Martin Gardner to Rubber Chickens

Mac: Martin Gardner is a regular columnist in this magazine and has also been featured in a cover-story profile. A few weeks ago, there was a get-together in Atlanta called "The Gathering For Gardner II" honoring him. By coincidence his name has come up in connection with a couple of the things we're reviewing this month.

After I did the teach-a-trick segments on The World's Greatest Magic II last Thanksgiving eve, I have been both complimented and condemned by my fellow magicians. On the other hand, the response from regular people - kids especially - has been almost completely one-sided. They all have exciting stories to tell me about their experiences trying the various tricks I demonstrated: the messes they've made, the people they've fooled or didn't fool, or how the trick went right or wrong. It's been very fun for me. If you know of a kid that likes that sort of thing, then Klutz Press has a book they'd love. It's called The Rubber Chicken Book. It is filled with bad jokes, goofy skits, simple magic tricks, and a fabulous practical joke. You can buy this in your regular bookstore. Then, if it turns out the kid has a knack for this kind of thing, you can turn them on to Martin Gardner's Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic (in fact, Mr. Gardner is mentioned in the acknowledgments for The Rubber Chicken Book). Or, you can save yourself the trouble and just wait a few years and I will have taught all these things on television.

Mike: Really?!

Mac: No. Not really.

Flicker

By Mike Powers

Mike: Here's the effect: The magician displays a white Bic-type cigarette lighter that is blank on both sides. The lighter is pushed through the left hand and when it emerges the word "Fantasy" is printed on the side. The lighter is turned over and it is seen to now have the word "Reality" printed on the other side. The lighter is pushed through the fist again and all the writing disappears. Then the lighter vanishes.

There are several amazing things about this new release from Mike Powers Magic, none of which have anything to do with the actual effect he is selling. For instance, it is amazing that the writing on the lighter depicted in the ads for this trick bears no resemblance to the actual writing on the lighter you receive. The writing on the lighter that comes with the trick is an "ambigram." When viewed one way it reads "Fantasy," and when turned upside down it reads "Reality" - sort of. The problem is that this is a poor ambigram, and there are extraneous lines used that make the "Reality" side pretty illegible. Worse than that, this makes the method transparent. Every single person I showed this to told me that I was simply showing him or her the same word upside down. Not a good thing.

It's amazing that the advertising of this trick uses the phrase "new concept in paddle effects." I don't believe that merely replacing a paddle with some other object that can be rotated between the fingers qualifies as a "new concept." It is also amazing that Mr. Powers is so overwhelmed by the idea of making printing appear on Bic pens - an idea he mentions in the booklet which comes with the trick. (While not included in the package sent for review, Mr. Powers will be including a pen with the words "It's Magic" printed on one side.) If your magical growth process was anything like mine, then about an hour after you learned the paddle move, you did it with anything that you could twist between your fingers. (In 7th grade I got yelled at because I was making the writing on my #2 pencil disappear instead of paying attention.) I know of several professionals who use a pen as a giveaway and make the writing appear using the paddle move.

And finally, it's amazing that Mr. Powers wouldn't think that he was going to have some pretty unhappy customers on his hands once they saw what they got for their $15.

Not recommended.

Mac: I too found this to be a cheesy trick. Making printing appear on a lighter using the paddle move is certainly not new, but that's not the big problem. Everybody I showed this to also immediately caught that one word was just the other one only upside-down, but that's not the big problem. The illustrations and copy in the advertising are certainly misleading, but that's not the big problem. What's the big problem? To me, the big problem is probably nor Mike Powers' fault. He says he saw the Fantasy/Reality ambigram on a business card from Dr. Donald Desfor, and that Dr. Desfor gave his permission to use "his" creation in the lighter trick. This same exact design was a runner-up in Omni magazine's "Competition for Designatures" (their word for ambigrams) back in the 1980s. It was drawn by Henry M. Swope of Braden, Tennessee. Scot Morris, the games columnist for Omni (and a magic fan), says that since then he has seen this particular design on a number of magician's business cards. Oops!

