Mike: I bought my first synthesizer, a Yamaha DX7, way back in 1984. Three factors made it a "hot" machine: the sounds it produced were new and totally cool; the synth could store 32 sounds ("patches" in the lingo) in its internal memory, and a ROM cartridge held another 64 patches, giving the player instant access to 96 different sounds; and it was one of the first synthesizers that could be interfaced with a personal computer. This meant that you could store patches on floppy disk and load them into the synth when you needed them. So I began to collect patches. I swapped them with friends, downloaded them from BBSs, and bought them from commercial vendors. I accumulated thousands of patches. And then I made a horrible discovery. Since I had so many sounds, I felt that for any given project I had the "perfect" patch somewhere on disk. If a piece of music needed an electric bass sound I would go through the hundreds I had, looking for the one which would exactly fit my needs. The upshot being that the auditioning process took so much time and drained so much energy that it was unlikely that much music would be created.
This same overload of possibilities is happening in the world of desktop publishing. I just read that the new version of Coreldraw will come with 1,000 fonts and 25,000 pieces of clip art. I fear that by the time a person tracks down the font that has just the perfect "e" in it, the newsletter is going to be late.
I bring up this subject because I am becoming acutely aware of this information overload in the magic world. When I began studying magic books in the mid 1960s, there was a reasonable amount of information available. The standard texts had to be purchased (Tarbell, Vernon, Hugard and Braue, Bobo, Ganson) but beyond that there were only a few choices. The announcement of a new hardbound book was an event, because there was only one or two a year. And these were fairly small books, rarely running to more than 250 pages.
This situation continued through the 1970s. Interesting magazines appeared during this time, and since they were on a monthly schedule and were small in scope, it was possible to read, absorb and digest the information before the next one arrived.
This all changed in the early 1980s, due mostly to the publications from Kaufman and Greenberg. These were big books, important books, books that, like the Dingle and Roth books, contained the sum of a performer's creative output. These books demanded to be studied. But there was no time, because they just kept coming. Other publishers joined in, to the point where it is now rare for there not to be a major new book released each month.
Video has now joined the party. We are in the age of "encyclopedic" videos - multivolume videos that bombard you with a ton of useful information. And in your free time, you can hop on the Internet and download thousands of kilobytes of chatter from magis around the world.
I can't help but think that magicians are now in the same boat I was in when I was trying to make some music. With so many choices available, is anybody out there actually learning any new tricks? I don't see how this informational deluge can continue at its current pace. The market will flood and consumers will get burned out, or the publishers will begin to run out of old magazines (to reprint) or old magicians (to anthologize). Until then, I suggest you save your pennies, because you're not going to believe how much new stuff is going to hit before the end of the year.
I remember someone asking (in reference to all the amazing new synthesis gear), "I wonder what Mozart would have said if he had had all this equipment?" I think he would have said, "Thank God nobody's discovered electricity! Now I can get some work done."
Mac and I have been traveling around the country, and it has been tough to hook up to do our normal back and forth "chit chat." For this reason, the conversation will be cut to a minimum this time, and we'll try to get back to our original format next month.
Duffie's Card Compulsions By Peter Duffie
Mike: Peter Duffie's name should be familiar to all readers of MAGIC, since he has contributed often to the tutorial columns. In fact, you should go back and work through Mr. Duffie's creations which can be found in the following months: February, July and December of 1992; September and December of 1993; and March and December of 1994. If you try these tricks, you won't have to wade through the rest of this review; you'll simply rush out and buy this book.
Card Compulsions is the first hardbound collection of Mr. Duffie's material. He has published many smaller manuscripts but, unfortunately, these are not well known in the United States. Informed cardmen are, of course, aware of Duffie's talent and creativity, but this new book should go a long way toward generally establishing his place among the upper echelon of magical creators.
Peter Duffie is a member of a group of highly talented Scottish magicians, whose head guru is the legendary Roy Walton. The Walton influence is very apparent in the elegant methodology of each of the 59 routines in Card Compulsions. You will learn much by carefully studying the construction of these tricks. Mr. Duffie has an easy and enjoyable writing style, and he has the ability to hide really important information in a casually tossed-off sentence. I'll say it again: study this book carefully.
