Tons O Stuff

This column marks the beginning of my fourth year as product reviewer here at MAGIC. My thanks to all who continue to offer words of encouragement. I couldn't do it without you.

In an effort to begin the fourth year with a fairly clean slate, I'm going try to cover a whole lot of items which have been stuck in the pipeline for a while. So here we go.

The Sleight Album: The Magic of Aaron Fisher By Dan Harlan

Aaron Fisher is one of the up-and-coming young turks of magic. He is creative, has great hands, and most importantly, is a real student of magic. He's one of the guys you're going to be hearing a lot from down the road. His creations have been published in many of the contemporary magic journals, but if you are unfamiliar with his material, pick up a copy of The Sleight Album, a representative sampler of his work.

The title, The Sleight Album, is a take-off on the Beatles' The White Album, and on the cover of the notes you'll find a grinning Aaron Fisher superimposed with the Fab Four. The titles of the tricks are also clever take-offs of Beatles' tunes, such as "The Long and Winding Trick" (a simple but effective production of the Kings and Aces), "Hey, Chewed" (the transformation of a borrowed dime into a piece of chewing gum), "Gum Together" (a stick of gum travels back in time), and "You Never Give Me Your Money" (a coins across - coin transformation melange). You'll also find some useful utility moves, including a sneaky bluff pass and Aaron's knuckle-busting one-hand version of the Hartman Popover move.

The production values are no great shakes, but the writing and the illustrations are clear and understandable. And the material is top notch. At $15 this is a good value for the money. Recommended.

Bouncing Back

By Robert D. LaRue, Jr. and Steve Spangler

Do I need to tell you what Bounce/No Bounce balls are? Okay, some of you don't know. These are small black balls, one of which bounces the way a bad check does, the other of which bounces like an anvil. They were introduced to the magic community in the late 1940's and have been a standard "gag" magic item ever since.

In Bouncing Back, Robert LaRue and Steve Spangler have compiled 50 routines, ideas, and presentations for the BNB balls. These include both close-up and stand-up routines, and there is enough variety here that you should be able to find something which appeals. (I will tell you that there is one gag in here that appeals to me greatly, and which I am planning on adding to my repertoire.)

Mr. Spangler's professional work is in the area of chemistry, and he has created two sets of BNB balls. One set is the standard one inch diameter close up size ($8.95 per set) and the other is a stage size set (1.5 inch diameter, $12.95 per set). He offers a special deal: the large set of balls and the book for $24.95. Either set of balls works like a charm.

Bouncing Back and the associated sets of BNB balls are an excellent value, and I highly recommend them.

Selling Your Specialty Act to Hollywood By Shaunnery Steevans

Shaun Steevans is a sword swallower, a knife thrower, a fire-eater, a juggler, and a magician. He arrived in Hollywood in 1977 and set about selling his talents to the powers that be. He has distilled the essence of that experience into Selling Your Specialty Act to Hollywood, a slender manuscript which offers practical suggestions on how to break into the movie, video, and television markets.

Mr. Steevans discusses unions (SAG and A.F.T.R.A.), resumes, promotional photos and videos, agents (including a useful list of agents who book specialty acts), job possibilities, and Internet sources. This is nuts-and-bolts, no-nonsense information.

The production values of this manuscript are primitive, and had it been laid out more tightly it would have probably been a third of its present size. However, what is being offered here is information, and if you are in the process of trying to crack the Hollywood market, I believe you will receive value for your money.

Mindful Mentalism Edited by Paul Hallas

If you're looking for a wide variety of commercial mental effects, take a look at Mindful Mentalism, a collection of 28 routines, compiled by England's Paul Hallas. Contributors include Arthur Setterington, Eddie Burke, Roger Curzon, Peter Duffie, Peter Kane, Lewis Jones, Ali Bongo, and Marc Paul. Several of these routines come from the contributor's professional repertoire.

There are some interesting presentational plots here, and a couple of intriguing methods, but overall I found this collection to be less than earthshaking. However, the price is reasonable, and you may find some ideas here that you can use.

