In particular, he emphasizes Canasta's psychological techniques, which are the real secrets. These are techniques that can only be acquired by thousands of performances in front of real people. Canasta also had no fear of failure, and consequently miracles occurred more often than not. I'm sure that one of the reasons that Canasta had no imitators is that few magicians are willing to pay the price to master these types of techniques.

Chan Canasta - A Remarkable Man is a fascinating book about a fascinating character. I doubt that many magicians will even give these tricks a try, and that's a pity, because the routines here are the stuff miracles are made of. Recommended.

(A number of errors appear in this book, due to a misstep in the printing process. Martin Breese will be offering a free supplement that will address these errors and will include additional photos and information. This supplement will be available in November. By the way, only a limited number of copies of this book were printed. A second limited printing is planned, and the price will stay at $100. For information on the reprint or the supplement you may want to contact Martin Breese at [email protected].)

Neo - Magic Artistry

By S. H. Sharpe. 6 x 9 hardcover with dustjacket. 390 pages. $50 plus $5 p&h in US (foreign orders add $15 p&h). From The Miracle Factory, 6113 Roosevelt, Suite 101, Seattle, WA 98115. Phone orders: 877-707-4268.

When Todd Karr (the publisher of Neo-Magic Artistry) was 18 he wrote to Sam Sharpe to ask if he could publish Sharpe's Words of Wonder. The book found a small but enthusiastic audience (including Doug Henning) and marked a resurgence in interest in Sharpe's books. The four-volume series Conjuror's Secrets was published, new versions of Salutations to Robert-Houdin and Devant's Delightful Delusions were released, and his 1937 book Ponsin on Conjuring was reprinted. The Magic Castle awarded Sharpe a Literary Fellowship.

This recognition of Sharpe's work was gratifying, for his publishing ventures had never been particularly successful. Neo Magic (which forms the major part of Neo - Magic Artistry) was originally published in 1932. Sharpe had to pay for the printing. He only broke even on the project. The 500 copies of the first edition sold moderately; the unsold copies were lost during World War II. The second edition of 750 copies was marred by shoddy workmanship and many typographical errors.

Sam Sharpe died on July 27, 1992. He had continued to revise and rework his material in the hope that Neo Magic and the three booklets that followed it (Conjured Up, Good Conjuring, and Great Magic) would be published in one volume. He planned this combined edition with Martin Breese, but did not live to see it completed. Todd Karr's company, The Miracle Factory, has finally realized Sam Sharpe's dream and has made Neo - Magic Artistry available to a contemporary audience. The book is remarkable, and I could easily spend the entire column discussing it. Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury, so I can only touch on a few points.

Neo - Magic Artistry is not so much a book of theory as it is a book of esthetics. If I could sum up Sam Sharpe's dissatisfaction with magic performances it would be that so few of them are magical. In an attempt to offer easily digestible popular entertainment, magicians miss the chance to provide their audiences with a deeper, more meaningful experience. Neo - Magic (Part I of Neo - Magic Artistry) begins with a discussion of conjuring as a fine art. Sharpe then analyzes the various types of conjurors - Originators (those who devise new effects and methods), Inventors (those who devise new technical methods to be used by Originators), Manufacturers, Executive Conjurors (who interpret the effects of others before the public), and Critics (in which category Sharpe places students of magic, magical cognoscenti, and "every attentive member of the audience"). Next, Sharpe discusses the importance of the producer. He writes, "A magician should himself know whether his technique and art have passed the rehearsal stage and become second nature, but the producer is better able to tell him how to dress his production attractively." Topics covered include advertising, styles of presentation, logic, consistency, choice of apparatus, holding attention, stage fright, emotional appeal, and many others.

Sharpe also examines the problems of exposure. Considering the present day furor about this subject, his thoughts should stimulate discussion. Sharpe writes, "I suggest, therefore, that a good conjuring feat may be defined as one that can withstand exposure.. .The Aerial Mint, Cups and Balls, and Chinese Rings will generally prove among the most popular items in a program if presented by a skilled magician, yet all have been exposed ad nauseam. The reason is simple: their success depends mainly on the performer's ability as a conjuror.. .if the conjuror relies upon sleight-of-hand and mental acuteness for his effects, he will have little fear of the exposer; but if he is content to use tricks of the simple order, then he has only himself to blame if he finds some know-alls in the audience."