So what do you get? The routines here run the gamut, both in terms of effect and technical demands. Included are reworkings of popular plots ("Triumph," "Point of
Departure," "Royal Marriages," The Hofzinser Ace Trick," "The Lie Detector," "Collectors" and many more), interesting four Ace tricks, poker deals, new plots of Mr. Duffie's creation, and a couple of diabolical card locations. I will mention only two of my favorites (why should I do all the work for you?): "Divisory Capacity" is an effect in which two selected cards are found when the deck suddenly separates into red and black cards, and the selections are the only odd cards in each section. I did this for some musician buddies a few days ago and the reaction was incredible. "Thoughts on the Bottom" is a sensational card location. The method is very sneaky and you'll kick yourself for not having thought of it.
In addition to the 59 routines, there are also 16 sleights that are explained. These include various palms, passes, lifts, cuts and lapping moves. Joseph K. Schmidt did the drawings, and they are excellent.
As far as the technical requirements are concerned, the routines range from those that involve little digital dexterity to some which demand serious sleight of hand. Mr. Duffie assumes that the reader has some familiarity with a few Roy Walton moves ("Trigger" and the "Spread Half-Pass") but, for the most part, everything you need to know is explained in the book.
This is a terrific book and it is a "must buy" for all you card guys out there. The book has a charming and unique layout, the routines are great, and at the beginning of each trick there is a "bonus" illustration for those days when you just don't feel like studying a card trick.
Mac: I too thought the Duffie book was good. What is it about those guys from Scotland? I guess it really is the Roy Walton influence. When we were in England last month I met another Scot who gave me a book to take a look at. It's called Chaos Theories by R. Paul Wilson, who also thanks Roy Walton. It's very clever coins and cards with a bit of mentalism tossed in. I'd recommend it, as well.
Also, we should mention that the Duffie book is being recalled. One whole page is printed completely wrong. If you already have the book, Richard Kaufman suggests that you return it to the dealer where you purchased it. They can return it to the publisher and get a replacement for you. The new correctly printed books should be ready by the time this sees print.
Mike: The word "new" in the title of this book is not absolutely accurate in the sense that much of this material was published and sold by Mr. Schmidt in the mid and late 1980s. However, the distribution of these manuscripts was very limited and I'm sure that most of our readers will be unfamiliar with the information contained in this book. What is new is Mr. Schmidt's attempt to streamline and update several of the established systems for stacking cards using either riffle or overhand shuffles.
The focus of this book is very narrow, and if you don't include any gambling demonstrations in your close-up work you will probably have no use for it. However, if when a spectator says to you, "I'd hate to play cards with you!" you would like to quickly and deceptively run up a few poker hands, this is the book for you.
Chapter One contains the "Last-Word Poker Run-up System," which is a method for stacking hands using an overhand shuffle. The method is fast and can be made to appear very natural. In addition, the same system that allows you to stack four Aces also sets you up to deal a royal flush on the subsequent round. "Easy Poker" is based on a routine from Farelli's Lend Me Your Pack and is a great simplification and improvement of the original "Harrison Deal." The effect is a demonstration of how a cheater can use the discards to arrange a good poker hand. This is 90% bluff and 10% technique, and the effect on laymen is terrific. "C.U.S.S." is a system for stacking using a riffle shuffle. This is a clever system and is well worth studying. The chapter concludes with three routines based on the riffle shuffle run-up.
In Chapter Two, Karl Fulves provides additional information on the material presented in Chapter One.
Chapter Three contains poker routines based on the Michael Zens' "Quadruple Poker Trick." Schmidt's reasons for altering the Zens' set-up are valid and interesting, and the tricks explained provide maximum impact for minimum work. Included in this chapter is the "JKSubway Deal" that, as Schmidt states, "might appeal to those who do not have enough time to perfect a regular bottom deal."
Chapter Four is an update on running up two hands during one overhand shuffle sequence.
