Monday, December 19, 2005

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Back-stabbing and sniping is an accepted part of just about any business, and they're certainly well practiced in show business. And the more a person is in the public eye -- or even if they're famous within our little subcultrue -- the more that person is a target.

Case in point: A long and well-behaved thread which reviewed, overviewed, questioned, INspected, DIssected, INfected, and NEglected Richard Osterlind's Mind Mysteries Too. For the non-wizards in the house, that's a set of teaching DVDs of mentalism and magic. They cover new ideas, presentation of old ideas, and extrapolation of ideas to their fullest. But I digress..

This thread was, as they say, hijacked by some folks with some axe to grind. One person posted a review which, while not really very negative, managed to slam anyone who had anything good to say about these DVDs. Along the way, he backhanded a few effects on the disks with no more than a casual "they weren't any good" type of dismissal. (His reasons? Didn't really give any, just said they weren't good.)

Quite naturally, the people who liked the DVDs felt they'd been grossly insulted. The offensive poster had claimed that anyone who liked these DVDs were putting Osterlind on a pedestal. His precise wording was that we were treating Osterlind as if he were a god.

When called on this insult, he continually denied he was rude. He then went on to consistently insult any and every person who dared suggest he was wrong. Unable to apologize, he turned more and more ugly, until he'd managed to convince people that he was downright evil and, perhaps, dangerous.

He, and a few others, made the thread so ugly that the management had to delete it. All of it.

Today, I heard he was (I quote) "insanely angry" at me for being one of the people to tell him that, no, he wasn't an emperor. Not long after, I received a worm (semi-intelligent virus) over my internet connection. Luckily, my virus protection software caught it, trapped it, and - with the help of a good network engineer - traced it back to the locale of the aforementioned evil person.

Perhaps it wasn't him. Perhaps it was one of his fans (he's had at least one of his gimmicks checked out by David Blaine) who were as uptight as he. Either way, it points out two things:

Magicians aren't exactly united.

And it's way too easy to hijack someone else's computer, not to mention a thread in a discussion forum.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Mysterious Mindings to Mind Mysteries Too

Some nasty-tempered people over at the Magic Cafe managed to hijack a review thread and got it deleted. This leaves us without a review of the Mind Mysteries Too DVDs. Let's attempt to fill that vacuum and see if the roaches come out again. I'll cut and paste it from here to there; this site is mainly for me to work out drafts and sort of log significant events anyway.

When I saw the first series of Mind Mysteries DVDs (four in all) I picked up the first volume, completely enjoyed it, but had no desire to pick up the other disks. The descriptions sounded like magic - and I wanted more of the mentalism that I saw on Disk #1. How little I knew---

This year, my wife presented me with the new series of Mind Mysteries Too (numbering continued from the first set, so these are #5, 6, & 7) and the descriptions showed me that, once again, there was magic mixed with mentalism. But this time, I was not afraid. We'll talk about that in a minute.

First, let's talk about Volume 5, which begins with what at first resembles the hoary old Mental Epic. But wait! It's just a normal chalkboard, and Osterlind just clips some index cards over his predictions. Normal, everything looks normal. And it's so simple and the L & L usual gang of suspects, who you'd think have seen everything, fall apart. And I, who know the "secret," also fall apart. It looks so normal.

Cutlery bends take the stage at this point, and (unlike MM 3) these really *do* fool me. (Thanks to a slight sleight that Richard demonstrates later.) Very much in plain sight, one spoon bends over obediantly. He puts this spoon quite literally right under Janelle's (sp?) nose and she sees, as I do, the impossible. And then several forks bend at once, looking for all the world like stop-motion photography of a plant wilting. And, yeah, his explanation makes it look easy. (This is a falsehood. We'll talk about *that* in a minute too.)

The following routine comes from a booklet that Jim & Richard (which sounds like a 1964 singing duo) published awhile ago; it's ancestry is traced to *the Jinx*. I am VERY disappointed that Richard demonstrates "the Very Modern Mindreader" on this disk, because I wanted it kept to myself. Failing that, I'd hoped it would stay with only those performers who could and would read books. Spectators seal their own factoids in little envelopes that are used only by mentalists and banks. THEY seal them; my audiences always insisted that I hadn't even touched 'em when I performed this. And then I would, as Richard does on this video, tell them what's on the card -- and many things which they'd never written. As I said, this began as "the Modern Mindreader" in *the Jinx* -- but now all the weaknesses and possible flubs of the original have been turned into strengths. Even a fumble-fingered klutz such as I have been able to perform this -very- strongly. It's a routine which demonstrates one of Osterlind's greater strengths: the ability to look at an idea, ruthlessly tear it down to its most primal form, then rebuild it with a stronger structure. (Mike Close is also known for this ability. We'll have to make an essay out of this idea some time.)

A strong lesson taught during the explanation is that bold and natural, is safer than safe.

Digital Feedback follows, and it doesn't really fit my style but I'll eventually try it anyway. A calculator is used by various spectators to add various "think of" numbers. Twice, by two different groups of people. And the mentalist has predicted what numbers each group would have. And then he shows he predicted what the total of the two numbers would be. This takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah and showmanship; otherwise the audience would realize that of COURSE he'd know the total if he knew the numbers. But they don't, they just don't, because the mentalist should have them in his/her power at this point.

Aside: Richard's explanation suggests an expensive piece of equipment. I had no problem with a cheap version. I'm such a cheapskate!

Opening the second set, Osterlind walks out with a folded card or piece of paper held in plain sight, never leaving our sight at all. Someone gives him a number, and Richard hands him the card - still folded. Unfolding it, the innocent audience member finds the number that they said. Yes, this is as simple as it sounds. Be surprised at how strongly people react to this. It's great for strolling. This routine was included in TWO books which the aforementioned singing due published. Really, if no one picked up on it by this time, you'd think Richard could have held it back for a few more years.

The Stainless Steel Blindfold is mainly about the prop, which magicians will dismiss and audiences will puzzle over. It's a blindfold routine (What else?) with a high-tech flavor. What you'll see here is the mentalist visualizing a photo that is BEHIND him while he's blindfolded. If you watch this with your spouse, you're liable to hear all sorts of guesses such as "the blindfold acts like a mirror -- but it's too tight around his face. And the angle is all wrong for a reflection to show. That's not possible."

For a couple of bucks, you can make put together the Penomenally routine, where a pen moves without you going near it - and no one can find any threads and it does more than just fall over. Or you can spend another twenty bucks and get the prop from Jim Sisti. What you'll see here is the presentation which takes this beyond just a neat trick, and makes it a real gasper.

And that leads to the final routine on Disk 5: Stopping a Watch. But the watches don't just stop. They change time, sometimes when the mentalist isn't really near the watch. (It's not what you do, and it's not what they think you do, it's what they REMEMBER you did!) At one point, you'll see a watch start spinning like crazy. Oh yeah, you can scare your grandkids with this one.

The explanations on these disks occasionally border on the boring this time. I'm convinced we need the interplay between Jim Sisti and Richard Osterlind; the colorful table and backdrop are needed too. These explanations are effective, but that dark backdrop and empty set just has some sort of lost-in-a-cave claustrophobic feel to it. Brrrr! It gets so much better when Jim joins Richard on camera!

That's a lot said about only one disk. I think I'll take a break, take some insulin, and wait 'til Monday or Tuesday night to write about Disk Six.

....which is actually better than Disk Five and includes my favorite routine.

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