Part Two of Neo - Magic Artistry contains the three smaller books, Conjured Up, Good Conjuring, and Great Magic. The theoretical discussions begun in Neo Magic are continued here, but unlike Neo Magic, these books also contain fully scripted routines. The emphasis is on stage and parlor magic, mostly utilizing apparatus, but there are also a few close-up routines. It is interesting to see how Sharpe puts his theory into practice, but I fear that few of these routines will be of use to contemporary readers without considerable revision. (But then again, Ricky Jay has had great success using the Exclusive Coterie patter from Expert at the Card Table.)

Neo - Magic Artistry is a wonderful book and I recommend it to you. It is a challenging book. Sharpe's Edwardian prose does not make for easy reading. The magic is dated and would certainly have to be revamped for contemporary presentation. The ideas, though, are golden. I'm delighted that Todd Karr has made these books available to new generations of magicians.

Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Volume III

Written by Steve Beam. 8.5 x 11 hardcover with dustjacket. 239 pages. $45 postpaid. From Trapdoor Productions, 108 Running Creek Road, Raleigh, NC 27606. Web site: www.mindspring.com/~sbeam

Magicians do love their card tricks. (I've said that before, haven't I?) I'm sure that by now all of you have picked up your copy of The James File and you've worked your way through the 600+ card tricks in those two volumes. That means you're hungry for more card tricks! You're in luck. Steve Beam has assembled 70 virtually self-working card routines in Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Volume III.

Mr. Beam (editor of the very popular close-up magazine The Trapdoor) is a humorous and entertaining writer, who has a keen eye for picking top-notch material. He is also no slouch when it comes to creating routines himself. The list of contributors to SemiAutomatic Card Tricks Volume IIIis a who's who of clever magic folk, including Jack Avis, Tom Gagnon, Lewis Jones, Anthony Owen, Doug Canning, Joel Givens, Stewart James, Joe Mogar, Marc Paul, Allan Slaight, Tom Craven, Josh Jay, Lee Asher, Marty Kane, and Gary Plants.

The routines are organized thematically. Chapters include Gambling Tricks, Impossible Locations, Face Up/Face Down Shuffles, The Match Game, Cards of Color, Topological Effects, and Multiple Locations. The Cards of Color Chapter contains a fascinating idea by Lewis Jones called "The Pattern Principle." This idea circulated through the underground (whatever that is) a while back, and it generated a lot of comment.

If you enjoy card magic and you're looking for material that won't bust your knuckles, you will certainly have fun with Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Volume III. (And you'll also enjoy the previous volumes in the series.)

Personal Magic Volume 1

By Eric Lewis. CD Rom. $30 postpaid. From Magikraft Studios, 11639 Sandpiper Court, Moreno Valley, CA 92557. Fax: 909-247-1666. Email: [email protected]. Web site: www.magikraft.com

Eric Lewis had a lifelong interest in magic. He was a performer, a creator, a craftsman, and an author with over 26 books to his credit. Most unusual among his creations was a set of notebooks called Personal Magic. These were far more than the hastily scribbled (and mostly cryptic) notes that many of us use to log our own inventions and the clever creations we encounter. Eric Lewis typed up the routines chronicled in Personal Magic, and then the effects were illustrated with Mr. Lewis' own watercolor artwork. The pages were bound in library covers. There is only one copy of each of the three volumes, and these books have been seen by only a select few.

In the Introduction to Volume One, Eric Lewis writes, "This book is a four-fold labour of love; of a life-time love of magic, a love of books, a love of writing, and a love of drawing and the daubing of colours. It is unique. There is only this one. It was born of a desire to take the magical impedimenta that one gathers throughout a lifetime of magic; the notes in exercise books, the dealer's instruction sheets of personal interest, things which have had a particular interest to me in magazines and books which have passed through my hands, tricks given to me by word of mouth or by letter, tricks I have seen -indeed, from all sources by which one gains a knowledge of magic. It is truly personal, because not only are the contents just those which strongly appeal to me, but in many cases there are slight variations or adaptations which bring the originals into line with my personal requirements."

