Thursday, January 31, 2013

So many billets

I have a drawer full of billets. Ever since I first started reading Practical Mental Magic (I'll finish it some day) I've been searching for the right billet for me and the techniques I'm trying. Different types of papers and folding methods, and they just keep piling up. I do mean to work more with them but it just never happens. The problem so far as I see it is that there is no one fit all solution, Business card stock is the current front runner and it's too thick for a smooth and easy center tear but it works for the switchcraft switches and the Acidus Novus peek. The runner up is index cards but the problem I'm having with them is no fold produces a good size billet. It's either a tiny almost square rectangle that is too small or a long skinny rectangle that is too big. While it's not a true center tear Switchcraft by Elliot Bresler has provided me with a center tear solution that will allow me to use business cards.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Switchcraft by Elliott J. Bresler Review

There is no shortage of praise for or suggestions to buy Swithcraft. That plus all the extras put this on my radar a while ago but I lacked the surplus funds to get it. I finally got the push to go ahead and get it and I can't say I'm disappointed. 625 pages for $20 is hard to beat. I won't be reviewing all 625 pages as most of that is supplements and extras. This work is the result of one man's attempt at finding what he considers to be the best switch. Now I do consider the switch to be a necessary part of a mentalist's toolbox but I do not think I'd go so far as to say that all mentalism can be done with a switch. To me that would imply that the switch is superior to other moves. Sometimes you need a switch and sometimes you need a peek.

After a brief introduction most of the first 80 pages of Switchcraft are devoted to 13 switching methods. There are a lot of excellent pictures, enough that you could practically learn just from those alone. The basic switch is simple and strait forward and I would be surprised if you hadn't mastered it in 10 minutes of practice. There is a down side or two that I feel I should mention. First is that it requires two hands and the passing the billet back and forth twice which means you have to find motivations for all that. The second downside which is probably mostly personal preference can be remedied by the variation which the author calls "cumbersome" is that it requires my hands to be in what I feel are odd positions. To start the switch you have to bring the hand with the billet up into the empty hand, which means at some point the empty hand has to be above the one holding the billet. Playing around with it I just could not find a starting position where the empty hand was above the one with the billet that felt right and bringing the empty hand up and over feels off. These two complaints remain for most of the switches in the book. Are either of these two things really that big an issue, not really the first would be a problem if the book didn't have any effects in it and left motivating all to you, and the second is solved with a variation or being less picky than me. All that aside I have to say that these switches will get you out there doing mentalism faster than any other switch I have read and you can always practice the harder ones like Annemann's in secret until you're ready to switch your switches. I also would like to say that you should try them all out, because even if you don't like it on the page you might like it in the hands. Which happened to me with the second technique in the book.

So you've learned some switches now what, page 80 bears the title "Presentation options and sample routines". Here the author assures us again that with the switch we can create any mentalism effect imaginable shy of the spoon bend. But I still have not seen anything that makes me want to replace the peek I use with a switch. First he covers the switch as an out and even has an idea for an out for use with a truly unpredictable spectator. He also touches briefly on psych-forces and Dual Reality. Next up is switching as forces, which when you think about has some advantages of a change bag full of similar billets. The sample effect for this section is aimed at children, I can't say I've seen many children's mentalists. But if you like it I don't think it would be hard to ramp up to the appropriate levels for adults, plus no matter how much you say no someone always wants you to perform for kids. Then we come to actually reading billets which I thought was the mainstay of billet work. After a couple sample one-on-one routines (and a heads up where to find more) a separate section actually covers how to read the billets in secret. He limits himself to read methods that he himself has used successfully. With that bit of ground work covered we get a couple multiple billet multiple spectator type effects. I'm most of the way through at this point and going item by item would just be redundant. The book continues to page 125, which means the next 500 pages are free extra content.

I have to say that Elliott Bresler seems to go out of his way to give credit where credit is due and even where he came up with and idea himself he has a humble if you know a source for it or similar I'll credit it properly attitude. I know I complained earlier about wanting to get all the secrets I paid for and Bresler tries so hard to ensure that all the relevant info possible is included that he can get a bit repetitive. This is a work by a man who is enamored with the subject matter and it shows.

My final verdict is that Switchcraft is the best billet switching book for beginners out there but nothing in it is really intermediate or advanced. But it's probably needed, like the author says you don't see a lot of stuff concerning switches coming out.

I may review the supplements later, they build as they go, so I'm trying to avoid moving forward in them before I'm sure I've got a good understanding of what I've already covered.

Update: Just felt I should add that navigating the 625 pages of Switchcraft is very easy thanks to all the bookmarks.

If you found this review to helpful or you thought it sucked let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I bought the secret right?