As I said up front, this is not a book for everybody. If you have more than a passing interest in gambling demos, you will find valuable information in this book. It has been published in a limited edition, so don't hesitate too long before you decide.
Mike: L & L Publishing has released the second volume in the Mario in New Tops series. This is a compilation of all the material that Ed released through the pages of the New Tops. Like the first volume of the series, Volume 2 is a massive tome, packed full of card guy stuff. There is far too much information here to attempt any kind of summary, but I will tell you that 20 years ago I took the time to assemble my own compilation, and I was happy that I did. One trick in particular "Colorful Surprise," (I may be wrong about this title, since I don't have the book in front of me as I'm writing this) was a favorite of mine and fooled everyone who saw it.
It's as simple as this: If you do card tricks, you will want this book for your library.
Mike: Dan Fleshman is a very busy professional in the St. Louis area. By my count, this is his 13th publication and it includes 15 routines from Dan's professional repertoire. Of the 15 items in this book, three are non-card items, and it is two of these three items that I found to be the most interesting.
The title of "One Ahead, Coins to Purse" says it all, although incorrectly. This is a "Coins Across" routine in which the purse has been faked to allow you to get "one behind." "Crayon thru Quarter" substitutes a crayon for the cigarette normally used in this routine. Unfortunately, other than this prop substitution there is very little else which has been added to the standard routine. In my opinion, David Williamson has the definitive "Object-other-than-a-cigarette thru Quarter" routine. However, many restaurants provide crayons to occupy younger patrons, which makes the use of the crayon in the routine very casual and spontaneous. However Dan uses a shuttle pass to switch out the gaff at the end of the routine. If you carefully read the last part of his routine, you can probably discover an action that would cover the switch of the coins in a very natural and motivated way. "Ring Flight (idea)" is just that, and it is an idea with which those who do the trick may find exception.
The card routines did very little for me. I consider these to be personalizations rather than variations. Anyone who acquires any facility with a deck of cards will begin to favor certain techniques. When they adapt/adopt another performer's routine, they will substitute the moves that they feel most comfortable with. The routine has been personalized, but has not been substantially strengthened in any other way. This is how I feel about the card routines in this book. These may play very well in Dan's hands, but are no stronger than the original versions.
There are 15 items in this book, and it sells for 15 bucks. That's a buck a trick, not a bad deal in these inflated times. But I cannot recommend this book to you for three reasons: 1. The routines are difficult enough to put them beyond the reach of the average close-up worker. I'm talking about moves like the Half-pass, the Muscle Pass with a half dollar, and the T.G. Murphy "Mid-Air Triple Cut." Anyone who has these techniques under their belt will have already come up with their own personalizations for these effects. Those of lesser ability won't be able to do them at all. So who is this book for? 2. The English language takes some pretty serious blows to the body during the course of this book. Since I have been guilty of less than elegant use of the language, I try to ignore grammatical mistakes, but they come so often in this book that they begin to annoy. Dan also gets my award for the unintentionally funniest line of the year for the following sentence, "Your left hand will now lower quickly about four to six inches causing inertia to take place." 3. All the illustrations for each routine are placed at the end of the text. This means that you have to flip through several pages to find the drawing that goes with a passage of text. When your fingers are full of cards, this is not an easy task.
If you are a fan of Dan's earlier works, you may wish to get up and seek out this book. My advice is just to sit there and let inertia happen.
Mac: It used to be that if you wanted to learn card manipulations you were embarking on a long quest. You learned a couple of things from a book, then you hunted down somebody who knew a bit more than you, and tried to convince them you were worthy of their imparting some bit of knowledge to you. It took a long time to acquire a lot of methods. That's why card manipulators can be seen sitting around at magic conventions trading moves.
That's not to say that there aren't card manipulations in books, there are. Walter Gibson and Henry Hay have a couple of things in their books, Greater Magic has a couple of items too (including what is probably the best method for producing single cards from the back palm). Lewis Ganson, Jean Hugard and Cliff Green wrote some great stuff, and Ed Marlo put out a really excellent (but small) pamphlet. A lot of moves and techniques have appeared in publications that are out of print or are hard to track down. Jeff McBride has combed all those resources and assembled just about every useful move or flourish you'd want to learn (both stage and close up).