Any attempt to publish the Personal Magic volumes would have been cost prohibitive, so Martin Lewis did the next best thing - he published the book on CD-Rom. You receive a hybrid CD-Rom, usable on both a Mac and a PC. The book itself is in Adobe Acrobat format. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is provided on the disc. In addition to the 359 pages of text, there are also 8 QuickTime movies. In order to play the movies you'll have to install a QuickTime player, which may involve hopping on the Internet. (Information on free Internet service is provided.)

The magic is widely varied, covering cards, close-up, children's magic, silk effects, general magic, mental effects, and miscellaneous effects. The contributors include Theo Annemann, Stanley Collins, Paul Curry, Cy Endfield, Robert Harbin, Ralph Hull, Stewart James, Charles Jordan, Milt Kort, Ed Marlo, Clayton Rawson, Harlan Tarbell, Edward Victor, and many others. If you have a good library and are a student of magic it is possible that you will have encountered several of these tricks before, but I would guess that for younger magicians this material will be completely unknown. Mr. Lewis' artwork is charming, and the book is a delight to page through.

However, I find it more pleasurable to have a hard copy of any material that I'm going to study. I printed out several pages of Personal Magic, and even using an "economy" setting on my printer the pages turned out quite well. If you are willing to invest in some ink cartridges and some high quality paper, you could make a very handsome book for yourself. There is, however one small irritating glitch. When the pages were scanned the page number on the bottom of each page was cut in half. You can sort of make out the page numbers, but they are not really clear. These means you'll have to be careful to keep the pages in order when you print them out, and finding any individual trick (there is an index) will be a little cumbersome.

I am delighted that Magikraft is releasing this material. CD-Rom may not be the perfect solution, but it beats the alternative (of my never having the chance to experience these books at all). I enjoyed Eric Lewis' Personal Magic Volume One very much and I think you will, too.

The Truth About Trade Show Magic

By Eddie Tullock. 2 video set. $59.95 postpaid in US and Canada (overseas surface add $7.50). From L&L Publishing, P.O. Box 100, Tahoma, CA 96142. Orders: 1-800-6266572. Fax: 530-525-7008. Email: [email protected]. Web site: www.allmagic.com/llpub.

Eddie Tullock has certainly attained a legendary status in magic, and justifiably so. He was the first trade show magician, a job he performed with skill, enthusiasm, and his own brand of sideshow bravura. Because he avoided magic conventions and rarely associated with other magicians, he was a shadowy figure, praised by those few who were hip to his work, but otherwise unknown to the magic community. And, he made a very comfortable living using only a force, a top change, a palm, and a simple card control.

Mr. Tullock's magic and thoughts on trade show work were recorded in a book titled Tullock: The Phantom Founder of Trade Show Magic. I don't know if it's still available, but it is definitely worth tracking down. Now, thanks to the folks at L&L Publishing, we have a chance to watch Mr. Tullock in action, to see him work a crowd of people, and to hear his words of wisdom concerning trade show work. These tapes are not perfect, but I'm glad that Mr. Tullock was captured on video, so future generations have a chance to see one of magic's top performers.

The Real Truth About Trade Show Magic contains two videotapes. The first contains some of Mr. Tullock's trade show routines, performed and explained. On this video Mr. Tullock also explains his techniques for the sleights that are the backbone of his work. On the second video Mr. Tullock offers suggestions for anyone interested in pursuing trade show work. On both these tapes Mr. Tullock is joined by Michael Ammar, who acts as a host and interviewer.

The performance tape features such routines as "Timely Card to Wallet" (a routine that may cause you to throw away all your fancy gimmicked wallets), "Busted Transpo," "Blackjack" (a pseudo-gambling demo with a funny ending), "A Psychological Trick" (a very clever two-deck routine that features a bold use of the face-up classic force), and "The Four and a Half Trick," which has been Mr. Tullock's closer for many years. In addition to the routines, Mr. Tullock also discusses the Classic Force, the Top Change, some simple card controls, an excellent method for an in-the-hands false riffle shuffle, and offers some good work on the venerable Slop Shuffle. What you will immediately notice is that there is nothing fancy going on here. The plots of the routines are easy to understand, and the methods are simple and direct. (Please note that "simple" does not necessarily mean "easy.") Because the plots are simple, Mr. Tullock has plenty of opportunities to drop in his commercial messages (in this case he pitches the merits of L&L Publishing), and of course, delivering a company's sales pitch is the entire reason for the existence of trade show magicians.

