I once read somewhere that if you want to express something, it is best done in three stages.
First you tell them what you are going to tell them.
Second, you tell them.
And, third, you tell them what you told them.
This would mean saying the same thing three times. That, if done blatantly, could become very annoying. However, if done intelligently, it is certainly effective. But to do so you must find three different ways of saying basically the same thing.
This does not necessarily mean that something should be said three times verbally. It is possible to say something in a visual way. Showing a knife is a visual way of conveying the information that you hold a knife.
Picture the following situation: First you mention that you need to cut something. This introduces the idea of a knife. Next you say, "I should have a knife here," as you go to your pocket. Then you take the knife out and display it.
In this manner you have "said" visually, verbally and by implication that what you hold is a knife. It has been driven home three times.
Another way to prevent blatant repetition is to mention a characteristic of the object. Persisting with our knife example: "This knife is very sharp." In more than one way the audience has been told that it is a knife, without it being obvious that you are repeating the information. This results in perfect clarity.
Finally, note that these techniques for achieving effective and meaningful communication are especially valuable in noisy surroundings, where the audience may have difficulty following what is going on, or in situations where light conditions are less than desirable. In such circumstances, clear explanation and artful repetition can rescue your act.
HE performer brings out two counterfeit half dollars and has them inspected. Though it is stated that the coins are counterfeit, there seems to be nothing unusual about them—until the performer takes one and rubs it gendy. Suddenly it is seen to transform to an old British penny. With another rub it resumes its silvery appearance.
The coin is changed from silver to copper several times, then is handed to the spectator in its copper state, so that he can examine it.
The second half dollar is taken from the other spectator and rubbed. It too proves to be a copper counterfeit, and changes back and forth several times. It is restored to its silver condition and given to the person who is holding the copper coin. The penny is taken from him and changed to silver, then to copper, then to silver once more, leaving only two half dollars in the end. The exposure of the cleverly counterfeited coins being over, they are put away and the audiences attention is turned to something else.
Edward Victors "The Changing Coin" (see Magic of the Hands, 1937, p. 42) is among the strongest and most direct coin effects in existence. Known to todays magicians as "Spellbound" (from the name given Dai Vernon s exquisite handling in Stars of Magic, 1946, p. 31), it has become a classic trick. The effect is easily followed, visual and fast paced. These qualities make it the perfect trick, even for a somewhat inebriated audience. For these reasons I added it to my repertoire some years ago. After I constructed a handling sequence and a logical presentation for it, I tried it for several tables of receptive spectators. It went over well, but occasionally I heard someone whisper to another, "Special coin."
In a sense this could be taken as a compliment, for it implied that my manipulation was not perceived, and the only solution that occurred to my audiences was that a gimmicked coin was used. However flattering this might seem, it was frustrating to me, as I was still missing the sense of magic in the effect. How much better it would be if no explanation seemed possible.
The obvious solution was to have the coin examined before or after the trick. This course, though, had too high a price: It would slow the action and weaken my control over rhythm and pacing. (For more on this topic, see "An Examination of Examinations", p. 214.)
Eventually I discovered a strategy through which the examination of the coin could be worked into the presentation in a manner that maintained pacing and control. The structure of the routining accomplishes a great deal in psychological terms: While the method remains essentially unchanged, it is further disguised by a presentation that coincidentally lends interest to the effect and raises it far above the meaningless demonstration of skill to which "Spellbound" is so often demoted.
You will need two large silver coins (U.S. half dollars or something similar), one copper coin of the same size (for example, an old English penny), a double-faced copper-silver coin to match the above, and a small coin purse.
Place the two silver coins in the purse and carry it in your right-side jacket pocket, with the copper-silver gimmick resting behind it, silver side against the purse. The copper coin is also placed in this pocket, but must not be confused with the copper-silver gimmick. It is best to keep the copper coin separated from the other items by placing it in a ticket pocket or special holder.
The audiences interest is immediately aroused by your opening line: "Have you seen those new counterfeit coins yet? The ones that have been circulating during the past few months? No? I have a few with me."
Bring the purse from your pocket, using your thumb to clip the copper-silver coin behind it, so that it is not seen. Transfer the purse to your left hand and, in the same action, lay the copper-silver coin into left-hand finger palm. Open the purse and remove one silver coin. Give this to someone on your right.
"Here is one of them. Take a good look at it. You may be able to detect the difference. When you know what to look for it is easy to see."
Take the second silver coin from the purse and hand it to someone on your left. "Here, you look at one too. See if you can tell it is counterfeit."
