Monday, October 29, 2012

How to do street magic DVD from Ellusionist.

I think one of the most important thing to remember about this video is that it is around a decade old. Its one of the first videos Ellusionist back when it was a broke start up. Its lacks the quality that most Ellusionist's later works have. I received my copy second hand when someone I knew died. So there were some wear and tear already present so I can't really comment on the physical quality of the DVD. Also I didn't know the guys full name and so I could prove it to be a legitimate copy for access to the private forum.
It starts of with good advice delivered by a bunch of silly cutting between Brad Christian and some woman. Then another cut to another woman introduces the first effect. I quickly became tired of the clips of women that were cut to between each effect. They added nothing other than eye candy to the video. They were not professional actresses either. None of the effects are new effect or that hard. And credit for the creators is done is this weird subtitle way. But this is a good DVD for the absolute beginner. Not only does it have a lot of effects it's also contains a wide range by that I mean its not all cards and coin effect. It's not really any more expensive than most beginner magic kits. The bonus being that unlike most magic kits this DVD is not aim at the children market so the effects you learn you can show to other adults. If you think you like to try magic get this DVD and if you find nothing on it you enjoy magic may not be for you.

This is the classic ashes on arm, in the performance part Brad's patter is a little silly but works with his I don't really know what will happen let's have some fun with this experiment character. For some reason he has the reveal set up on both arms and reveals it on both. I'm not a fan of the effect simply because I don't want to rub powdery things on my skin. In addition to telling you how to set up for the reveal Brad also teaches the criss-cross force.

This is the classic salt shaker through table effect. Like the last effect it well taught and this is one I've been known to do. They really spend more time than they need to teach the effect, but that's not wasted time they go over some many tips and what have you to make sure you can perform this effect and perform it well.

Sick aces:
Another classic, This is the spectator finds the aces trick from the royal road. Unlike the other effects were Brad teaches to the camera with this one he teaches the the effect to the two spectators he just showed the effect to. With this effect he teaches the over hand shuffle control.

Trace Unseen:
This is a card transportation of card from the deck to elsewhere. It uses an easy to craft gimmick and the ability to force said gimmick.

I guess one would call this a penetration effect. You magically remove a business card from a string. Simple enough effect nothing complicated about it.

Trick Switch:
This effect is one I think of as the glimpse effect. I learned off of scam school a while ago and I feel scam school has the better presentation and better teaching.

Voodoo zone:
This is card warp by Roy Walton according to subtitle credits.

Go inside sugar:
This is a signed coin inside of sugar packet routine.

George's old trick:
Down's Palm coin concealment and production. A rub vanish is also taught.

Chance Zero:
Out of this World by Paul Curry

Self Printing Business card by Michael Ammar. This is a good one, I use it.

In the hands off by Peter Samelson. Its nice but effect wise is basically the same as Merger just with a ring instead of a business card.

That is all that in the official tricks part of the DVD. Next is "Bonus Material" it starts with a section of flourishes. The lead in is way longer than it needs to be. First a coin roll, next is a four coin star, followed by a ribbon spread, after that is Charlier cut, and finally a card fan. The flourishes are followed by a Balducci levitation. Next up is switch that the title says is a Vegas Card Cheat but the subtitle says it a Downs change. Then we have a floating dollar bill and instead of teaching how to make IT it says get it at a local magic shop. This is followed up by two color changes and a vanish.

Like I said a good DVD for the adult looking to break into magic but not much else.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Magician's Thinking

Magician's thinking is a term I heard awhile ago and it refers to when a magician can longer think like a spectator. And it's bad because it always leads the magician to treating spectators like idiots. Usually it comes up in relation to non-rider back cards as in this rant, For those that don't want to read that rant it boils down to magicians with magicians thinking forget that there were other decks of besides Rider backed Bikes available to them before they took up magic. It's not too bad a problem in that situation beyond that it means the performer is avoiding some questions about his performance character. It's unlikely that in that situation that spectator will know that the performer is using bikes because they think the spectator is too ignorant to know other decks exist.

But recently I read a blog post on the Merchant of Magic blog, that told people to not use the word Sharpie because it was a magician's word and using would confuse a spectator. As I pointed out on that blog, Sharpie is a brand name of a widely available permanent marker. I'd go so far as to say that it is America's favorite brand of permanent marker. At least here we've reached the point where we call all permanent markers Sharpies. Much like all adhesive bandages are Band-Aids, or all whipped cream is Cool Whip. I know cause I'm that kill joy that will point out when it not the brand name brand and someone asks for it. Beyond the idea that the word Sharpie is some sort of magic jargon, saying not to use a word because a spectator may be unfamiliar with it implies you consider them too ignorant to know what you're saying from the context. Let's say we have situation where a spectator really has had no previous experience with the word Sharpie and you ask them to sign the card with a Sharpie. They know they need some form of pen to sign with and chances are the magician is holding out a Sharpie, it doesn't take a great mental leap to figure out what they need to do and that this marker being held out must be a "Sharpie".