Some of the topics discussed on the second video include: contacting the decision-maker, clarifying the company's sales message, the logistics of trade show work, audience management, gathering a crowd, client loyalty, and safety tips. The suggestions Mr. Tullock makes come from years of experience and should be carefully studied by anyone considering entering this field.

The Real Truth About Trade Show Magic is not a perfect product. There was no way to capture Mr. Tullock in a real trade show setting, so a group of laymen was brought in and they stand around Mr. Tullock as he works on top of a table on a stand. One problem with this arrangement is that the cameras have problems capturing all the action, since the spectators are spread out. At one point a young man selects a card and goes completely off camera. A giant card is superimposed on the screen so we know what card he took. I understand the need to shoot videos in a studio environment, but we lose the raw energy of the trade show floor, and a chance to see how a master performer controls an audience in that situation.

The biggest problem of these videos is the host, Michael Ammar. Mr. Ammar has certainly achieved favorite son status at L&L Publishing, but I fail to understand why he needs to be on every video they put out. Contrary to the claims of the advertisements, I don't believe that trades shows are his field of expertise. Certainly there must have been other performers with more experience in this field who could have served as a host. But placing the matter of experience aside for a moment, there is the manner in which Mr. Ammar carries out his role. As a host and interviewer, Mr. Ammar's job is to draw out responses from the person he is interviewing. This means "talk less, listen more." Offer short, pointed, intelligent questions that will spur the subject to deliver more information. As you watch these tapes it feels as if half the time is taken up with Mr. Ammar's comments. I will not judge whether his comments are good, bad, or indifferent, I'll just state that if I buy a tape by Eddie Tullock, I want to hear what Eddie Tullock has to say, not what Michael Ammar has to say.

Are these tapes worth purchasing? Yes. They will be especially valuable if you have a copy of the Tullock book mentioned above. (Seeing the card forcing and top change techniques in action is particularly valuable.) Eddie Tullock is a one-of-kind character. Being able to spend time with him, even in this flawed format, is a pleasure, and it is a pleasure you should afford yourself.

Magic as Interpreted by Reed Michael Lucas

By Reed Michael Lucas. $29.95. Available online at www.NewMagicDVD.com or from your favorite magic dealer.

Question: What do close-up magicians use for birth control? Answer: Their personalities. This is not a joke, it is the underlying message of a completely vile new DVD titled Magic as Interpreted by Reed Michael Lucas. The DVD begins with Mr. Lucas stating that his purpose is to show how magic can be integrated into a bar or nightclub situation, where the magician is faced with loud music, bad lighting, and less-than-sober spectators. His second goal is to show that it is not necessary to have a lot of money or to dance well to impress women at a nightclub. Mr. Lucas fails at these objectives. Let's examine why.

First, define for yourself the qualities that an effective dance-club magic trick must possess. My list goes like this: the trick should be brief, very visual, require a minimum of thought on the part of the spectator, and require a minimum of talking on the part of the magician. With the exception of one trick, "The Appearing Straw," the routines Mr. Lucas offers are long, require a lot of spectator involvement, and are accompanied by non-stop patter. I simply cannot imagine that this material is the strongest possible repertoire for a noisy bar situation.

As far as Mr. Lucas' second goal, well-performed magic tricks may certainly impress women (possibly), but not when accompanied by sleazy patter. The patter for the aforementioned "Appearing Straw" makes reference to a slang term for a sexual technique. Mr. Lucas says to a woman during the selection of a card, "As I dribble the cards, just say stop. I know that's a word that's not in your vocabulary." In fact, if the goal of this tape is to show you how to pick up women using magic, Mr. Lucas proves himself to be a poor role model. Consider these two examples. Mr. Lucas begins a trick by saying to two women, "Here's something my girlfriend showed me." WHAT??!! Trust me, if you're trying to pick someone up, references to your girlfriend or wife minimize your likelihood of success. Example two: Mr. Lucas performs a multi-phased Ambitious Card routine. About two-thirds of the way through the routine the woman who is watching says, "That's great. Do you want to dance?" Mr. Lucas says, "Sure, but let me finish this first." HELLO!! What exactly would this woman have had to suggest in order for you to put the damn cards away?

