Okay, so how come nobody told me that it gets really, really hot in Las Vegas during the summer? Fortunately, I beat the heat by reading some cool books. You can, too.

Brain Food By David Parr

David Parr is a thoughtful magician. He carefully constructs the effects he puts into his performing repertoire, and he treats magic as an art. It is possible that Mr. Parr's name is familiar to you: for a period of time he was the video reviewer for Genii magazine, and his excellent handling for the Mullica Wallet was featured on Eugene Burger's video Gourmet Close-up Magic. This routine and seven others are featured in Mr. Parr's first hardbound collection, titled Brain Food. Mr. Parr offers us a well-stocked table; I'm sure that several of these routines will find their way into the repertoires of working performers, and his essays give us much to mentally chew on.

Brain Food begins with three essays discussing The Art of Magic, Ideas, and Presentations. Of particular interest to me were Mr. Parr's thoughts on the homogeneous nature of magicians. Why must we all look alike, talk alike, and do the same tricks? Mr. Parr offers a suggestion which will immediately make you unique. Ask yourself this question, " How does my magic represent me - my interests, thoughts, and feelings?" The essay on Ideas will give you some suggestions on how to infuse your magic with your personality. In the discussion of Presentations you'll learn how Mr. Parr analyzed one of the basic tricks in magic, the vanish of a cigarette, and discovered within its basic effect a second effect, one which could be exploited with an interesting presentation. This leads into the first effect of the book, "A Yogi Mystery," in which the vanish of a cigarette is cloaked in the mystique of the Hindu fakir. (Actually, others have probably considered this same presentational approach. West Lafayette magician Mark Brandyberry used to open his stand-up show at Illusions with the vanish of a cigarette using the Hindu fakir theme. However, Mark took a comedic approach, and his routine is completely different than Mr. Parr's.)

Having discussed Presentations, Mr. Parr turns his attention to Methods, and this analysis leads to one of the highlights of the book, "Slow Motion Swindle," an interesting approach to the classic U.F. Grant "Slow Motion Bill Transposition." In the original effect a borrowed five dollar bill transposes with the magician's one dollar bill. Mr. Parr's methods allows for the five dollar bill to end up in the magician's hand, which, if you use a swindler patter scheme, is a much more logical ending. In addition, there is an idea at the end of the routine which (while unexploited by Mr. Parr) would allow you to raise the effect to another level of impossibility. And that's the only hint I'm going to give you.

Next, Mr. Parr discusses Effects, and sets himself the challenge of developing "a finished magic piece from scratch - new presentation, method, and effect..." The question here is what exactly does "new" mean - new as far as the world of magic is concerned or new as far as the one doing the creating is concerned? The routine which Mr. Parr developed, "Psilocation," meets the requirements only in the sense that Mr. Parr was unaware of other tricks which satisfied the conditions of his created effect. The trick is not a bad one, but (as is stated in the book) Harry Lorayne published a method almost 30 years ago, and the presentational approach is one which has been used by others many times before. Mr. Parr's approach to originality is laudable, but sometimes doing a bit of research after you've come up with your desired effect can save you a lot of time and heartache.

An essay titled "Wonder in Ordinary" explores magicians' fascination with props which could only exist in the world of a magic show, the chrome tubes and lacquered boxes which are so temptingly displayed on the shelves of magic shops. Mr. Parr's conclusion is that it is, of course, far more effective to use props which seem to be ordinary, everyday objects. This essay is followed by the explanation of Mr. Parr's handling for the Mullica Wallet. This is a very fine routine, and, if you own a Mullica Wallet, is well worth your consideration.

Next, Mr. Parr discusses Fair Play, with an eye toward "the elimination of those moments when the audience might think, Hey, he just did something funny with the deck!" As an effect which satisfies this criteria, Mr. Parr offers "Future Shock," a prediction effect which would probably fool both laymen and magicians. The locator card described here is one which can be used many other ways. The next routine, "Lucky Penny," will probably have a lot of magicians rushing to find their Lippincott coin boxes.

The last two routines in Brain Food will be of the least practical use to the average magician, but the thinking behind them is of value. "The Company of Wolves" uses some tarot cards and a rubber "wolfman" hand. "Dinner with the Borgias" is a complete script for a magical mini-play, in which three members of the audience are invited to avoid poisoning during an onstage cocktail party. Brain Food ends with a dialogue between David Parr and Eugene Burger in which aspects of "Dinner with the Borgias" are discussed.

I enjoyed Brain Food very much. The melding of theory and tricks is well done, and any of the first six routines could easily find their way into your repertoire. None of the routines require difficult sleight of hand. Mr. Parr writes clearly and intelligently, and what he has to say will make you think. Recommended.