It's like the golden rule thingie, treat others the way you want to be treated if you wouldn't want someone treating you like you were completely ignorant then don't do it to others. At the very least people tend to act how you expect them to act. If you expect them to be intelligent you may just find them rising to the occasion.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Now this going to be a bit of a rant, and before I get into I just want to say that I understand that the producers of magic are in a tough place, they need to show you enough to make you want the product but not so much that you can steal the it by cleverness and paying attention. How many times have you read on a  forum a post where some newbie is bragging that he learned a move by watching the demo video over and over. I understand the position they find themselves in but I still require enough information to make an informed decision. I don't mind a hefty price tag but I do mind getting screwed by not getting what I think I'm paying for.

So where does this rant start well it starts here well not there actually at review for that product. Magic at the Bar by Chris Randall, eight effects for the bar performer. Of these eight I was interested in three of them Desert Rose, The Exchange, and Martini. With Martini having most of my interest, from the description "Chris' signature opener produce a martini piece by piece" and the reviewer described it "My favorite effect is a routine where you produce all the items needed to make a cocktail." I could see myself doing it just not with a martini, I'm more of a rusty nail drinker myself. But I wondered what all is actually produced, and how hard would it be to switch for another drink. So I watched the trailer and all the effects are well represented in that you can tell the basic idea of them except for Martini. The section for Martini has Chris Randall blowing confetti out of a cocktail glass and producing a silk from the confetti cloud and its not a very good production either. So I'm all "wait a minute, what does that have to do with producing a martini" and so I go searching after more info. I found another review that produced little helpful info, a thread on the Magic Cafe where someone refuses to comment on the DVD because of a low opinion of Mr Randall's personal character, and eventually this video of Chris Randall performing Martini live at the Magic Castle. I did not embed the video because I only include it so you can see what I speak of. After an introduction Mr Randall walks on stage carrying a cocktail glass full of confetti and like in the demo produces a silk from the confetti, then a lovely assistant brings out a tray and Randall set the cocktail glass on it and uses the silk to produce two ice cubes which he puts into the cocktail glass and then produces a bottle of clear liquid and pours pours it into the glass spraying the stage with liquid.

Now I am a bartending-o-phile, I like tending bar and mixing drinks. I'm into it, I know recipes for drinks and people like to give me bartending stuff as gifts. So I know I'm correct when I say "That was not a Martini at best it could be considered the worst Churchill ever made." Notice how I call it a cocktail glass and never a Martini glass like some uninformed people do. The cocktail glass is designed to serve cold drinks without ice, that's why they have a stem so your hand will not warm the drink up because it has no ice to keep it cool. So when he produces ice and puts it in the glass it drives me up the wall. I will conceded that from a distance a martini may look like clear water and so theoretically his bottle could contain a pre-mixed martini but him slinging water about the stage is unforgivable. Lastly where the hell is the olive. A martini is to be served with a olive.

Here's how you make a martini. Take tumbler add crushed ice. Add two ounces of gin, and a dash of vermouth. Stir then strain into a cocktail glass. Add add a twist of lemon and a green olive for garnish. Serve. Any variation from that recipe is not a martini, I mean that, because every variation has a different name. Shaken instead of stirred, that's a Bradford. Onion instead of an olive, that's a Gibson. No garnish, that's a Dickens. No vermouth, that's a Churchill.

Now I know us performers are a competitive lot and we all feel we could do better than whoever we're watching but in this case I really think I could. Not as a parlor routine like in the video but in a bar where I was employed to do magic and was allowed behind the bar (which is the a target market for the DVD) yeah I'm rather sure I can but you can be the judge of that.

Effect: The magician asks a spectator if they would like a magical martini. He borrows a cocktail glass from a bartender and a quarter from the spectator. He tells her that he needs to warm up the coin first, he takes out a handkerchief and vanishes the coin into it. The coin is found behind the magicians knee. The magician performs this two more times and after the last one a shaker is found under the handkerchief. The shaker is shown empty and holding the bottom half in one hand ice cascades down from the other into the shaker. The shaker reassembled the magician waves a bottle of gin over the shaker. He uncaps it and pours a cold martini into the cocktail glass, the lid picked back up to recap the shaker is found to have an olive underneath.