Turning back to the person on your right you say, "Have you discovered the difference? No? Let me show you." With your right hand, take the silver coin from her. Rest it on your fingertips; then place it in your left hand as you simultaneously transfer the purse, still in the left hand, to the right hand—or so it is made to appear. In reality the purse is laid over the silver coin on the right fingers (Figure 1) and the copper-silver coin is brought into view, silver-side up, on the left fingers (Figure 2). This switch may seem a bit bold, but it goes undetected because at the same time you direct attention toward the spectator on your left: When you take the silver coin from the spectator on your right, you immediately turn your attention, and the audiences, toward the spectator on your left by asking him if he has been successful in detecting the fraud? It is during the cover caused by this query and his response that the switch is made.
As you continue to converse with this spectator, use your left forefinger to point to his coin and ask if he noticed the thin silver plating? Simultaneously carry the purse to your right-side jacket pocket and deposit it there with the hidden silver coin. Immediately palm the copper coin and bring the hand from the pocket. All focus is on the spectator throughout the disposal of the purse, which is treated as an incidental action.
"You can see the coin is counterfeit when you rub it. It is made in England from a copper coin." Here you name the country appropriate to the copper coin in use. Cause the silver coin to change to copper with any "spellbound" change you prefer. The ones I use are not original, and have been selected from the many to be found in our literature. Rather than take space to describe other magicians changes, which you might or might not choose to use yourself, Til simply mention where many good ones can be found. I've already mentioned the classic Vernon handling in Stars of Magic. Richard Kaufmans CoinMagiccantzins an entire chapter of such changes (1981, p. 82); and others are scattered through the pages of Harry Loraynes journal, Apocalypse. However, refrain from doing any form of change in which the copper-silver coin is simply turned around. Actually exchange the copper-silver gimmick for the palmed copper coin.
"Although it looks like [perform a second change, turning the coin silver again for an instant\ a silver coin, its really [make a third change and display the copper coin] a copper coin made to look [change again to silver] like silver. But, as you know, its really made of [andagain to copper•] English copper. Here, have a good look at it."
After performing this sequence of rapid-fire changes, hand the copper coin to the person on your right. Turn to the person on your left, who still holds a silver coin. "Your coin is the same. Let me show you."
Take the coin from him and cause it to change to copper. In doing so, don't choose a sleight that requires that the palmed copper-silver coin first be turned secretly in your hand to proceed with the change. The requisite finger motion, or the act of dropping your hand momentarily to your side while reversing the coin, diminishes the magical appearance of the changes and defeats the purpose of the routining. (After all, if you are going to drop your hand out of sight, you might just as well switch the extra coin while there.) Instead, select a sleight that takes advantage of the coins as they are naturally positioned after the previous change.
It is now that anyone shrewd enough to suspect the use of an extra coin will become perplexed. Logic tells them that the hypothetical third coin must be a silver one. When the second silver coin is turned to copper, this hypothesis is shattered.
Perform three more quick changes of the coin, from copper to silver, silver to copper, then back to silver. Finish with the ordinary silver coin in view. Show it on both sides and trade it for the copper coin that the person on your right is holding.
Use the palmed copper-silver gimmick to cause the copper coin to change to silver and to copper again. Casually exhibit both sides of the copper coin, then execute a shuttle pass to switch it for the copper-silver coin, copper-side up. This is done as you apparendy transfer the coin from left hand to right. Pocket the gimmick, slipping it behind the purse, silver side against the pouch.While there, also slip the silver coin that rests with the purse inside it.
As you bring your right hand from the pocket you are still palming the copper coin in your left hand. Reach out with your obviously empty right hand and take the second silver coin from the person holding it. Perform two more changes with it, making it turn from silver to copper to silver, while casually showing both sides of the coin after each change.
Conclude by putting the silver coin into your right pocket and disposing of the copper coin at the same time. Slip the silver coin into the purse, the copper coin into its ticket pocket or holder, and all is reset for the next performance.
In recent years it has become the vogue to conclude Spellbound routines with a sudden change of the coin into a jumbo replica. Such a climax could certainly be appended to this routine. However, should you choose to exercise this option, some presentational motivation for the enlargement should be provided; for instance, "I'll make the coin bigger—now you can see the counterfeiter's marks."