The Complete Guide to Teaching Magic

By Alfred M. Albers

One difference between music and magic is that in the field of music there are a large number of competent teachers and a well-established pedagogical system. I believe that magic is (and has been and probably always will be) a guild, where the expert practitioners have had the opportunity to study with an established "master" who imparted information in a non-formal and unstructured way.

However, there are those who (for whatever reasons) feel a need to teach a magic "class." Whether such classes do any more than provide members for magic organizations or customers for a magic shop is a debate best left for another time. If you're going to teach a magic class, it behooves you to do the best possible job you can, and this little manuscript from Al Albers will help you organize your material and present it in an effective way.

The most important point in Mr. Albers' treatise comes in the first chapter titled, "Preparation." He suggests that any would-be magic teacher ask himself the following questions: 1) Why do I want to teach magic? and 2) What are my qualifications to teach? Honest answers to these questions would do much toward diminishing the amount of inferior instruction which passes for teaching these days.

Mr. Albers offers suggestions on gathering the appropriate materials to teach, on determining how many sessions a course should last, and on outlets available for teaching. He also gives detailed course outlines, evaluation forms, and a prospective course syllabus. Mr. Albers' approach can easily be adapted to whatever your teaching style may be.

Competent teachers are rare, and great teachers may be becoming extinct. Unfortunately, merely having enthusiasm for a subject is not enough. If you know why you want to teach magic, and you are realistic in your assessment of your abilities and credentials, The Complete Guide to Teaching Magic will be a very useful resource. Recommended.

Close-up Classics By Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is a talented young card man from England. In this set of notes he details his handlings for 15 classic card plots. Included are routines for the Two Card Transposition, Vernon's "Picking Off the Pip," "Wild Card," "Triumph," Hofzinser's "Everywhere and Nowhere" and "Remember and Forget," Jennings' "Look - An Illusion," and the "Collectors." Michael's handlings are certainly sound, but be aware that he possesses a fine technique, and many of his routines are quite difficult.

I could recommend these notes without reservation, except that the price is rather high. $35 (20 pounds Sterling) is a little steep for a 48 page, plastic comb bound, set of notes. However, if money is not a factor, and you enjoy challenging card material, Close-up Classics is certainly worth your consideration.

Thayer Quality Magic Catalog Instruction Sheets: Volume Four Compiled by Glenn Gravatt

Collectors and historians will want to take note of this reprint of the fourth volume of the Thayer Catalog instruction sheet series. Included in this volume are tricks with cards, cigarettes, livestock, matches, money, silks, and more. Also included is an index covering all four volumes in the series.

A New Look at Some Classic Close-up By Bill Okal

From 1964 to 1980, Bill Okal was a regular performer at Eddie Fechter's Forks Hotel. During his tenure, he did not only work on developing new material and presentations. He was also interested in learning what the Forks' audiences actually thought about the magic they saw performed. Mr. Okal writes in the introduction to A New Look at Some Classic Close-up, "I came to two inescapable conclusions: 1) lay audiences are much more perceptive than many performers think, and 2) most presentations trick, as opposed to convince the audience." I am in total agreement with this assessment.

In this set of notes, Mr. Okal attempts to "beef up the conviction aspect of some of the classic effects, to make them more magical." Included are three versions of the Torn and Restored Card, a "Slow Motion" Ace Assembly, a variation of Vernon's "Triumph," a Coins Across routine, a four coin assembly (using only one cover card), and two versions of the cut and restored rope.

Whether or not you choose to adopt any of Mr. Okal's handlings, studying his methods and understanding the thought process behind his routines will be of value to you. None of the routines require advanced technical ability. One downside, unfortunately, is that several of the routines require lapping, which means that the performer must be seated.

A New Look at Some Classic Close-up is an excellent value, and I highly recommend it.

The Professional Routines of Ron Fredrick By Ron Zollweg

Ron Zollweg is also a well-known member of the Forks Hotel community. In this set of notes he details three routines he has used professionally for over 30 years. Included is a routine with a scarf (which includes a series of flourishes, knots, and penetrations), a sponge ball routine, and a chop cup routine. This is practical, commercial magic, well within the abilities of the average magician, and at $4 is priced way too low. If you don't already have a favorite routine for these props, these notes are well worth checking out.