Once again, let us turn to Martin Gardner. If you are interested in cool paddle tricks with normal everyday objects, you really should check out the Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic.

Baffle Bat Ice Cream Schtick Tahoe File By Terry LeGerould

Mac: Speaking of paddle tricks, here are two from Terry LeGerould. "Baffle Bat" is a six-inch black metal paddle that looks kind of like a miniature kayak paddle (a handle in the middle of two paddles - kind of an hourglass shape). Little silver magnetic "dots" stick to the paddle. These dots appear, disappear and jump from one end of the paddle to the other.

The other one is called "Ice Cream Schtick" This is a little three-inch replica of a chocolate-covered ice cream bar. A penny appears on the paddle and then the name of a selected card appears in white (vanilla ice cream in the included patter story) on the brown (chocolate) paddle surface. This is very cutesy. My favorite part is the 1943 copper-plated steel (so that it sticks to the magnetic paddle) penny that comes with it. I liked these two paddle move-based tricks much more than the Mike Powers "Flicker" trick, but once again my recommendation is to check out the Martin Gardner book. If you ever see John Carney perform the paddle trick with a table knife and a few bits of paper, you'll never think of doing one of these store-bought things again.

The other thing I got from Terry LeGerould is a 22-page manuscript called Tahoe File. This contains seven card routines. In my reviews, I am in the habit of using the word "trick" to describe different items. I specifically use the term "routine" here because these items are all well thought out magic plots. I have never seen Terry LeGerould work, but I have seen every one of these routines as done by my friend Bill Arnold, a professional magician from Minneapolis. In the many times I witnessed Bill perform them, they never failed to impress his audience.

Time Ahead

From Victor and Marcelo Contento

Mike: Way back when, Paul Curry marketed a card prediction effect called "Touch," which was later included in Greater Magic under the title "The Infallible Prediction." Many variations have been published, including versions by Joe Berg, T. A. Waters, and one marketed by Merv Taylor called "Ultissimo," which was basically the Curry idea with the addition of a clear lucite rack in which to hold the playing cards. "Time Ahead" from Victor and Marcelo Contento keeps the same effect as the Taylor item, but changes the design of the rack, using an anonymous idea from a book by Juan Tamariz.

The magician displays two decks of cards, red-backed and blue-backed. There is also a display rack which consists of a six-pointed lucite star which is mounted on a C-shaped metal stand. The stand is attached to a circular lazy-susan type turntable. The magician removes three cards from the face down blue deck and places each card (backs out) into a clip on alternating points of the star. Now, three spectators each name a card (free choices). These are removed from the face up red deck, and they are clipped into place (faces out) on the remaining three points of the star. The star is given a gentle spin. As it spins, the entire stand is turned 180 degrees, revealing the other side of the star. The audience sees the backs of the red cards and the faces of the blue-backed cards. They also see that the magician has correctly predicted the three cards.

Before I go any further, I should tell you that the star stand is not gimmicked in any way. The trick is accomplished using gaffed cards (which are included). In the Taylor version, it is possible that when the stand (which is simply a horizontal stand) is rotated, a particularly observant spectator may notice that the cards are not in the proper spatial relationship. In this version, the spinning of the star causes the spectators to lose track of the actual positions of the cards. This does not minimize the effect; it simply eliminates a possible clue to the solution.

The stand that Victor and Marcelo are selling is a beautiful prop. The star is 10 inches in diameter and the entire unit stands 15 inches tall. Unfortunately, it's not cheap, which is why I wanted to make sure that you understood what you're buying. The trick is a strong one and requires no sleight-of-hand ability. If you have the dough and the effect appeals to you, it is well worth checking out.

Trade Show Torn and Restored Newspaper By Joel Bauer

Mike: This video from Brad Burt's Magic Shop details one effect - Joel Bauer's handling of the classic "Torn and Restored Newspaper." As Mr. Bauer explains on the video, this version is a synthesis of many other methods, including those of Alan Shaxon, Slydini, Gene Anderson, and Ron Wilson. The result is an extremely practical, "real-world" piece of magic that boasts several useful features: the gaff can be constructed very quickly and can be reused many, many times; reset time is about three seconds; it can be done with standard newspapers, tabloid-sized papers, or newsletter-sized papers; the trick can be done completely surrounded.