For a moment, let's ignore the fact that Mr. Lucas fails at his two goals and just isolate the magic tricks. Seven routines are explained. Two require that you have an accomplice secretly working with you. The Ambitious Card routine is okay, but there is very little new involved, except that Mr. Lucas prefers a second deal to a double-lift (a choice of techniques that will immediately put this routine beyond the abilities of most viewers). "Ghost Coin" combines a Spellbound Routine with the Coin Cut effect of Larry Jennings. The combination does nothing to enhance either effect. "Mindreading" is a handling for an effect that Derek Dingle made famous. Mr. Lucas does not stray far from the method in Dingle's Deceptions. Finally, there is a routine that combines three commercially available items. If you want to do this routine, you're going to have to buy the tricks involved.

Fearing that my own judgement of Magic as Interpreted by Reed Michael Lucas was too harsh, I invited some friends over to watch it. None of them were impressed, and in particular, the women who watched it found Mr. Lucas' presentations to be offensive.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "Why does Close always sugar-coat these reviews? What does he really think?" The advertisements state that this is the first commercially available magic DVD (apparently this DVD came out before the recent Michael Ammar DVDs). What a pity that this honor should be bestowed on such a sleazy piece of work. Perhaps there is some underlying, subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor going on here. If so, I'm missing it completely. My biggest fear is that some young, impressionable magician is going to buy this and think that Mr. Lucas' example is worth following. If so, the negative impression that most people (especially women) have toward close-up magicians will be reinforced. Let me try to keep that from happening by being as clear as I can be. Under no circumstances should you waste you money on this worthless product. Clear enough?

Up My Sleeve

By Dan Paulus. $24.95 plus $3.50 p&h. From Dan Paulus, 4150 South 6180 West, West Valley City, UT 84128. Email: [email protected].

Lately, a lot of "homebrew" videos have hit the market. These are low budget, singlecamera, shot-in-my-kitchen, videos that have zero production values. Recent videos by

Jay Sankey and Kenton Knepper immediately come to mind. In my reviews of the Sankey and Knepper videos, I felt that the quality of the material slightly redeemed the amateurish production values. Unfortunately, I cannot be so kind in regard to Up My Sleeve, a close-up magic video by Dan Paulus. Mr. Paulus demonstrates and explains nine close-up routines, focusing on card and coin magic. Of these nine routines I only found two to be of any particular interest, "Blind Luck," and "Shout." "Blind Luck," is based on an unaccredited Ed Marlo routine (the same one that inspired my own routine "A Trick for O'Brien"). Mr. Paulus has expanded the Marlo routine into a two-deck coincidence miracle with a very surprising kicker. "Shout" is a cruel gag trick that plays very funny in the appropriate situation.

The remainder of the effects on Up My Sleeve simply left me cold. My lack of enthusiasm was reinforced by Mr. Paulus' low-key performance style. Such a laid-back approach to performing and teaching may work in real life, but with the barrier of a TV screen between the viewer and the performer, such a performance becomes somnambulistic. In addition, the camera work was simply atrocious. One camera is insufficient to capture the details of close-up magic. There were several instances when it was impossible to tell what was going on.

Here's a tip for all of you who want to produce your own videos. It's possible to purchase software that allows you to edit video on your PC. If you are only using one camera, then make sure you shoot insert shots so all the action is clear to the viewer. The results won't look like a three-camera studio shoot, but they'll look better than unedited "home movie" footage. If you want to know what not to do, pick up a copy of Up My Sleeve. Otherwise, save your money.

Tim Wright's Multiplying Balls

By Tim Wright. $25. Available from most magic dealers. Email: [email protected]

Tim Wright's last video was a mini-seminar on the venerable Zombie. This time around Tim provides useful information on the classic Multiplying Balls effect. The tape is geared toward the novice, but experienced performers may also find a few bits to incorporate in their routines.

Tim begins by examining the various types of balls available, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each type. He then explains various sleights, examines various dropper and holders, and demonstrates and explains a complete multiplying ball routine. This tape is not an encyclopedia of billiard ball moves. Tim's approach is to base a routine on a couple of vanishes and a couple of productions, rather than clutter up a routine with tons of moves. I would particularly call your attention to an excellent method for showing the shell to be a solid ball and a holder that allows you to immediately produce four single balls between the fingers. (This last bit is a real magician fooler.)

Also included on this video is footage of Cardini and Neil Foster performing ball routines, and it was treat to see these great magicians in action again.