This is a three-volume set of videotapes, and if you watch and learn everything on here, you'll be one of the world's great card manipulators. These are great tapes. Really great!
Volume One has the easiest stuff, number two has harder stuff, and the third one has the stuff that will make your hands bleed.
Volume One teaches you how to fan a pack of cards, do some flourishes, execute a number of visual color changes, and produce cards in various ways. Each of the moves are first performed by Jeff and then taught with clarity and care. The tape ends with Jeff performing a lengthy routine suitable for close up or parlor type shows, and then explaining the pieces that go into that routine.
Volume Two really gets more into what I would call stage manipulation. Jeff teaches you how to prepare cards for stage manipulation, how to produce single cards and split fans, how to produce cards while wearing gloves, how to use body loads, and how to do exhibition card fans (colorful fans with special cards).
While none of this stuff is easy, Volume Three, as I've mentioned, contains some extra difficult items. Fancy cuts and shuffles, card spinning, more card productions, and the diminishing cards are taught here. The tape finishes with Jeff expounding on the history of playing cards and performing (and explaining) a routine based on that history.
All of the tapes begin with fast-paced excerpts from Jeff's act, and all contain many more items that you might gather from my brief rundown above.
Jeff McBride can do everything on these tapes. And he's a very fine teacher. If you watch these tapes and practice your butt off, you will be able to learn this stuff. Everything is very well explained. All the cool stuff from those hard-to-find sources has been assembled here and presented in a clear, straightforward manner. These are the first magic teaching tapes that I've actually enjoyed watching. This is partly because the material is so good, and partly because Jeff is so good. Also, even though it's video, it reminds me of one of my favorite magic books, Keith Clark's Encyclopedia of Cigarette Magic. Like Clark's book, these tapes cover one single subject in an almost encyclopedic manner, but also they are chock full of interesting tidbits and general advice on how to be a better magician. Even if you don't perform card manipulations in your act, you could still learn a lot from these tapes.
The tapes are edited well, the music used actually adds something to the tapes, and the video and sound quality is good. I can't recommend these enough. They are completely terrific.
Paul Gertner's Steel and Silver Video Series Volume 1 By Paul Gertner.
Mac: This is the first volume in a proposed three-volume set of videos teaching the tricks already taught in Steel and Silver, the book published last year by Kaufman and Greenberg. This tape teaches seven of the routines from that book. With the exception of one trick, "Ring Thing" (a rather useless variation of the old taking off your thumb bit), all the material is very solid, commercial stuff that Paul obviously uses in his work as one of the world's most successful corporate magicians.
Paul performs these tricks in a studio recreation of a hospitality suite situation. That is, he's seated at a table with people sitting and standing all around him. You get to see how people respond to this material. And they do respond. The magic is very strong. The explanations are shot well. They are easy to follow, with no padding or silly repetitions. Paul is good teacher. He lets you know what he thinks are the important points and why he considers them important.
Besides "Ring Thing," the other six items taught are: "Triple Die-lemma," a routine with a felt hat and dice which climaxes with the production of a huge die; "A Familiar Ring," a coins across routine; "The Vanishing Card Stab," a cross between the card stab and vanishing deck tricks; "The Bill in Cigarette," a really deceptive version of this effect; "Photo Copy," a hard to describe effect with a photocopy of your hand (the required photocopy comes with the tape), which is very offbeat and one of my favorite items on the tape; And last, but certainly not least, is "Salt Shaker Surprise." To me this last item is worth the price of the tape. It breathes new life into the old vanishing-salt-shaker-in-napkin trick.
The question that begs to be asked is, "Why buy this instead of the book?" The answer is simple, "I wouldn't." I would use this as a supplement. You can use this as a guide to see how Paul does these tricks. Although, in my mind, that's not necessarily a good thing. It might be better to really study the book, and be forced to put your own spin on these items. Besides, you get many more tricks in the book that you don't get on the videotape. On the other hand, the nice thing about this tape is you do get a good sense of just how great these tricks are.