The Now You See It, Now You Don't! Notebook By Bill Tarr

You may be familiar with Bill Tarr's name from his two best-selling general public magic books. The Now You See It, Now You Don't! Notebook is his first book geared to the magic community. It's a big book, with a wide variety of material, including magic with cards, coins, rings, balls, and mentalism.

The books begins with five essays dealing with such subjects as Magic as Art, The New Information Highway, Commercial Magic, and the benefits of working slowly. Mr. Tarr is a professional sculptor, and I found his comments on magic and art to be very interesting. Mr. Tarr's goal with these essays is to get the reader to strive a little harder and, perhaps, to treat magic with a little more respect than it is getting these days. In fact, the quote which begins The Now You See It, Now You Don't! Notebook pretty much says it all. It's by Sir Philip Sidney and appeared in Our Magic: "Who shootes at the mid-day sonne, though he be sure he shall never hit the marke, yet as sure he is he shall shoote higher than who aymes but at a bush."

There is far too much material here for me to go into any great detail. The chapter on Card Magic contains: a routine for the McDonald $100 Aces; a Wild Card handling based on Peter Samelson's "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; a topological routine which blends "Card Warp," "Cardboard Connection," a torn and restored effect, and a moving hole plot; a close-up manipulative routine; and various and sundry utility moves including color changes, false shuffles and cuts, and forces.

Chapter Three contains magic with Coins, Rings, and Balls. Highlights include: "Dazzle," a multi-phased stand-up routine in which a poker chip vanishes, reappears, changes color, grows in size, multiplies, and finally disappears for good (Mr. Tarr also explains a sit-down version of this routine); and "Foilball," an impromptu multiplying ball routine using balls made from aluminum foil. There is a chapter of Mental Magic which includes an interesting no-force version of Hen Fetch's "Mental Epic."

Mr. Tarr is quite enamored of a substance called "Blue Tac," and he devotes a chapter to explaining fourteen items using the sticky stuff. I can vouch for the effectiveness of Blue Tac, as several of my cohorts at Illusions made extensive use of it.

Finally, Mr. Tarr devotes two chapters to explaining a gimmicked pen called a "BT." You may be familiar with this prop, since Mr. Tarr marketed it back in 1985. This is an ingenious prop, and the routines provided are strong. In addition, Mr. Tarr offers some suggestions on using the BT in a magic (rather than mental) context, and in so doing has effectively exploited the idea of having "two of the only one in the world." (If you get the book you'll know what I'm talking about.) Mr. Tarr can provide you with BT gimmicks if you choose not to make them up yourself.

Now for a negative comment. For some reason, the decision was made to lay out this book using a "hand printing" font. (At least, I'm assuming this is a font. If not, Mr. Tarr has amazingly uniform printing skills.) The font is small, and, for me, tiring to read. While the use of this font gives the impression that you are reading through someone's notebook, I don't think it's the best way to present heavily text-based information. (Bob Wagner used the same approach in his book, but the writing was much larger.)

The Now You See It, Now You Don't! Notebook reminded me of the general magic books I used to devour when I was a kid, especially the books written by Walter Gibson. It is rare to find a book with this variety of material, geared toward the magician of average abilities. None of the routines are particularly difficult, although the manipulative routines will definitely require practice. If you have been in magic a few years and are still exploring the various avenues available, this book is worth checking out.

Making Contact By Satori

The mentalist known as Satori was born in 1947 in the city of Eisenach, which was in the Soviet Zone of post-war Germany. He was trained as a tool maker, but had an affinity for music, eventually mastering a dozen instruments, studying composition and conducting, and performing professionally as a musician. His interest in magic and mentalism began at age twelve, and, because he lacked access to literature on the subject, he was forced to develop his own methods. In 1987 he began performing full time. He scored successes at several magic competitions, including top honors at the 1994 FISM competition at Yokohama. Satori is an expert in the field known as contact mind reading, and in Making Contact he explains his techniques.

Making Contact begins with an excellent overview of contact mindreading written by Max Maven. According to Max, the technique goes back to 1872, when a Chicago newspaperman named John Randall Brown would impress his co-workers by locating hidden objects. The technique became known as muscle reading, and over the years a few books have appeared explaining how to accomplish this feat, including a 1935 book by Robert Nelson which dubbed the technique "Hellstromism." Probably the most familiar current practitioner is Kreskin, who uses audience members to guide him in the search for his hidden paycheck.