Tim's multiplying ball routine (from his Skilldini act) is structured to fit his comedy character, and thus will not be applicable to everyone's needs. However, there is more than enough material presented on this tape to allow a thinking magician to construct his own routine. Tim Wright's Multiplying Balls is an excellent overview of the subject and will be of value to anyone wanting to add this classic trick to his repertoire.

Paul Green Presents The Classic Force

By Paul Green. $30 plus $3.32 p&h (international add $5). From The Magic Smith, 23192 Alcalde, Suite H, Laguna Hills, CA. Orders: 888-222-2192. Fax: 949-452-0763. Email: [email protected]. Web site: www.magicsmith.com.

The Classic Force is one of those bugaboo moves. The pros use it and swear by it, but it's a tough move to learn. The problem is that you can't learn the move by practicing in front of a mirror. You've got to go out and do it in front of real people (your friends and family are no good as guinea pigs), you've got to do it a thousand times, and you've got to blow it 900 times before you get the hang of it. On this new videotape from The Magic Smith, corporate performer Paul Green offers advice on how to master this most useful move.

Paul begins by offering two important sources of information on the Classic Force: the Eddie Tullock book (mentioned above), and a small pamphlet by Paul Gertner. I heartily second this endorsement. In fact, it is obvious that Paul Green was very much influenced by Eddie Tullock's approach. Many of the stratagems used by Paul are pure Tullock.

Paul begins by centralizing the force card with a cut, followed by holding a break above the force card. He prefers to have the force card below the break rather than above the break. (The position of the force card tends to be a matter of individual preference.) Paul then demonstrates methods for practicing timing, dealing with obstinate spectators, and ploys to get yourself out of trouble if you miss the force. This is all practical and useful advice. (As an aside, I find it interesting that almost no one seems to use the idea of delaying the force. That is, common practice has the magician cut the force card to the middle and then immediately spread the deck for a selection. A disarming approach is to cut the deck, maintain a break at the force card, form a small step at the break, and table the deck for a moment. Pick up the deck, retake the break, and then force the card. Performed in this manner, there is absolutely no tip-off that a force is going to occur, because it appears as if the magician has no control over any of the cards.)

Following his explanation of force techniques, Paul performs and explains several routines that use the Classic Force. These include a card to wallet routine, a handling for the Insurance Policy (with some handling touches that can only be developed through years of experience), a variation of Don Alan's "Big Deal," a routine with a jumbo card with a surprise kicker, and a routine where the same is repeatedly forced on a spectator. I'm not sure if the latter routine actually qualifies as "magic," because it seems obvious (at least to me) that the spectators are busting Paul all the way down the line. For me, the confrontational aspect of a routine of this nature nullifies the entertainment value.

Is this a worthwhile product? Yes, especially when combined with the Tullock and Gertner sources cited above. There is no easy way to learn to classic force playing cards, but Paul Green's The Classic Force will put you on the right track.

Carl Cloutier's Dream Tear Dominique Duvivier - Printing

From A-1 MagicalMedia. Dream Tear - $39.95 postpaid in US, Canada, and overseas surface mail. Printing - $19.95 postpaid in US, Canada, and overseas surface mail. From A-1 MagicalMedia, 3337 Sunrise Blvd., #8, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742. Orders: 800876-8437. Fax: 916-852-7785. Web site: www.a1magicalmedia.com.

Carl Cloutier's "Dream Tear" takes a slightly different approach to the torn-and-restored paper plot. Note that this is not a torn and restored newspaper (as in the Gene Anderson or Alan Shaxon versions). The magician shows a single sheet of paper (Carl uses a page from a magazine). The paper is torn twice and is folded into a small packet. The packet is unfolded and the paper is restored.

What Carl has done here (although there is no mention made of this on the instructional videotape) is to take the actions of the $100 Bill Switch and apply them to a bigger piece of paper. You are provided with the necessary gaff (which is not a thumb tip), and a videotape of Carl demonstrating and explaining the trick. Initially, I was less than thrilled with Carl's demonstration, which seemed to have far too much covert action going on behind the paper. A later demonstration on the video is smoother and more magical looking. Once I learned what the method was, however, it occurred to me that there were techniques available (for example, Roger Klause's "half move" approach) that would smooth out the handling considerably. If you are familiar with such techniques, be sure to apply them to "Dream Tear."