Stage Cool By Michael P. Lair

These days there is very little new material offered to those who do stage magic (especially those who do a silent manipulative act). If you're looking for this type of material, check out Stage Cool, a new set of lecture notes from Michael P. Lair. There's magic with confetti, streamers, umbrellas, candles, and swords. The routines are not particularly difficult, and are very flashy.

Wonder Words Volume 2 The Wonder Words Workbook By Kenton Knepper

The second volume of Kenton Knepper's Wonder Words series has been out for a while, but I just recently got a copy to review. I was enthusiastic about the first volume, and I am equally enthusiastic about the sequel.

Kenton's premise is that the words we use in performance can profoundly impact a spectator's perception of a magic effect. In fact, there are effects which can be accomplished using words alone. There is so much information on these four cassettes, that I can't begin to summarize them. Even if you were to not use any of the information offered, listening to the tapes will change the way you think about your patter.

One suggestion: There is a drawback to presenting this material on audiocassette, and that is that you hear Kenton speaking the words. You associate the phrases with his voice and manner of speaking. You might think to yourself, "I can't deliver these lines. They won't sound natural to me." Write down the words and the structural suggestions as you listen to Kenton, then put the tapes away. Get the concepts and then recast the words into phrases which suit your style of working. In this way I think you'll get maximum value from the tapes.

In addition to the four cassettes, you also receive a small booklet containing some excellent effects from Kenton, Docc Hillford, Gene Urban, and Steve Banachek Shaw. In particular I would draw your attention to Shaw's "Brain Game." I watched Kenton do this at the Convention at the Capitol, and the woman assistant was freaked out. She actually thought Kenton was in her head. Strong stuff.

If you are serious about adding Wonder Words to your magic vocabulary, you might want to take a look at the Wonder Words Workbook, which is designed to enhance the value of the Wonder Words Volume One tapes. Kenton provides page after page of fill-in-the-blank examples which will allow you to work out your own phrases using such tools as Unspecified Verbs, Presuppositions, Embedded Commands, Modal Operators, and Awareness Deceptions. Be aware that the Workbook will be of no use to you unless you own Wonder Words Volume One.

This material is not cheap, but I believe it is important and worth your serious consideration. Highly recommended.

The Magicians' Yearbook 1998

Edited by Anthony Owens

Anthony Owen is back with another edition of his Magicians' Yearbook, covering conventions, products, magazines, lectures, and other events of 1997. Contributors include Ali Bongo, Eugene Burger, Aldo Colombini, Al Smith, R. Paul Wilson, Marc De Souza, Tony Griffith, Eddie Dawes, Marc Paul, and yours truly. The focus is on events in the U.K., but the reviews of products, conventions, and lecturers should be of interest to all.

As I have said before, I find the British viewpoint to be a refreshing change from the viewpoint offered in most of the American magazines. I have enjoyed Anthony's previous Yearbooks, and I enjoyed reading the 1998 edition as well.

Word of a Lie By Ali Bongo

Based on work done by Alex Elmsley, Max Maven, and Terri Rogers, this clever mental effect by Ali Bongo is a real puzzler. Here's what happens: A spectator is given some small folded cards, each of which bears six words. The words are printed in either red or black ink. The spectator chooses any one of the cards, and then merely thinks of one of the six words on the card. The performer (whose back is turned) asks the spectator to call off the colors of the six words, reading from top to bottom, but he must lie when he calls off the color of the chosen word. The spectator does this. Given only this information, the performer names the mentally selected word.

Ali Bongo provides two methods for accomplishing this effect. This first, which uses a cue sheet (which is provided) is an absolute no-brainer (assuming you can add), and can be done almost immediately. However, those who prefer not to use the cue sheet can do the effect using mnemonics, because the words used were derived using a mnemonic system.

Obviously, the use of the red/black word cards places this trick into the "contrived" category, and you're not going to convince anybody that you're a real mind reader by performing it. But it is a puzzler, and will certainly give your buddies at the magic club something to scratch their heads over.