Satori has devised a logical pedagogical approach to learning contact mindreading. He first defines his terms and then discusses both the types of tasks which are suitable and the requirements for the person who is to serve as the transmitter. He then lays out a series of practice tasks which will enable you to learn to monitor the subtle clues which are being given to you by the transmitter. Finally, Satori offers several experiments suitable for stage performance, including methods for diving playing cards, words, dates, and times set on watches. The book concludes with a very thorough bibliography.

Very little has been written about contact mind reading, and Making Contact is a valuable contribution to the literature. Obviously, this kind of thing is not for everybody, and a successful and entertaining performance would require a masterful showman. But if you're interested in the subject, I would suggest that this is the book you go to first. Recommended.

Down Under Deals By Andrew Wimhurst

Australian Andrew Wimhurst is a new name to me, but I would guess that he is going to be one of the next "heavy" card guys that people will want for their magic conventions. Down and Under Deals is a set of lecture notes detailing some of Mr. Wimhurst's card work, and if you don't mind "paying the price" in terms of serious practice you'll find some top-notch card material here.

Mr. Wimhurst's preference is for gambling oriented routines, and most of the material in Down and Under Deals are gambling routines or gambling sleights. You'll find methods for the Center Deal (a move which in Mr. Wimhurst's hands receives high praise from people like Jack Carpenter), the Greek Deal, a one-shuffle riffle stack, and a full deck false shuffle. One of the highlights of the gambling routines is "The Return of the Ultimate Card Shark," a routine designed for formal performances and which gets my vote for this year's funniest introductory comment ("Apart from a second deal, a bottom deal, a Greek deal, and a center deal, this effect is practically self-working.")

Not everything in this collection is going to bust your chops. There are a few items which require only average to intermediate ability with cards. In particular, I was impressed with the "Fan Control" and the "Fan Peek," two moves which are highly prized by Mr. Wimhurst, and which I sort of regret mentioning myself.

I should tell you that while these are lecture notes, every item is thoroughly explained and accompanied with very clear photographs. Mr. Wimhurst also does a fine job crediting his inspirational sources.

This is not material for the faint of heart, but if you are familiar with the creations of people like Ortiz, Nash, Carpenter, and Hollingworth (and more importantly, if you can do that kind of material) you'll enjoy Down and Under Deals. My guess is that we'll be hearing a lot more from Andrew Wimhurst. I can hardly wait. Recommended.

Stack Attack By L.R. Brooks

If, on the other hand, you prefer card tricks with a minimum of muscle involved, you'll want to take a look at Lew Brooks' new manuscript Stack Attack. The theme which ties together the nine routines is that having a secret pre-arrangement (of a few or many cards) can give you maximum effect for a minimum amount of work. Lew is one of the mainstays of the magic club scene here in Las Vegas and he also has many years of experience as a casino dealer. I've had the pleasure of watching him do several of the routines from Stack Attack, and they are very effective.

The two highlights of the book are "Bughouse Poker" and "Poetry Poker." (Most of the routines in Stack Attack have a gambling theme.) "Bughouse Poker" uses the flourish display from Bruce Cervon's "Fast Flush" in a very effective way. The patter story is great, and best of all, you only need to stack five cards. This routine is worth the price of the book. "Poetry Poker" requires a more extensive stack, but the story line is charming

(which is not something I often say about poker deals). This would be a great trick for someone doing bar magic.

If you're looking for card material with a gambling theme and which requires only average card handling ability, you won't go wrong with Stack Attack. Recommended.

Black Art Breakthroughs By Don Drake

The principle of "Black Art" concealment is a useful one. I believe it is most effective when used sparingly. When used as the basis for an entire act (such as that of Omar Pasha) I'm not sure that it deceives. This is not the fault of the principle, it is the fault of overuse. If a close-up performer did a fifteen minute act and the only sleight used was the riffle pass, and the sleight was used many times, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to associate the riffling of the cards with the resultant magical effect. I saw the Omar Pasha show a while back at one of Joe Stevens' Desert Magic Seminars. The show was a lot of fun, and many of the effects were eye-popping, but I'm not sure it's magic. I think that any reasonably intelligent spectator could offer a fairly accurate explanation for what they saw.

Anyway, there is very little in the literature about black art. Las Vegas magician Don Drake (who prefers to spell his name DONDRAKE) has been interested in the subject for over thirty years, and in Black Art Breakthroughs he offers techniques, tips, and routines using the black art principle. You'll find information on constructing back drops, the proper materials to use, and suggestions on lighting the set. There are also quite a variety of effects offered, from familiar ones such as the Flying Carpet, to more contemporary ideas such as Gary Darwin's "Black Art Striptease."