Because the gaff involved is not a thumb tip, it must be disposed of surreptitiously. Carl offers two methods. The first uses a Topit. The second method is probably more practical for the average performer and utilizes the breast pocket. To this end Carl provides you with a very useful gaff that holds the breast pocket open. I can see this gaff being used in many other applications.

Because you are tearing up a single sheet of paper rather than a newspaper, "Dream Tear" is perhaps less spectacular than other torn and restored effects available. However, the preparation time is minimal, and I can see how this effect would be very useful to trade show workers and others who could tie the effect to a message written on the paper. (In fact, you need not tear up the paper. You can just do the effect as a switch of papers.) The method will take practice to do smoothly, but is not technically demanding. If the effect appeals, "Dream Tear" is worth checking out.

Also available from A-1MagicalMedia is Dominique Duvivier's "Printing." You are provided with an instructional video and all the necessary props. A packet of cards is shown. All the cards are face down. As they are counted from hand to hand one of the cards turns face up. This is continued until four cards have turned face up. They are the four Tens. The other four cards are shown to have blank faces. Suddenly the cards start acting like a Xerox machine. Faces copy, backs copy, cards are misprinted, one card takes on the color of the close-up mat, and the last card takes on the image of the card case. At the end everything can be examined.

This is a very visual routine that is not difficult to do. The only thing you need to know is that one card has a green back. Duvivier uses a green close-up mat, and the green card apparently takes on the color of the mat. If you don't use a green mat, you'll have to figure out some other green object to use. (Duvivier offers several suggestions on the videotape.) If you like packet tricks, "Printing" is one of the better ones.

Rainbow Deck II

From Randy Wakeman. $20 plus $3 p&h. From Randy Wakeman, 12362 S. Oxford Lane, Plainfield, IL 60544. Fax: 815-254-2339. Email: [email protected]

A few years ago, Randy Wakeman released his Rainbow Deck, and it was enthusiastically received by close-up magicians. A Rainbow Deck, if you're unfamiliar with the concept, is a standard 52-card deck in which each card has a different back design. It is possible to assemble such decks in bridge-size cards (although it is expensive, time consuming, and often difficult to find decks with white borders), but it is almost impossible to assemble a poker-sized Rainbow Deck. Randy solved that problem by having the cards specially printed. He has now released Rainbow Deck II, which contains completely different backs from the original Rainbow Deck. The images used for the backs of the cards appear to be from a clip art collection. However, the actual images used are of no consequence, what is important is the kaleidoscopic flash of colors you get when you spread the deck between your hands or on the table. Rainbow Deck II produces this nice flash.

Why use a Rainbow Deck? Well, any Color-changing Deck routine is enhanced when the deck changes into a Rainbow Deck. In addition, there are certain prediction tricks (one is included with Rainbow Deck II) where a prediction is thought to be incorrect until it is turned over and shown that the card the spectator selected and the predicted card are the only two cards with a standard Bicycle Rider back. As a kid I performed Derek Dingle's "Color Triumphant" with a Rainbow Deck and the results left nothing to be desired. I would also imagine that Doug Conn's "Chameleon Sandwich" (see Tricks of My Trade) would also be enhanced by using a Rainbow Deck.

If you're having a hard time thinking of ways to use a Rainbow Deck, you may want to order The Rainbow Deck book, also available (for $10) from Randy Wakeman. Twelve routines are described from such creators as Ed Marlo, Clarke Crandall, Jon Racherbaumer, Ken Brooke, Gene Castillon, Mike Powers, Ron Bauer, and Randy Wakeman. None of the routines require advanced card handling ability, and all utilize the Rainbow Deck to good effect.

A couple more points before we wrap this up. The Rainbow Deck II arrives wrapped in cellophane (rather than in a card box). You'll need a spare card case to keep them in. The ink and the pip design do not match the ink and design used in a Bicycle deck. As Randy mentions in the instructions, if you mix Bicycle cards in with the Rainbow Deck they will pass a casual inspection, but if the cards are going to be scrutinized you should only use cards from the Diamonds suit from the Bicycle deck. I also found that the Rainbow Deck II had a slight tendency to warp (and this could be due to the weird heat/humidity of Las Vegas), but keeping the deck in a card clip solved that problem.

All in all, this is a very worthwhile prop. I've had lots of fun with a Rainbow Deck, and I'm sure that you will, too.

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

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

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