I feel that effect delivers what I was expecting the one from the DVD to be and is easily modified to fit any mixed drink. I think I'll hold onto the method for now. Mostly cause I'm tired of typing, if it sounds like an effect you'd be interested in let me know.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Character in Performance by Eric Mead
An interesting article found on Dan and Dave Buck's website by Eric Mead about the importance of character and how it relates to one's show. I have always felt that character is important, that it's one of the things that separates magicians from guys doing tricks. In the article Mead poses two questions to ask one's self.  "1. What is my character? And 2. What is my show about? Or to say it differently, Who am I in performance? And Why am I performing? Answering these questions will go a long way to giving you an original point of view, and a reason for an audience to watch." Mead says being able to answer these questions clearly and succinctly is important. So I will endeavor to answer them here.

1. What is my character? 
A wizard conman/salesman.

2. What is my show about?
My show is about selling some magical item.

Those are the main ideas in my head when imaging my show.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Well Darn

I had always wanted call my show, troupe, performance company "The Bizarre Bazaar". I liked the sound of it, the alliteration, and the image in my head of it but as it turns out its a popular name. A google of it finds that several groups use it for a name including a tumblr that tumbles (is that the right verb for tumblr) porn, the top link for it is a market that sales Christmas stuff. This will not do I need a name that will not be bogged down and hidden among everything and won't be confused with porn. So it's back to the drawing board. Business is hardwork.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This is Mentalism Vol Rich Ferguson from Ellusionist

So nine effects that according to the Ellusionist website geared towards the serious mentalism worker. I mainy bought this as way to qualify for an LTD deck for the promotion that Ellusionist had when they released Blackmail and Lockdown. I didn't care to get Lockdown and so I just picked one of the other things I wanted that would qualify for promotion.(big fan of the eany, meany, miney, moe meathod) I ended up with "This is Mentalism Vol 2" by Rich Ferguson from Ellusionist. I'll do my best to not reveal to much but to give an honest review.

Vision is a two prediction effect where you have two spectators think of something and you figure it out. Now there are several bits of business going on behind the scenes that make this effect work. I don't know if the really fast back and forth is just Rich Ferguson's way or if it's vital to the effect but it's not for me. Now this effect requires a force and depending on the force there's a chance the effect will half fail. Other than that all the rest of it is pretty strait forward and not too complicated. It's not a bad effect but it's not for me.

Psychometry Prediction
Three spectators think of something, write it on the back of a business cards and then seal them in coin envelopes and then performer mixes divines whose envelope belonged to who and what they wrote. Like the last effect there are several magic principles at work. You have to build a gimmick as well. There a lot of choreography going on here, and I've rarely had to blow away three spectators at once. So this effect seems like a bit much for something I may never use. It's a good effect and the principles are solid and one's a mentalist should know, but rarely can I think of a time where I've had the attention of more than two spectators. That said this could be scaled down but why would I want to go through all the trouble when the first effect on the disk is the same sort and doesn't require I build a gimmick for each performance.

A person picks a word writes it down, the mentalist reads their minds. It's a gimmick based effect and rather strait forward and simple. Which means more than the ones before the impact of this effect relies on the performers ability to sell it. The principle could be use in other ways but here it used with a book. I know book tests are classics of mentalism but I don't like the idea of carrying around a book just for an effect, especially one like in this effect. In fact I don't like the idea of a book test in close up/strolling magic settings. I think they're better in more parlor or larger setting. If you could set this up in someone home and make it look natural and impromptu that would be awesome.

Hidden Key
Another book test with another gimmick, even if it is really clever gimmick it's still a book test. The gimmick in this one is a bit more complicated than the last but it has a longer life span. With all the ways out there to divine a word spectator has chosen I fail to see the point of carrying a book of any real size aound around unless you plan to use it to force a word.

A newspaper test. I can get much more behind this one in the field than a book test. This one requires you to make another gimmick but one that will last a very long time and that you make most of the way often enough I'd bet.

Way out of this world
It's a variation on the 'Out of this world' card effect. I'm not a fan of the OOTW effects to begin with and I can't say this one changed my mind any.

A bill test where the spectator takes $1 dollar bill and performer divines the serial number. A fair bit of prep required but once you have it all put together you'll be ready to go, just be careful not to spend your setup.

Lie to me
Probably my favorite effect on the dvd, although I'd may or may not use the lie detector like patter. Simple effect objects in a bag spectators each take one and the magician divines the who has the odd one out. Not really difficult but it is one of those effects where it takes acting because the performer doesn't know which one right away.

I'm kinda iffy on the inclusion of this on the DVD. I mean I'm sure if you own a wiregram then it's valuable information but if you don't well it does lose some value.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Well I want to start by saying this is my blog and as such you will get my side of the story and to heck with journalistic integrity. If you wan't to get the other side of the story do your own research.