The Art of Public Squeeking By Doc Wayne

Here's another practical offering from The MagicSmith. Doc Wayne's The Art of Public Squeeking is a handbook of useful and silly ways to utilize the venerable "Squeeker," a small plastic device which squeaks when you squeeze it. You probably already own one of these (and if not, there is an excellent one provided with the booklet), but Doc's suggestions may have you squeaking in ways you never thought of.

During my Illusions days, I remember watching Terry Veckey use a Squeeker near the finale of his marathon Benson Bowl routine. It got huge laughs, and can probably do the same for you. Recommended.

White Bikes By Paul Richards Draw a Blank By Aldo Colombini

A blank-faced (or double-blank) deck has an intrinsic novelty value. Its appearance is unusual, and when it is used as the "kicker" of an effect, its strangeness makes it doubly surprising. Dean Dill's "Blizzard" exploited this surprise very effectively. Two new card tricks from Paul Richards and Aldo Colombini also use blank-faced cards in an effective way.

The effect of "White Bikes" is this: A blue-backed deck is introduced, and is shown to be normal. A red-backed card is placed aside as a prediction. A spectator selects a card from the face up blue deck (forced). The blue-backed deck is placed aside, face down. The selected card is shown to match the prediction. As a kicker, the blue deck is spread face up, and all the faces are now blank.

"White Bikes" is structurally related to a color-changing deck routine of Derek Dingle. The card is forced using an old mathematical force. A sleight is required in order to prepare the deck for the kicker, but this sleight is covered by strong misdirection, and even those with limited technical ability should be able to do the necessary work.

In "Draw a Blank," a spectator is asked to name a card, for example the Two of Hearts. The magician removes a deck of cards from his pocket and shows that the deck is completely blank on both sides. He then removes four completely blank cards, claiming that these are the four Twos. The spectator touches one of the cards. The other three are shown to be blank and are returned to the deck. The selected card is turned over; it is the Two of Hearts.

"Draw a Blank" resembles "Blizzard" in effect, but there is an important difference. In "Blizzard" the actual condition of the deck is unknown to the audience until the final surprise revelation. In Aldo's trick the audience knows up front that the performer is using a blank deck. The surprise, therefore, is the appearance of a named card from a blank deck, rather than the effect of the spectator psychically naming the only card in an otherwise blank deck.

Both routines are well within the technical abilities of the average magician, and both play very well. However, you should be aware that in both routines you are left with a gaffed deck in your hands, and you will need to structure your audience management accordingly. Both tricks are recommended.

The Reparation

By Jon Lovick

Jon Lovick has come up with an easier handling for Guy Hollingworth's famous piece-by-piece card restoration, "The Reformation." Jon has based his handling on David Regal's "Piece by Piece" from the book Star Quality by Harry Lorayne. In the last couple of years there has been a great deal of interest in Guy's routine, but those who aspire to learn it have been stymied by two factors: 1)The routine is quite difficult; and 2) "The Reformation" was a limited edition release, so until Guy's book comes out it is almost impossible to get the work.

I have seen Jon perform "The Reparation," and it looks good. Is it as good as "The Reformation"? I don't think so. Simplifying the handling involved trade-offs which I believe weaken the look of the effect (for example, the dodge of apparently placing two of the torn pieces into a shirt pocket). If you are anxious to do the "one-piece-at-a-time" restoration effect, and you are not a person who enjoys serious, concerted practice, then "The Reparation" is worth your consideration. Otherwise, I would wait for Guy's book.

Hotel Mystery Dice Stack By El Duco

I am at a bit of a loss when it comes to reviewing prop magic (and here I am defining a "prop" as something which exists only in the world of a magic show). My entire adult life I have avoided using anything which looks like a prop (and this includes linking rings, egg bags, and cups and balls), consequently I'm not sure which factors are important to someone who is going to purchase this type of item. My guess would be: 1) quality of the manufacturing of the prop, 2) ease of performance, 3) deceptiveness. If I'm off base here, or if there are other factors drop me a line and straighten me out.