As I say, I recommend using this as a supplement to Paul's book, or if you prefer to learn by video, or you simply can't read.
Daryl's Expert Rope Magic Made Easy By Daryl.
Mac: These three tapes are Volumes 6, 7 and 8 in A-1 MultiMedia's Expert Magic Made Easy series. I find these three tapes to be tough to review. As anyone who has seen my show or my lecture might guess, I am a big fan of rope magic. I am also a big fan of Daryl. However, my opinion is that most rope magic is not really very commercial. In the realm of rope tricks, a lot of the material just is not very magical. It falls more into the category of puzzles or bar bets. "Can you tie a knot in this rope without letting go of the ends?" is not really a great premise for entertaining a group of people. On the other hand, I learned how to do most of these tricks and "betchas" when I was first starting out in magic. And I had a lot of fun with them. So who am I to condemn the teaching of them now? Plus, being a fan of Daryl's, it's fun to watch him do a trick that you know he just read two minutes before and would never really perform for people.
If puzzles and bets were all that were offered, these tapes would be crap. But there is also some really great stuff on here. Stuff of Daryl's, Stewart James', George Sands', John Cornelius' and much more good commercial rope magic. This is really like a video encyclopedia of rope stuff.
So, let me try to bring some order to this increasingly rambling review. The first volume (subtitled "Learning The Ropes") is really for people who have no experience whatsoever with rope magic. It tells you what kinds of rope are best for what kinds of tricks, how to tie some different knots, about a zillion different versions of "Grandmother's Necklace," tricks (or puzzles) you can do while your hands are tied together and a couple of very basic (almost sleightless) cut and restored rope effects. This has the feeling (as do all the volumes) of a lot of repetition, but there are subtle differences in all the variations presented. Plus, Daryl is a good teacher and uncommonly fun to watch.
The second volume (subtitled "Stringing You Along") gets into tricks that are a bit more complicated, and a lot more magical. Daryl explains some ring and rope moves, the "Linking Ropes," some more rope penetrations, a couple of rope ties, the different kinds of rope gimmicks, and many variations of the basic "Cut and Restored Rope."
The third volume ("The Great White Rope") has more knot stuff. To me, knots disappearing and reappearing gets to be very boring, and I suspect that spectators feel the same. Also on this volume is more "Grandmother's Necklace" variations, more penetration effects, more ring and rope tricks, and more variations of "Cut and Restored
Rope." But the reason most people will buy this tape is that the last two things taught are "Daryl's Rope Routine" and his "Jumping Knot of Pakistan (his presentation of Pavel's jumping knot trick). These are both great tricks and expertly taught.
Actually, all of the material on these three tapes is well shot (A-1 even goes the extra mile and breaks out the patented "A-1 Kitty Cam" for one shot) and very well taught. If you're just learning to do rope tricks and you like to learn from videotape, then these tapes are a good place to start. On the other hand, if you like to learn from the written word, you might get more out of Daryl's Rope Trick manuscript or the two George Sands' booklets, Ropesational and SandsationalRopes.
Mike: There's not much I can add to what you've already said, Mac. I enjoyed all these videos as much (if not more) than any I've seen, and for all the reasons that you've discussed. There are two things I might mention, though. On each of the tapes the performer/teacher drops in little pearls of wisdom (in the form of hints, touches, suggestions) that are great value. These "tips" are only acquired through years of experience. As a viewer/student you are getting information at a fraction of its actual cost in terms of time, energy and commitment, so pay attention as you watch. Also, you can learn a lot about the art of performance by watching McBride, Daryl and Gertner teach. They bring to their teaching the same qualities (enthusiasm, energy, intensity, timing, humor, projection) that make them great performers. If just a little of this rubs off on you, you will have received more than your money's worth.
Quintuplicate Coincidence Revolutionary Routines with Aces By Scotty York.