"You bought the secret." Is the reason I most often see as an objection to returning a magic product after you have bought it. The idea being that the information you may have got from it is trapped within your head for ever. But what if the secret is the gimmick then what. It's not like they send plans on how to make the gimmick yourself (I am aware that some do, usually those require you to make it yourself from scratch). But let's take an example from my own list of reviews, Blackmail by Bobby Motta. Blackmail for those that did not read the review, is a utility gimmick for mentalism. It's basically a new spin on an old classic and the secret lies 100% with the gimmick, there is a bit that may be all Bobby but without the gimmick that info is useless. Now several times they mention how much trouble they went through to find just the right materials, but they carefully avoid saying anything definitive which ones they used. At one point Peter McKinnon is about to say what weight the card stock is but he stops just before and switches his train of thought. Maybe he just forgot or maybe they want to keep it a secret. What this means is you either have to buy their replacements (which are always out of stock when I check and I'm willing to bet don't come with card-stock) or source all the parts yourself. Setting aside most of that BS I find that super annoying because as I said in my review they don't give you enough card-stock  I found the card-stock supplied to be totally un-reusable, by their own math you would need at least 120 pieces of card-stock to use up all six gimmicks supplied. They gave me five, not even enough to practice with. I ordered Blackmail the day it was released and by the time it got to me there was no refill option on the Ellusionist website yet. So I had to devise my own solution to the card-stock issue, it's a serviceable solution but not one I would want to use in a professional setting. I would have had an easier time if they had just told me what weight card-stock it was. Even if they told me exactly what type and where to get all the pieces I'd still prefer to just give my money to them in exchange for a well made gimmick.

So did I buy the secret (which is not much of one as it's almost right out of 13 steps) or did I buy some gimmicks and if it's the latter and I choose not to use them after I view the video is there a good reason for me not to return the whole thing. If the gimmick does all the heavy lifting in an effect and I choose not to use that gimmick I feel there is no reason not to return it. But beyond that when I purchase some effect I feel that the creator owes me all the secrets that go along with it that he has the right to share and sources of all the one's he's not so I can go after them. I don't think it's greedy, I bought it, I paid good money to be able to do that effect, and I need that info to properly utilized the effect. Anything less and I've not really bought the secret just an idea I have to figure out myself.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is magic an art?

Found this video:

A lot of good thought provoking answers in this video. To me there are two tricky parts to this question, the first is "What is magic?" and the second is "What is art?". There are so many different answers to both of those questions. So many answers that it muddles the question to the point where I felt some of the people in the video where actually answering the question "Are magicians artists?" It may sound like the same question but to me it's fundamentally different. I think think the difference in the question lies in the answer to another question "Can magic exist separately from the magician?" To this I answer yes it can, some magicians are simply a vehicle for their tricks. They may be doing the moves but the magic happens in a bubble at the end of their arms. I know I quote this a lot but here it is again “Magic is a powerful art that can support a weak performer.” – Ricky Jay

"Is magic art?" Here is my answer; No magic is a craft. The magician is a craftsman. You can take just about any craft put it in the hands of a master and the thing he turns out is a work of art to someone. Take a wooden table, to me it's just a table, but out there somewhere is a person that loves tables. Show them a table and they will talk about the wood selection, the placement of the grain, the color, the tone, the joints, and a hundred other things about tables that I don't give a flip about. To them the table is a work of art and the carpenter that made it is an artist. Magic can be an art, magicians can be artists, but they are not inherently so.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


"EVERYTHING IS A REMIX" is a fascinating look at creativity the link can found same place I found it here at Bizzaro's Blog. I set me to thinking and the only reason I'm not posting it on all the forums I follow is that thinking is a rare skill and I can see how some would see it as an excuse to rip-off effects they like.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Mystic Menagerie Issue #2

I do believe issue two is the cheapest issue that you can buy. Also as a plus the text is a separate entity that can be selected, which means that you can copy paste URLs instead of trying to type them from memory.

Black Hart’s Bizarre Artefacts By Freddie Valentine: Reviews of several products from www.blackhart.

The Mad Hatter Returns by Graham Yates: A seance effect centered around a hat box. Spirit writing and a spirit bell are the "magic" part.

The Corpse Candle Spook Lights for Seance By Dan Baines: This article takes up the lion share of the magazine but is also the main reason I bought it. I've always been enamored with the stories of floating balls of light and their causes and the ability to cause it to happen my self is a secret I had to have. Like most good methods this one is reasonably simple and unfortunately not for me in most cases but I will be looking to use it some time. Not just the method a few presentations are included as well.

DIXIE NIGHTMARES by Paul Prater: A civil war themed effect, a bizarre take on the cut and restored rope and on rope through neck.

Mystery A Human Curiosity by Freddie Valentine: An essay on the human fascination with the mystery and what you need to do as a performer to harness it.

Magic and Magick- some thoughts.... by Freddie Valentine: An essay on how Freddie Valentine became a "holder of dark secrets and collector of sinister objects" an interesting look about how even if you're doing something like sponge balls people still connect you to more mystical powers.