While the majority of the material is geared toward stage performance, Don also has some ideas for the parlor performer, including the "Wizard's Window," which sits on a table, and in front of which you perform black art tricks. I've watched Don perform some effects using the Wizard's Window, and while the effects were pretty "eye candy," I do not believe that anyone watching would be completely clueless as to the method involved.

This is not the type of material that I could see myself performing ever. But, considering the dearth of information on the subject, it is a worthwhile resource if you are thinking about adding a black art effect to your show.

The Quartet By Roger Linden

Nestled in a bend of the Mississippi River, in the heart of the Midwest, St. Louis, Missouri is the hometown of some very fine magicians, including Brother John Hamman, Harry Monti, Chris Kenner, and Chris Corn. In 1995, I.B.M. Ring One and S.A.M. Assembly #8 instituted a Heritage Award program. Four famous St. Louis magicians were given this award posthumously. They were Paul Braden (better known as Paul LePaul), Joseph Pisculic (who used the stage name Joe Scott), Roy Mayer, and William Keckritz (better known as Bill Baird). Roger Linden was a friend to these four gentlemen, and in his manuscript The Quartet he has written brief biographical sketches of the four. Included is information on each of the magic acts that the four performed, reviews from trade publications, and facsimiles of promotional materials.

I'm sure that this project was done as a labor of love by Mr. Linden, and if you have an interest in any of the four you'll get a glimpse into their lives and accomplishments. Unfortunately, The Quartet is marred by poor production values. There are numerous typos, and the layout is often erratic. This could be excused ten years ago, but with the advances in home desktop publishing there is no reason for any publication to have an amateurish look. I applaud Mr. Linden for keeping the memory of these four gentlemen alive, but I wish it had been done in a more polished and professional way.

The Magic of The Art of Hopping Tables M.I.M.C.

By Mark Leveridge

In the spring of 1997 Mark Leveridge released a two video set titled The Art of Hopping Tables. The first tape featured Mark performing for real people in a hotel, followed by an analysis of that performance. The second video contained the explanations for the effects performed. (For a more detailed review see MAGIC, May 1997.) Mark has now released a booklet with written explanations of the 13 effects from the video. There is magic with cards, coins, rings, paper money, badges, and beer mats. As I mentioned in my May 1997 review, none of these routines are earth-shaking, but they are practical and well within the abilities of the average close-up magician. And at $20 for 13 routines the price is very reasonable.

M.I.M.C. is a set of lecture notes containing six items suitable for close-up and stand-up. The opening routine is a funny take-off on the "Professor's Nightmare" which would be good for an audience of magicians (laymen wouldn't get the joke). In "Room Key," the spectators generate a "random" number which matches the number on the performer's hotel room key. This uses the same matrix method as Mark's "Cabaret Calculus". To my way of thinking, this is a very contrived way to come up with a seemingly random number. (However, you may feel differently. If so, Mark offers all the props for this trick for $16.)

If you're unfamiliar with Mark Leveridge's creative style, these notes would be a good introduction. A well produced and informative catalog is also available from him.

Watch & Wear From Bazar de Magia

The popularity of the Collector's Workshop's trick "Perfect Time" has spawned a number of similar effects. Some are knockoffs. I don't believe that "Watch & Wear" from Bazar de Magia is a knockoff. The basic effect is the same: As a prediction, the magician sets his watch to a particular time. The spectator names any time, and this time matches the time set on the magician's watch.

Both watches work on the principle that the magician can (fairly) quickly set the watch without touching the stem of the watch. The magician merely waits until the correct time shows up, and then stops the motion of the watch. "Perfect Time" uses a magnet to activate the watch mechanism, "Watch & Wear" uses gravity; that is, the stem is pulled on the watch and if the watch is held vertically, the hands move quickly. To cease the motion of the "Perfect Time" watch you remove the magnetic source. To stop the hands of the "Watch & Wear" watch you turn the watch to a horizontal position and push in the stem. This last sentence is important, especially if you want a completely hands off approach to this trick. Before you can look at the face of the watch, the stem must be pushed in, which means that either you (the magician) or the spectator (if you're brave) must touch the watch. This may or may not be important to you.

Of greater importance than the mechanical methods is this: both watches require that the performer has superior presentational skills. Why? Because while the watch is moving you've got to be talking. And until the spectator calls out his selected time you have no idea how long you will have to be talking. Which means you will have to construct and carefully rehearse some modular patter - patter which can be logically stopped at any point.

The price of both props and their presentational demands place them beyond the scope of the amateur magician. These are way too expensive to be toys. "Watch & Wear" is a well made prop, looks good on your wrist, and comes with a one year warranty. Your decision will be based on which method is right for you.