The use of the copper-silver gimmick here is especially interesting. It will fool even persons familiar with "Spellbound". However, it also carries with it a strong temptation to abuse the principle. Earlier I warned against simply turning the coin around to effect a change. If the double-faced nature of the coin is used for this purpose (such as simply turning it over as the hand is closed and then opened), do so only once and reserve it for late in the routine. To overuse the principle is to expose it. (I might mention in passing that Curtis Kam, in his "Coercive Purse" routine [Kams All the World's a Stage, 1982, p. 1], also uses the copper-silver coin more to disguise and enhance another principle than to exploit the nature of the gimmick in the usual manner.)
This is a good example of intelligent routining. The audience s attention is captured immediately with the first line: Everyone is interested in money and in counterfeiting. The coins are examined—but each is given out while something is happening with the other. In this way, pace and rhythm are maintained and controlled by the performer. In addition, the audience becomes more involved than is usual with "Spellbound" presentations.
You should take full advantage of the fact that both sides of the coins can be displayed at various points in the routine. During the first phase, only the copper coin can be shown completely; during the second phase, it is the silver coin that can be turned; and in the final phase, both copper and silver coins can be shown both sides. In the end, the impression is given that the coins have been seen on both sides throughout the routine. Of course, these displays should be done casually and without comment, during the presentation. They are used to quiet the suspicions of the suspicious, not to arouse them in the unsuspecting.
One final point: This is one more example of a trick that is reset during the normal course of performance, making it ideal for table and cocktail-party work.
ERY soon after acquiring an interest in magic, most of us make our first contact with its dealers. Buying magic is one of the many things that makes us into magicians, and this is particularly true in the beginning. Our knowledge grows not just from reading and contact with other magicians, but also from buying tricks.
In some cases it may have been a dealer who introduced us to magic. Dealers do play an important role in getting people interested in magic and in keeping that interest alive. And some dealers do an excellent job of bringing out first-class material for us to use. At times these efforts can advance the art. So, when you consider it, the importance of dealers is quite apparent.
Unfortunately, dealers, like anyone else, have to make a living, and so must be aware of the cost and benefit of things. If they fail in this, they will quickly be out of business. Consequendy, they have to manufacture things in a way that keeps the price of an item within the average customer's means. So what happens when they have to face a decision concerning what material to use in the manufacture of a prop, where there are two choices, one material being slightly better than the other, but also being several times more expensive? Given this situation, I think it safe to say that most dealers, indeed most people in business, would choose the slightly inferior but considerably cheaper material. This decision would be even surer if the dealer recognized that most of his customers wouldn't discern the difference between the two. So why not use the lesser material, which makes it possible for the completed item to be much more affordably priced?
Decisions of this sort are made on other details as well. Perhaps a certain method for a trick is slightly better than another, but demands the difficult manufacture of an intricate piece. The dealer might pragmatically choose a slighdy less sophisticated method that allows him to sell a more affordable product. Again this will almost certainly happen if most of his customers don't know or recognize the difference.
It is unreasonable to expect that dealers will always use the best materials and methods, for if they did, it could easily price many of their products out of the market. This awareness of practical marketing must at times conflict with what they know, in a perfect world, would be the best.
Nor is it uncommon to see a trick being sold that is not the best version available. What dealers sell may be the most appealing version for their customers, the majority of whom are casual hobbyists; but it may not be the ¿¿tf method for achieving the most magical effect.
Im reminded of the first "Wild Card" set I bought. The routine supplied was rather pedestrian. Why? Well, had the dealer supplied a more sophisticated routine, requiring greater practice and skill, he might have sold very few. It was a wiser business choice to supply a simple routine that could be counted on to sell to a greater number of customers.
This practice, though, can sometimes have a disastrous effect: If everyone is unaware of the options that exist, the marketed version of a trick can become the accepted one, while a better version is forgotten and languishes in obscurity. When the better version is forgotten and the marketed version becomes the standard, we can truly say that magic has lost something of value.
But it can go further than that at times. When the marketed version becomes the standard method, and the superior method is forgotten, it sometimes happens that the dealers themselves are unaware of the better version. Then one day another dealer decides to market the effect with an "improvement", that improvement being a way of manufacturing the trick in an even simpler form. Again a few valuable details get lost. It may then happen that the new marketed version of a marketed version becomes the standard. I know of more than one trick that has gone through this simplification mill several times, until all that is left of a good trick is worthless dust.
Since a dealers primary goal is not the advancement of good magic, but the advancement of sales, it is easy to understand why the products manufactured for magicians are often not the best magic possible. This is not to say that there aren't dealers who really want to advance magic—but to have advancement as a first and primary goal is dangerous if you wish to run a successful business.