Based on these three factors, I'm not sure that these two new products from Sweden's El Duco are going to satisfy. "Hotel Mystery" is a cross between "Bank Night" and "Key-rect." The magician displays a small plaque which looks like a portion of a hotel door. There is a doorknob at the top, and a black plastic box at the bottom. (The box has a slot at the top and an LED at the bottom. It is supposed to represent an electronic door lock.) The magician also has five plastic hotel key cards. He explains that there is money locked in his room, and only one of the keys will open the door to the room (and the money). Each of four spectators gets the key card of their choosing, the magician takes the remaining card. They may be exchanged if desired. None of the spectators' cards activates the LED. When the magician's card is inserted the LED glows green. The little box is opened and a hundred dollar bill is removed and pocketed by the magician.

So what's wrong here? First, the key cards provided do not resemble hotel key cards. There is no magnetic strip, and there are no distinctive logos. To even the most casual observer, it would be obvious that the cards play no part in the activation of the LED. If you were seriously planning to perform this effect you would have to go out and obtain some real hotel key cards. Second, the little black box that contains the money doesn't really lock. Anyone at any time could simply snap it open, and this undermines the notion that the key cards unlock the box. Third, I don't think that there is any real mystery here at all. Considering that even the most unsophisticated spectator is aware of how things can be remotely controlled electronically, I believe that someone would simply guess that the magician could control when the LED lit up. And this would be a correct assumption.

"Dice Stack" consists of a circular wooden base with a metal rod protruding vertically from its center. Three dice (two yellow, one red) are placed over the rod. (The dice have holes running through their centers.) The red die is in the middle. The dice are covered with a square tube. The red die vanishes from the stack of three and appears on the center of a previously tied loop of ribbon.

The props provided are well made, and I believe that with practice this could be a reasonably deceptive trick. However, you need to know that this is not a self-working trick. A "move" is required to effect the vanish of the red die, and it is going to take some practice for this to look natural and non-suspicious. (And in the brief time I played with this, I was not able to get to the point where the move looked natural.) This may be more work than a "prop" person may be willing to invest.

That's about all I can tell you. I hope you've got enough information to make an intelligent buying decision.

Killer Elite By Andy Nyman

Andy Nyman has nicely dressed up an old magical principle in this simple mental effect. (Bill Goldman recently used the same principle in his trick "Magic Shoes.") The mentalist removes four postcards from an envelope. Each bears the picture of a classic movie "psycho": Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver, Al Pacino in Scarface, Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs, and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. The spectators are asked to envision that the four killers are sitting in a room and a shoot-out ensues. The spectator is asked to guess which of the four killers survives. His guess is shown to be correct.

Obviously, you're not paying for the secret here (because you probably can already guess how the trick works), but the props provided are very nice, and it would certainly be possible to create an evocative scenario with them. You're not going to be starting any new religions with this trick, but as a lead in to more profoundly mysterious mental effects "Killer Elite" would certainly be effective.

It's Not Magic, But.

I have attended two magic conventions so far this year, and at each, events have occurred which generated an enormous amount of conversation. At the Convention at the Capitol, Australian Phil Cass polarized the audience in a way I have not seen since the legendary Mundaka performance at the Quebec I.B.M. convention. And at this year's Desert Magic

Seminar the object of interest wasMAJOKE, a parody of the very magazine you're reading right now.

MAJOKE is the creation of a group Las Vegans known as The Evil Five, and is a sterling example of what happens when you place powerful computers into the hands of creative people who have way too much free time. MAJOKE completely captures the look of MAGIC, and skewers every single aspect of it. There are some excellent satires here, there is also material for which the term "sophomoric" is far too kind, and there were a few things which I thought were extremely harsh and very unfunny.

But, I'm a magic reviewer, not a comedy reviewer, and my main reason for mentioning this parody is this: you've probably already heard about MAJOKE and were thinking about purchasing it. Be aware that much of the language and imagery tends to be crude and vulgar. If the language you hear in the average comedy club bothers you, then you should probably steer clear of this. And that's about all I can tell you.