The Birthday Banner By Danny Archer

This new release from Danny Archer is a very colorful variation on the torn and restored newspaper effect. Here's what happens: The magician displays a number of individual birthday cards. They are squared into a stack, given a shake, and they visibly transform into 32 x 22 inch banner which says, "Happy Birthday!"

Danny provides you with a nicely made set of props, and instructions which give you several patter possibilities. One small problem is that the loose stack of birthday cards is held together with rubber bands, and the securing of these cards is not particularly hidden from the audience. In other words, at the beginning of the effect the spectators see you remove two rubber bands from the stack of cards. You replace the rubber bands, and then "Wham," the cards change into the banner. While I don't believe that "The Birthday Banner" is meant to be a profound mystery, the fact that the cards are secured by rubber bands certainly would explain to any astute spectator why the cards do not scatter on the floor.

At $40 this is not a particularly inexpensive trick, but it not something which you could easily make up yourself. While not specifically a kid's show effect, I think that "The Birthday Banner" will be of most use to children's performers. It is a simple, effective, and visual way to say "Happy Birthday," and is definitely worth your consideration.

Fortune Cookie Surprise

By Dave Haverset and Bryan Lizotte

Right off the bat I should tell you that this effect has nothing in common with "Popcorn Surprise," which is an effect that will get you tossed in the slammer in any of the fifty states. What Dave and Bryan provide you with are a dozen very legitimate looking fortune cookies with fortunes that say, "The Card You Selected Was the 10 of Spades." Assuming you know how to force a card (no force is explained), it is a simple matter to ring in one of these phony cookies at the end of a Chinese meal. It's goofy, it's fun, and I got a good reaction from it when I tried it out on some friends. (As the instructions suggest, this plays particularly well if before the food arrives you attempt to find the selected card and fail.) Recommended.

From the Horse's Mouth

Here's David Solomon's five picks for tricks you may have overlooked from his new book Solomon's Mind: "Small Color Collision" (pg. 98), "Unhappy Student" (pg. 107), "Stripped Cheek To Cheek" (pg. 207), "Right-Handed Triumph" (pg. 145), and "One Gaff Makes the Observation Test" (pg. 198).


Brain Food by David Parr. 6 x 9 hardbound with dustjacket. 136 pages. $28 postpaid. From Hermetic Press, Inc., 1500 SW Trenton Street, Seattle, WA 98106-2468

The Now You See It, Now You Don't! Notebook by Bill Tarr. 8.5 x 11, hardcover. 250 pages. $40 postpaid (domestic and foreign surface). From Richard Kaufman, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Suite 106-292, Washington, DC 20016

Making Contact by Satori. 5.5 x 8.5 softcover. 68 pages. $25. From H&R Magic Books, 3702 Cyril Drive, Humble, TX 77396-4032

Down and Under Deals by Andrew Wimhurst. 8.5 x 11, spiral bound. 56 pages. $28 US (send an international money order), $40 AUS postpaid. From Andrew Wimhurst, 105 Dunstan Street, Curtin, ACT 2605, Australia

Stack Attack by L.R. Brooks. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 43 pages. $19.95 postpaid. From Magic Fun Factory, 3450 Oreana Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89120

Black Art Breakthroughs by DONDRAKE. 8.5 x 11, plastic comb bound. 45 pages. $20 postpaid. From Magic Fun Factory, 3450 Oreana Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89120

The Quartet by Roger Linden. 8.5 x 11, thermal bound. $15 plus $2 p&h. From Roger Linden, 3349 Clemens Drive, St. Charles, MO 63301-4400

The Magic of The Art of Hopping Tables by Mark Leveridge. 5.5 x 8.5, stapled. 58 pages. $20. From Mark Leveridge Magic, 13A Lyndhurst Road, Exeter, Devon EX2 4PA, England

M.I.M.C. by Mark Leveridge. 5.5 x 8.5, stapled. 30 pages. $12. From Mark Leveridge Magic, 13A Lyndhurst Road, Exeter, Devon EX2 4PA, England

Watch & Wear from Bazar de Magia. $195 plus $10 airmail postage. From Bazar de Magia, Casilla de Correo No. 58, Secursal No. 1(Av. De Mayo), (1401) Buenos Aires, Argentina

"The Birthday Banner" by Danny Archer. $40 plus $3 p&h. From Danny Archer Magic, 303 S. Broadway, B-235, Denver, CO 80209

Fortune Cookie Surprise by David Haversat and Bryan Lizotte. $9.99 per box of one dozen cookies. From See-More Magic Shop, 82 Main Street, Seymour, CT 06483

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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