So Ellusionist had a retention vanish contest and I being the generous soul decided that it would be helpful to offer critiques. One of my biggest complaints was that most of the videos were silent or just had music to cover the noise. Well of all the complaints I made that one seem to ruffle the most feathers. The standard reply was that they just did what required by the contest to enter and nothing more. To me that was like saying I'm only here for the awesome prize and no other reason. My reaction was "You lazy opportunity wasting fucks." I mean are you so egotistical that you really think you have a perfect retention vanish and the contest will be a cinch, cause that's the only justification for such a low level effort. And I wasn't too riled up until one of them called me out for doing too much.

I busted my ass. I came up with a routine, practiced it, timed it to see if I could do it in the time limit. Then I practiced it over and over again. Then I showed it to real people. And finally I recorded it seven times, four of which I got all the way through without an interruption.

Whether or not I win the contest I still come out ahead. Besides all the practice looking at all those videos revealed to me a problem I never saw in all my time practicing for the mirror. I attribute not seeing it before to the fact that I've been looking at these hand for years but the pinky on my right hand sticks out father than normal most likely from the accident when I was a child. It creates a large window when I have something finger palmed. I have to consciously choose to close it and its little uncomfortable to do so.

An perhaps the biggest win is that I now have a new routine to add to my repertoire and I don't just mean that theoretically. Last night I used a modified presentation to hand out rubber rats at a Halloween party.

Ratings system

You may have noticed that my reviews lack any kind of scale. I don't give a set of stars, of 8 out of 10. I could never work out a good metric for the scale so that it would have consistency. If I did a scale it would be a binary one because that really all the scale tells you. And it such an arbitrary thing any way, read enough reviews and you'll see what I mean. I've read review where all the reviewer did was trash and bitch about the product and still give it 3 out of 5 stars. And that's right next to reviews that sing the praises of a product with nary a bad thing to say also gave it 3 out of 5 stars. I'm like "What?" Are the reviewers just too afraid to reflect their view with stars so they give it a nice middle of the road non-committal three? I don't think I'd add a system anytime soon, I might as well add a too long didn't read summery to the ends of my posts.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The various roles of a magician.

The writer writes it, the director directs it and the actor acts it. All three are distincly different jobs and many books advise against crossing roles. None of them is an easy role to fulfill either. But a magician is expected to fulfill all three. In fact if he does not he is looked down on by the magic fraternity. Which is dumb most of the big magic names have huge crews to help them succeed. Any way you start with the writing, if you don't write your own patter you are not a real artist or what ever. This idea is stupid because if everyone could write something entertaining they would. But lets say you write some patter now you have to direct it. Which bring its own problems like how do you know what needs to be cut out. Besides the fact that you are attached to what you wrote being a genius artist that you are, its hard to step out of your self and objectively review the material as it is performed. So now you have to act it and the only thing you have to go on is your audiences reactions good reactions means on the right track bad one means its back to the drawing board. Being a performer is hard work and even harder considering that any failure is on your own shoulders. Definitely not a career path for every one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

America's Got Talent?

If the videos don't work The top was Rudy Coby's Puppet Boy Routine from America's Got Talent. Which to put lightly was not well received by the judges. And the bottom is the original routine as it aired back in the day. I think the first difference to notice is that the bottom routine is twice as long as the top. So what did he have to get rid of in order to make his routine fit the minute and half time frame. Well almost all of the build up, which is very important to the routine. His being mean to the puppet is there to set the audience against him. When the decapitation happens, you're supposed to feel a little shocked and little like he had it coming. That he also turns out to be the puppet is some psychological mumbo jumbo I don't want to get into. He also had to cut out a lot of time between putting the puppet in the box and the decapitation.
There was also a derisive comment about his outfit. Well the outfit is another part of setting the audience against Coby and it really needs all the being mean to the puppet that was cut out for it to work.

So basically what happened was Coby took one his old routines and pared it down to fit on AGT. But you can't really blame him seeing as less well established magicians have gone broke trying to come up with new effects each week on AGT. Illusions are not cheap and they usually require other performers to work so there's the cost to pay them too. And moving all that junk to the performance venue can't be too cheap either.

Now I don't watch AGT but it's near impossible to follow magic news without seeing something about it. I don't really believe variety acts stand a chance on AGT. Google-ing for a list of past winners seems to support that. So why can't non-singers win. Well I don't think its structured so that other acts have a fair chance. It not hard to crush a song in a minute and a half, really it only take 20-30 seconds to tell if a singer is good or not. But most variety act need time to build. If I were the cynical sort I'd also say that the producers don't want variety act to win because its harder to market and sell them.

So given the chance would I ever try out for it or a show like it, knowing I can't win the whole thing and that it will be costly. I would probably come up with a something and if I thought it was good enough I'd give it a go. For the simple reason it gives you something you can't buy, publicity. I go on and wow people and I can guarantee that my name gets Googled, my site gets hits, some of which may well lead to work.

Halloween is coming

Halloween is coming, time to get my spooky effects ready.