The Sleight Album: The Magic of Aaron Fisher by Dan Harlan. 8.5 x 11, stapled. 18 pages. $15 postpaid from Aaron Fisher, 3783 Toothwood Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89115

Bouncing Back by Robert D. LaRue, Jr. and Steve Spangler. 8.5 x 11, stapled. 65 pages. $12.95 postpaid in US, foreign orders add $10 for p&h. From WREN Enterprises, Inc., 3145 W. Monmouth Ave., Englewood, CO 80110

Selling Your Specialty Act to Hollywood by Shaunnery Steevans. 8.5 x 11, thermal bound. 27 single-sided pages. $20 postpaid in US, $25 elsewhere. From Shaunnery Steevans, P.O. Box 324, North Hollywood, CA 91603-0324

Mindful Mentalism edited by Paul Hallas. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 62 pages. $24 postpaid (pay by US$ check or money order, Canada: C$34, includes shipping and GST). From I Saw That!, 35 Candle Liteway, North York, Ontario, M2R 3J5, Canada

The Complete Guide to Teaching Magic by Alfred M. Albers. 8.5 x 11, plastic binder. 35 pages. $12.50 postpaid. From Al Albers, 3901 Morning Light Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23456-4970

Close-up Classics by Michael Vincent. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 48 pages. $35. From H & R Magic Books, 3702 Cyril Drive, Humble, TX 77396-4032

Thayer Quality Magic Catalog Instruction Sheets: Volume Four compiled by Glenn Gravatt. 6 x 9, hardbound with dustjacket. 324 pages. $30. From Lee Jacobs Productions, P.O. Box 362, Pomeroy, OH 45769-0362

A New Look at Some Classic Close-up by Bill Okal. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 38 pages. $20 plus $3 p&h. From Alex Hargrave Productions, 18 Adobe Drive, Concord, CA 94520

The Professional Routines of Ron Fredrick by Ron Zollweg. 5.25 x 8.5, stapled. 48 pages. $4 plus $1 p&h. From Ed Eckl, 3 Gregg Street, Beverly, MA 01915

Stage Cool by Michael P. Lair. 5.25 x 8.5, stapled. 31 pages. $15 postpaid. From Michael P. Lair, 3300 Enfield Ave. NW, Canton, OH 44708

Wonder Words Volume 2 by Kenton Knepper. 4 audio cassettes. $65 postpaid in US. The Wonder Words Workbook by Kenton Knepper and J. Tank. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 68 pages. $35 plus $5 p&h. From WonderWizards, 3104 E. Camelback, Suite 312, Phoenix, AZ 85016

The Magicians' Yearbook 1998 edited by Anthony Owens. 8.25 x 11.75, stapled. 90 pages. 15 pounds Sterling. From Dynamic FX Limited, Unit 6, Hertfordshire Business Centre, Alexander Road, London Colney, Hertfordshire, AL2 1JG, England

"Word of a Lie" by Ali Bongo. 8 pounds Sterling. From Dynamic FX Limited, Unit 6, Hertfordshire Business Centre, Alexander Road, London Colney, Hertfordshire, AL2 1JG, England

The Art of Public Squeeking by Doc Wayne. 5.5 x 8.5, stapled. 48 pages. $7.50 plus $1 p&h (overseas add $3 for p&h). From The MagicSmith, 64 Seafare, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

"White Bikes" by Paul Richards. $14.95. From Elmwood Magic and Novelty, 507 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14222

"Draw a Blank" by Aldo Colombini. $25. From Mama Mia Magic, P.O. Box 7117, Thousand Oaks, CA 91359

"The Reparation" by Jon Lovick. $15 postpaid. From Jon Lovick, 4322 ^ Sunset Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027

"Hotel Mystery" $60. "Dice Stack" $45. Both from El Duco's Magic, Box 31052, S-200 49 Malmo, Sweden

"Killer Elite" by Andy Nyman. $20. Available at most dealers.

Majoke. $12 postpaid. From Evil Five Productions, P.O. Box 30470, Las Vegas, NV 89036

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Friendly Persuasion

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