If you're not already locked in to a favorite method of doing the torn and restored newspaper, this version is definitely worth a look. The method of preparing the gaff is made very clear (in this case, video learning is probably preferable to text) and Mr. Bauer walks through the handling several times. It will take a little time to get comfortable with this routine, but I would not classify this as being a difficult.

A couple of small negative comments: This tape would have benefited from a script, since it would have tightened up some of Mr. Bauer's extemporaneous ramblings. I wish the producers of the tape had done some research so that the exact inspirational sources could have been credited. And I wish that the hype had been toned down. After all, anybody watching the tape has (hopefully) purchased it, so I don't think the hard sell is necessary.

Those minor quibbles aside, I think this is a very fine routine and is well worth your consideration.

Ropey Rope Diary of a Nobody Solutions

By Mark Leveridge

Mac: "Ropey Rope" is a comedy cut-and-restored rope routine for kid-show workers. You receive all the required ropes for this plus a 12-inch silk that appears in the center of the rope (actually, I think the silk appearance is the highlight of this trick). You will need to furnish your own "Change Bag." If you already use a "Change Bag," or would like to, then this may be the rope routine for you.

"Diary of a Nobody" is a version of the "Diary Trick." This follows the basic plot for such tricks (a selected card and the name of a card written on a selected date in a small pocket calendar match), with a few important differences. Here is what the audience sees in Mark Leveridge's version: The spectator is handed a small diary and instructed to look up their birthday and note the playing card printed at that date. They see that dates near theirs are printed with different cards. The magician shows a blue-backed deck and, spreading through it, comes to a red-backed card. Without revealing the face of this red-backed card, it is shuffled into the deck. Now, for the first time, the spectator announces their birthday. The magician deals one card face up off the deck for each month of the spectator's birthday, and then one card for each day. For example, if the spectator's birthday was October 5, ten cards would be dealt (October being the tenth month), followed by five more cards. The last card dealt matches the card printed at the spectator's birthday in the diary. This card is turned over and revealed to be the red backer.

This is accomplished with only one deck and one diary. I think this is a pretty strong trick. The main problem to me is the diary that is included. It just doesn't look like a real diary. It looks like what it is, a booklet that was cheaply printed up to be used specifically for this trick. If you want to perform this trick my suggestion is to purchase the booklet Solutions, which is reviewed next.

Solutions is a booklet containing eight tricks. These are mostly close-up, but a couple of them would be suitable for stand-up situations. There are coin tricks, card tricks, tricks with credit cards and paper money, plus the instructions for the above-mentioned "Diary of a Nobody" trick. As I said, if you want the diary thing, I suggest you buy the Solutions booklet and put together the trick yourself. Not only will you save 28 bucks, but you'll get seven other tricks to play around with.

Casino Royale By Larry Becker

Mike: This is a top-notch commercial mental effect right our of Larry's professional repertoire. You may be familiar with this routine if you have a copy of Stunners (although the method here is slightly different) or you've watched the Mental Masterpieces Vol. Two video. The performer has previously made a prediction that is placed in plain view of the audience. A spectator is invited to go on a mental gambling spree. The spectator selects a poker chip from a large goblet that contains chips from many different casinos. He pockets this chip. The mentalist displays a tray that holds a large stack of phony $100 bills, and (while the mentalist's back is turned) the spectator cuts off a bunch and pockets them. This represents the bet. Finally, two cards are chosen to represent a hand of blackjack. When the prediction is read, it is discovered that the mentalist has correctly predicted the casino, the amount of money bet, and the total of the two cards (for example, 20).

If you are familiar with this effect, you may have been impressed with it, but shied away because of the tremendous amount of hassle required to assemble all of the necessary props. Viking Magic provides you with everything you need, including the poker chips, the goblet, the stack of phony $100 bills, the playing cards and a sample prediction. The price tag places this outside the realm of the merely curious, but it is not as expensive as it may seem, since (as Larry explains in Stunners) you would probably spend a lot of money just trying to track down the necessary poker chips.