Then there is some closing remarks which is followed by;

The Bit in the Back By Bertoneski: I don't care for this part, especially as is it comes after the closing remarks makes it feel out of place. To me the closing remarks is the end of the magazine so this bit fells tacked on.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mystic Menagerie Issue #1

Issue one is a bit on the short side but it is free and you can't really expect there to be a lot of contributions to the first issue of anything. After a short introduction we get into the first article;

Hypno Knives by Freddy Valentine: This is is a rather creative routine for the colour changing knives effect, but I don't see why it could not be applied to similar effects for example the hot rod.

Revelations by Reverend Tristan: I'd hesitate to call this a routine or an effect, it's more some ideas arranged in a way that that could be something. Which is pretty much what it claims to be, an idea to stimulate your own thinking, that and a way to weird out the Mormons that come to your door.

Review - Doug Higly's Eye of the ripper: What's a magazine without a review of something, and this is a rather thorough one.

Psychic Cleudo by Paul Voodini: This routine seems like would be quite a bit of fun. Cleudo is apparently the Brit name for the game Clue. Basically you invite people to play a game of "Psychic Clue" where one person knows the who what where and every one else tries to pick up the psychic answers. And then you finish off by strait up reading their mind. I like that I could totally imagine people playing this game for real and it seems like it would be loads of fun even without the effect.

Illuminatus by Freddy Valentine: This is just a little heads up about a site where a man has managed to cram all sorts of things into bottles.

Tsarology by Reverend Tristan: A psychometry effect with tarot cards.

Tarot Telling Tales by Reverend Tristan: This is supposed to be anecdotes by Reverend Tristan from doing readings but judging from the jump I'd say a whole page is missing from the magazine. You pretty much miss out on the interesting part of his tales. But it does end with an extremely valuable piece of advice applicable to any reading system.

This is followed by some closing remarks from the editor and then some reviews of really old movies by the man that does the layout for the magazine.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's awesome to me.

I'm not gonna make this a normal post because it tiny and has no value. But I pay a lot of attention to the traffic sources page of my stats and it seems someone found their way to this blog by searching "thaumaturgist business card" which is just awesome to me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 minutes.

How long does it take you to do an effect, how fast can you do it, how long can you drag it out. This is something I have never thought of before and now it looks kind of important. I got on to the idea after reading a challenge to give a ten minute interesting monologue. My response was ten minutes, there nothing that would take me ten minutes to talk about. I've always felt that most subjects could be summed up in a sentence or two, which is good for a conversation as it gives others a chance to ramble. But it's not so good when you have to entertain a room full of people with little more than the sound of one's voice. Now as a magician on stage various lengths of effect is a strength especially if you can use the time differences effectively to achieve a good pacing. But my goal is to be an MC and there may be times where I have to entertain the crowd for five minutes while the next performer is searching for a shoe. The advice I saw on this point was along the lines of "Get them to applaud the last performer, get them to applaud the stage kittens, get them to applaud the venue, remind them of the merchandise table and then do some entertaining for the next four and a half minutes." Now I'm thinking beyond the cups and balls I don't really know any effect that would take me more than a minute and a half if I drug it out as long as possible. Most of them being unsuitable for the situation anyway. Not only do I need an effect that can be drug out for a while but it needs to be able to be wrapped up quickly in case it only takes three minutes to find the shoe, can't put the whole show off by two minutes just so I can do some magic. Actually I think I own something that may be just right, it's been collecting dust because when I got it, I found that it was too far beyond my skill level to attempt, if I can fit it in with my MC character I think I may have to focus on those skills for a bit.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Magic doesn't belong on film

I'm coming to believe that Magic doesn't belong on film more and more, for several reasons. But for me the main reason would have to be it devalues magic in the eyes of the spectator. There's no spectator management all those people who treat it as a puzzle will just watch it over and over again looking for the smallest error or hint of and then if they have the slightest idea the crow about it like they're Albert Eisenstein reincarnated. Magic needs value to keep from being just tricks, it may be a silly catch phrase for a cereal but it's true "Trix are for kids". If as performers we want people to see magic as something other than silly amusements for children we need need to offer something of value.

Magic exists only in the connection between performer and audience and that can't be captured or reproduced with video.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Criss Angel Mindfreak Platinum Magic Kit.

I was given this as a Christmas present, and as far as magic kits go it's got some good points. And as it's been out awhile I figure there are plenty of reviews out and you can easily look up what it is that in this will be more  a rant about something that I've complained about before. Crappy instructions. There was a DVD and there was a quick thanks for buying clip with Angel but for the rest that I watch it was just a silent magician miming the the effects. There was also a book and I just flip to the section on the cups and and balls and seeing how little was there tossed it back in the box, the cups are nice and a reasonable size but the effect is still the stack the cup and cause one ball to fall through the cups a complete waste of have cups that size. I've often heard people say that what you're actually buying is the secret and for me that true enough so I feel that when I purchase something it's the sellers job to impart the secret as thoroughly as possible. Not just give an overview in an attempt to make a quick buck.