Mike: Scotty York has passed along two new routines that will be of interest to those of you who perform magic in the real world. Scotty is a pro, and everything he releases is designed to be performed in the less than ideal conditions found in restaurants, bars and hospitality suites. Both of these routines include all the patter (which you will want to adapt to fit your personality), all the psychology, and all the thinking that went into their construction. In addition, their technical demands place them well within the reach of the average close-up worker. I highly recommend both of these.
"Quintuplicate Coincidence" is Scotty's handling and presentation of David Van Vranken's version of "Gemini Twins," a trick originally published in Karl Fulves' More Self-Working Card Tricks.
The routine uses a deck consisting of cards from various casinos. The performer chooses two cards as predictions. Two spectators chose two cards in a very fair manner. The backs of the predictions and the selections match (climaxes one and two). The spectators have also managed to choose the "mates" of the two predictions (climaxes three and four). And for a final climax, the deck is spread face-up showing that the two pairs are the only red cards in deck of all Spades and Clubs. Most amazing of all (from the magician's point of view) is that this effect is entirely self-working. Jamy Ian Swiss wrote the lucid 18-page instruction manual that contains every bit of information you'll need to successfully perform this effect. Also included is the necessary deck of casino cards.
This is one you'll want to add to your repertoire. I know I did.
Revolutionary Routines with Aces is a manuscript which details three routines using three gaffed cards from the Brother John Hammon "Final Aces" routine. The three routines are the product of a mind-meld of Scotty, Tim Conover, Simon Lovell and Bill Wells, and the results are three streamlined, hard-hitting and practical pieces of commercial magic. My favorite (and Scotty's as well) is the "Ghost Aces" routine which cloaks the Four Ace routine in a gambling presentation.
You get a 32-page manuscript which details the history of the effect, all the thought processes which went into the creation of each routine, optional versions you may wish to explore, full patter and presentation, and some sundry sleights which are used. You also get the necessary gaffed cards, which are improvements over those originally used in the Hammon routine. None of the three routines are difficult, and all are designed to let you begin and end "clean."
If you have avoided Four Ace routines because they are tough to sell to real people, you will want to check out these routines. You won't be disappointed.
Mike: Several new (and perhaps not so new) magazines have been sent my way and I wanted to bring them to your attention.
Dr. Faustus Journal is a Swedish magazine published and edited by Tom Stone. Tom is a talented and enthusiastic young man, and he writes that magazines such as Pabular, Apocalypse and Richard's Almanac inspired his journal. The magazine is in Swedish, so I can't give you much of a run down other than to say that I was familiar with some of the routines in the first two issues and they are topnotch. Contributors in the first two issues include Lennart Green, Lennart Nilsson and Tom Stone. If you read Swedish I'm sure you'll want to check this out.
Bob Read sent along several issues of a British magazine called Abacus. Al Smith is the editor/publisher and his articles and commentaries on the magic scene are refreshingly candid. One issue had a review of a well-known American magician's lecture tour and the comments are eye opening. There are tricks (mostly cards, but with good people like Peter Duffie, Stephen Tucker and Paul Wilson) and Walt Lees has a semi-regular column. An interesting magazine and well worth your attention. Drop Mr. Smith a line for ordering details.
Our own Jon Racherbaumer has been quietly publishing a magazine called MO. It is "an independent, innovative quarterly periodical dedicated to teaching the inside work of the latest close-up magic." Contributors include Jean-Pierre Vallarino, Ed Marlo, Simon Lovell, Jean-Jacques Sanvert, Bernard Bilis, Dai Vernon, Chris Kenner, Peter Duffie, Chad Long and other guys you've probably heard of. Here's where to go if you need more than your monthly MAGIC fix of Racherbaumer.
Last, but not least, is a magazine/booklet/freebie that Richard Kaufman offers to his customers. It's called Facsimile. I have issue number three in hand, and it contains reprints of Marlophile 1 &2. These were extremely limited edition publications and contain some fascinating information. There is no subscription price, you only receive Facsimile if you buy books directly from Kaufman.
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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.