If you're working and you're looking for a strong mental piece to put in your show, this is definitely worth the investment. Like all of Larry's material, this routine features a clear-cut effect, minimal work for the performer, and a devious method. I highly recommend it.

Cheating at Blackjack Squared By Dustin D. Marks

Mike: This book came in right at deadline, but I wanted to get it into this column because the flood of books has subsided for a moment. This is the sequel to the author's first book, Cheating (and Advantage Play) at Blackjack, which received excellent reviews when it appeared a couple of years ago. This new book is also terrific, filled with moves, ploys, plays and fascinating (and funny) stories.

The book explains how to get cards out of play, how to get them back into play, mucking methods, methods for adding to the bet, and many miscellaneous moves including a method for hopping the cut which has definite magical applications.

There is information on distracting the dealer, disguises, the steer game, stacking for blackjack, card counting and tells. There is a chapter on high-tech cheating, and a wonderful chapter on stories from the road. In addition, the book has an extremely useful bibliography full of books that I intend to track down.

Because I come from poor genetic material, there are no parts of my body that are made of brass; consequently, I will never use any of this material in a real-life situation. But this book is fascinating reading, and I highly recommend it.

John Carney's Torn and Restored

Mike: Also in just under the wire is this set of notes from John Carney detailing eight methods for the classic "Torn and Restored Card." As John states in the introduction, these are not complete presentation pieces but, rather, are interesting methodological approaches. My favorites are the first method (which has a extremely visual restoration of the card) and the last (which involves restoring an entire bag of card pieces), but all the methods contain information that will be of interest to the card worker. In the last issue I expressed my appreciation for Guy Hollingworth's "The Reformation." I still think it's the best, but John's methods are less technically demanding and would be completely effective in the real world. They are also a bargain at the price.

Magazine Miscellanea

Mike: So, you're walking around the house thinking to yourself, "I just don't have enough magic stuff to read." What do you do? First, back off some on the medication. Second, check out these three magazines that recently crossed the review desk.

The Conjuror is a 32-page glossy bi-monthly published in England by Simon Coward and David Jones. The first issue boasts an impressive list of contributors, including Phil Goldstein, Peter Duffie, Trevor Lewis and George Kovari. Among those represented in the second issue are Alan Shaxon, Jerry Sadowitz and Bob Ostin. I was impressed with the material in these first two issues. This is worth a look.

The Young Magician is the magazine of the Young Magicians Club sponsored by The Magic Circle. The first issue contains a profile of Dominic Wood (Magic Circle Young Magician of the Year), an interview with David Berglas, a short article on John Henry Anderson, a review of the first volume of the Tarbell Course, and a couple of tricks. For information on joining the Young Magicians Club see our Details section.

Finally, for all of you Web surfers, check out Steve Bryant's Little Egypt Gazette. The December issue of this "webzine" (which is published on the 15th of each month) contained a review of World's Greatest Magic II, some last-minute shopping ideas (including some little known magazines), a remarkable Christmas poem which incorporated the names of just about every current visible magician, and Steve's commercial presentation for the classic "Everywhere and Nowhere" trick. Steve's style is low-key and laid back and I enjoyed reading this issue.

Mac: I also received a magazine this past month. The Alter Flame is a 12-page quarterly devoted to bizarre, psychic and just plain old strange magic. If you're into that kind of stuff, this is definitely worth a look.

Unclear on the Concept Department (with apologies to Mister Boffo)

From a review of an English convention in Abacus magazine: "Old favourites, Magic Books by Post had their usual display, guaranteed to overwhelm any book person, but the Peter Duffie book apart, there did not seem to be too much that was brand new, hot off the press and so on. I don't know how many copies of the [Joke Book] of patter lines they sold, but they sold out. I can't help but wonder if this is partly due to the severe panning the book received from MAGIC s reviewers."

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