We cannot and should not blame dealers for often manufacturing second-rate props, or for routining tricks to appeal to the lowest common customer. It is wise, though, to be aware of these facts.
The best remedy to this malady of devolution is to read as much as you can of what magicians have done in the past. You may find that over the years many jewels of magic have been ground into worthless pebbles. Its no one's fault perhaps, but what a loss! A wealth of good magic resides in our books, especially in the older ones.
Another way to avoid this magical erosion is to take a good look at what is offered by dealers, then see if it can be made better. Many classic props can be improved by designing them correctly, by using more suitable materials, by adding certain refinements. This you must do yourself, because the cost of building many items properly is prohibitive for dealers.
Though these costs are often impractical for a dealer, they are usually affordable for the individual who plans on really using the trick. After all, if a trick or prop finds a regular position in your repertoire, the cost of manufacturing it properly is a wise investment. Often it is less than the price of a few shows! And sometimes it isn't the prop but the supplied routine that is faulty, in which case your investment is made affordable not in currency, but simply in study, thought and practice.
Given these hard realities, dictated not by our dealers, but by the world we live in, commonly marketed versions of tricks can diminish the quality of magic. With the natural tendency to make things simpler and easier to manufacture and sell, beautiful details often get lost. This side of the marketing system in magic has an undeniable negative effect on the advancement of the craft. Keep in mind, there are many positive things about our dealers, but it isn't all sweetness and sunshine. Just be aware of the negative aspects and don't automatically accept that what is bought over a dealer's shelf is the best version available. Search a bit longer for the method you will use.
1 DEVELOPED this trick for a children's theater production, in which I played a mean, creepy fellow called The Disillusioner. While I pretended to be a friend of the children, I was constandy trying to bring the hero of the play under my evil spell. My face was multicolored, my hair stood on end and was filled with dust, and when I performed my tricks, mean little cackles would escape my lips. The kids hated me, but they clapped for the magic, probably out of fear of being molested. I was definitely not friendly Uncle Tommy.
The effect is a rather unusual twist on the torn-and-restored paper trick. The performer displays a sheet of tissue paper on which is drawn the face of a cartoon rabbit. He tears the picture to pieces and rolls them into a ball. He then brings the crumpled ball to his mouth and blows, upon which the pieces suddenly restore themselves in a strange way: They expand and inflate into a paper balloon in the shape of the cartoon rabbit's head!
You require a sheet of heavy tissue, about fourteen inches square. The best tissue for the purpose is silk tissue, the type that one finds new shoes and jewelry wrapped in. It tears cleanly and doesn't leave loose fibers like other tissues can. On this sheet you draw a cartoon ^ rabbit's face (Figure 1). You will need one of these for each performance.
The second requirement is, obviously, the inflatable paper rabbit-head. This is made from two sheets of cooking parchment (available in culinary shops and the baking sections of large grocery stores). Trace the shape of your rabbit head on one piece of this paper, approximating the size of the cartoon face you've drawn on the tissue sheet. Then, while holding both sheets of paper together, cut out this shape with a pair of scissors.
Next draw your rabbits face on one of the cut-out pieces. This will be the front of the head. Into the center of the second piece neatly glue a plastic mouthpiece taken from a child's inflatable ball or toy (Figure 2). Then carefully glue the two pieces of paper together with a thin, continuous line of rubber cement (Figure 3). Try not to leave any gaps in this cement seal, although the glue seam need not be perfectly airtight.
If you have made your paper rabbits head with reasonable care and treat it well, it should last you quite a few performances. Carefully fold the head into a small package, leaving the mouthpiece exposed, so that you can blow into it. The folds must be made in such a way that they don't hinder the inflation of the head.
The method is, I assume, reasonably transparent at this point. You palm the folded paper head in one hand as you pick up the tissue picture of the rabbits face. After displaying the picture, you tear it into pieces and ball them up. Press the wadded pieces to the back of the folded head, leaving the end of the mouthpiece exposed. Next, with just one hand, bring the mouthpiece to your lips and inflate the head. The head should remain out of sight behind your fingers until it begins to inflate. At that time revolve the hand up and around the inflating head, all the while keeping the balled-up pieces hidden behind the head. The pieces automatically end up in finger palm as you continue to hold the mouthpiece between your thumb and forefinger. When you finally take the inflated head from your mouth, rotate your hand palm up as you simultaneously twist the mouthpiece between thumb and forefinger to keep the inflated head right side up. The pieces are safely palmed and can remain concealed behind the rabbits head as you dispose of it, or they can be palmed away, as you think best.
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