Mike: The summer conventions are over, and the deluge of new books, videos and tricks has dwindled to a trickle. I have been on the road for almost all of August, and Mac is on his way out for a two-week stretch. This is the sixth column we have done together, and we've discovered that we don't really like each other very much. We're going to stay together for the sake of the children, but this month I think we're just going to keep it brief. Then again, I may just be suffering from the heat.
Mac: You know, last month Mike mentioned "Information Overload." As it turns out, he was completely wrong when he said we were in an age of information overload. This month, we ain't got squat to review.
Since taking on this reviewing job, we've had at least one really cool thing to talk about every month, like Magic and Meaning, The Edward Victor Books, McBride's Card Manipulation Videos, etc. This month is pretty slim pickings. Hopefully, everybody's just waiting for Christmas to release his or her big new products. Or maybe they don't know how to contact us. If you'd like to have your product reviewed, please send a copy to both Mike and me. Our addresses are in the product info box at the end of this column. If you need the item back, please send us the necessary self-addressed stamped envelope.
What's Up Deck? By Aldo Colombini
Mike: Aldo Colombini is an Italian who has recently made the United States his home. Italy's loss is definitely our gain. In the early years of his career, Aldo performed under the name Fabian, and you may have encountered some tricks published under that byline. (Curiously, during the same period of time, Frankie Avalon toured Italy using the name Vanni Bossi. Coincidence? You be the judge.) Aldo and Andie Colombini are the head honchos of Mama Mia Magic, and they are now a vibrant part of the dealer room scene at many conventions. There are three excellent reasons to stop by the Mama Mia booth: 1. Good magic; 2. Good conversation; 3. Free M&M's.
What's Up Deck? is Mama Mia's first hard-cover publication. In this book, Aldo has collected many of his favorite previously published card routines, and has supplemented these with routines which have not previously seen print. In his introductory comments, Aldo states that this compilation "is a book of simple and direct magic ... I am publishing this book to try and give something to magicians that they can use." If you are a card enthusiast of average ability, I think you will find that Aldo delivers on his promise.
There are far too many routines included for me to go into great detail on each one. The chapter headings should give you the general idea. The chapters include "Torn &
Restored," "Cardbox Tricks," "Packet Tricks," "Red and Black," "Four Aces" and "Feature Routines." All bear the Colombini trademark of maximum effect for minimum effort. Tony Dunn did the excellent line drawings, and there is a very useful "Glossary of Moves" so you can track down any unfamiliar sleights.
If you're at a convention with Aldo, be sure to stop by the Mama Mia booth (or better yet, hang out at the bar and swap snail jokes). But if you can't do that, this book is the next best thing.
Mac: I, too, enjoyed this book. One of the things I liked about it was the feel. By that I mean the sense you get that the author is a really nice guy. Not only does that come across when Aldo performs but, even more difficult, he manages to get that agreeableness across in his writing. Not a bad trick.
Mike: Kevin King is a full-time professional magician and is the editor ofMagiFax (a newsletter which has been mentioned before in this magazine). Besides being a very funny performer, he is also an accomplished technician, and he thinks a great deal about the sleights he uses in his professional work. Kevin has developed some new work on the venerable "Hundred Dollar Bill Switch," a move which is now a standard part of the close-up worker's arsenal.
Without giving anything away, Kevin has come up with a way to make the switch more fluid. There are no pauses, and the overall effect is that one bill "morphs" into the other during the course of folding and unfolding it. The instructions are concise and are accompanied with nine serviceable line drawings. If you are already familiar with the original bill switch, you should be able to incorporate Kevin's changes very quickly. If you are not familiar with the switch, you should be able to learn everything you need from Kevin's instructions.
I'm using Kevin's handling. You're going to want to, too.
Mike: Roger Linden's reason for incorporating anti-drug routines into his school shows is a very personal one: he lost a son and a daughter-in-law to a drunk driver. He includes one anti-drug routine in every children's show he does, using the concept that it is possible to have fun during the show and still get across an important message. The routines in this manuscript use standard props. If you do kid's shows, you probably own them already. Included are routines using the "20th Century Silks," "The Miser's Dream," "Paper Tear," "Forgetful Freddy," "The Funnel Trick" and others. Even if you chose not to use Linden's exact routines, his approach could easily be adapted to other routines in your repertoire.
If you're a school-show performer and have an interest in adding an anti-drug routine to your show, this book will give you an excellent starting point.
Mac: This is your brain on drugs. This is your brain on magic. Any questions?
The Fun Approach to Children's Parties By John "Mr. Fun" Cooper
Mac: This 30-page, comb-bound, 8-1/2" x 11" booklet gives you practical tips on designing a kid show, basic advice on how to sell that show (complete with four pages of sample promo material), four actual routines, suggestions for further reading, and a list of other magic tricks suitable for a kid-show audience. As a person who is actually interested in and likes performing for children, I found this little booklet to be a good value. It doesn't really go into detail about any of the subjects touched on, but it does address a number of topics of concern to the beginning children's party entertainer.
If you are new to that field, I recommend that you take a look at this. If you are waiting for the definitive book on this subject, however, you'll have to hold out until Danny Orleans releases his long promised text.
Illusionworks 3: An Illusionist's Notebook By Rand Woodbury
Mac: Pay particularly close attention to the sub-title of this book and you'll be fine. "An Illusionist's Notebook" means that these are pages from Rand Woodbury's idea book. These are illusion ideas, not illusion plans. There are no building dimensions or blueprints here. In most cases, just the basic concept of a routine, along with a couple of approximate sketches, is all there is to each of the 35 trick ideas presented. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary, I think that this is pretty useful idea. I just think it's important to know what you're getting.
To me, the only negative is that Mr. Woodbury is a pretty bad writer. Now I'm fully aware of the fact that I'm not a genius when it comes to shaping sentences, but that doesn't mean that I don't notice when someone else flubs it up. But, again, I liked this book. I found a couple of ideas I thought were really worthwhile and stimulating.
Probably everyone who reads the book will find something they think is interesting. And something they think is really stupid. My personal votes are: In the category of Stupid - a set of illusion stairs that would be physically impossible for a person with knees to get into or out of; and in the category of Interesting I nominate "The Human Dart Board," a trick that involves a woman from the audience throwing giant darts at her husband.
Mike: You're right, Mac. The key word is "notebook." These are ideas, and as such can be a springboard for someone who has the resources to actually build these illusions. Curiously, you and I both hit on the same trick as our favorite one, although you didn't give the readers the full effect. The actual effect is that a woman throws giant darts into her husband's crotch. Since reading Rand's book, I have come up with a totally non-gaffed method. The only drawback is that after each show the performer must change his name and move to another state.
Last month, Mac mentioned that he enjoyed R. Paul Wilson's book Chaos Theories, but we forgot to include all the necessary information. Here it is now: A4 size spiral-bound, $20 ought to cover everything. From R. Paul Wilson, 21 Laverock Drive, Penicuik, Mid Lothian, Scotland, EH26 OJL
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