Wednesday, January 11, 2006

and finally -- review of Mind Mysteries Too Vol 7

Boy, did I put a LOT of typoes in my review of Volume 6, or what?! I usually do so much better when I write in Notepad, then paste it into a post. Right off the bat, I see that I managed to lose a line in the 2d paragraph. One sentence SHOULD have read something like "Unlike typical card magic, the choosing of the cards seems almost incidental."

Maybe we should just have a contest to see how many typographical errors there are in that post!

On to Volume 7 (at last!!) - and a Question & Answer routine which is also sold separately (but with text and props) under the name of "the Final Answer." I don't
know if it will be the final Q & A routine ever published, but it does manage to be *very* strong and address the inherent strength & weakness (they're the same thing) of Q & A routines, as noted by Bob Cassidy. I can't say *how* it addresses this weakness, but pay close attention, for it's subtle.

A Q & A routine consists of the mentalist answering questions from the audience, questions asking about future occurances in their private lives. MOST - not all - of the time, the mentalist will read their minds to determine their questions, even before he "cold reads" the individuals and then predicts the answer to their question. Upon that skeleton, some of the finest and some of the worst acts have been built.

In this version, Richard methodically proves - without stating so - that he couldn't possibly have seen their written questions. A bold method, there might seem to be a possible method as one views this -- but it's absolutely impossible, and is dismissed almost immediately. With even a passable presentation (though it would not be recommended to try any mentalism without rehearsing a more-than-passable presentation) your audience suspends their disbelief with wild abandon, for the presentation lends itself to excitement. (See previous comment about the inherent strength of the Q & A: "She's going to answer MY question!!")

One VERY important piece of chutzpah that proves the innocence of the mentalist: Richard frequently stops in the middle of his answering to ask "You didn't write down
(for instance) the colour or price?" or "You didn't write down the number, did you?" type questions.

An EXCELLENT teaching moment occurs when one of Richard's audience members writes a smart-alecky question. With more politeness than is required, Richard answers his
question without stating what the question is, gets the guy to admit the question was answered, then tells him he should be ashamed of himself for asking such a question.

In the Explanations discussion with Jim Sisti, Richard tells how he could have truly humiliated the guy. (DON'T you humiliate anyone either. You never know who has a
gun.) Sooner or later, you're gonna get a smart-aleck like this; now you'll know how to defang them.

"The Final Answer" (Q & A) is only one routine out of twelve on this disk, but we spent this much time on it because it runs deep.

"Test Conditions II" shows another use for the Breakthrough Card System. That's all I really need to say, and I may have tipped too much. But the DVD jacket tells us this is the BCS, so perhaps I haven't. In this case, you "find their card" -- even though THEY shuffle the deck, repeatedly. To show the "bullet-proof"ness of this bit, Richard calls upon a magician to be his guinea pig. Almost as quickly as the fellow hands back the pack, Osterlind pulls out the spectator's card. Boom.

He even gives away the pack of cards afterwards, disproving any stacking or marking.

"Tribute to Tarbell" has the most intriguing title in this series, and lives up to its promise. A subject thinks of their card and ANOTHER audience member puts
their finger on the card - even though member #2 only sees the backs of the fanned deck. Please, PLEASE study the presentation of this -- it more than doubles the impossibility.

"Psychological Impossibility" proves, to me at least, that STRONG magic and STRONG mentalism are very compatable - and may be indistinguishable from each other at times. Jenelle (sp?) just THINKS of a card. The card is definitely in one packet (she verifies this). Frank picks a card from a different packet, which is put in
Richard's pocket. (Scotty has earlier verified that Richard's pocket is empty.) Jenelle's card is no longer in the packet which has never left her (or anyone's)
sight....but it's the card in Richard's pocket. This isn't presented as a card trick nor as a mentalism stunt. It's just done, period. Following "the Final Answer" (as did the previous two experiments) this leaves the aftertaste of having had one's sense of reality unbalanced. See if you can spot a classic (from Tarbell?) subtlety. Osterlind loves the classics, and insists that they are undermined.

And if "P.I." was magic-turned-psychological, what will we make of "Matchbook Prediction"?? Frank picks a card. Osterlind can't quite read his mind, and stops to (ugh!) smoke a pipe and think.

[A side note. You probably didn't know it, but it is a state law in Kentucky that every citizen is required to smoke. At least it seems that way every time I drive to

Our travelling mentalist tosses his matchbook to the side. Frank feels compelled to pick up the matchbook (Janelle is whispering "no..") -- and the matchbook IS his chosen card.

Frank drops the matchbook on the table. Frank picks another card. The matchbook, which has been laying right there, is now the NEW card. (Janelle *shouts* "NO!")
The audience is wondering if Osterlind has hypnotised them.

Set Nine begins -- ah, Set Nine, where we mix the new with the well-travelled roads, and neither seem to suffer. "ESP Stack" reveals yet *another* hidden gem
(hidden, because it was in print) that looks (Here we go again!) just like the ESP tests that all those 1970s movies and TV shows used. Very Kreskinish, this could be
done even if you and the tester are in separate rooms. And, nope, no one is going to discover any stack. (Don't tell your audience the title of this, OK?)

ODDS, the "Osterlind Design Duplication System" is demonstrated with (of all things) a duplication of a picture that one's audience member draws. No peeks - nothing which even looks like a peek. Like the ESP Stack, it resembles the test conditions which big-time scientists have set to prove or disprove psychic sight. This does not look like a trick, and if you perform it - please give it all the care and attention it deserves.

ODDS *is* a system, as its name indicates, and there are many uses to which this can be put. You'll find a *really* intriguing - and mystical-looking! - use of it
by Greg Arce on Richard's site. No, I'm not going to tell you the URL. For something this good, you ought to do a little work.

We come to an effect which could easily be dismissed as a hoary chestnut. The basic principle is in all those horrendously amateur "Blaine Exposed" e-books that litter
the landscape. Yet, as if to prove to us that exposure cannot kill a classic, Osterlind twists "Ashes on the Hand" enough to make it almost a new effect. Now, it's definitely a psychic marvel and impromptu -- NO forcing!

For fun, you can (again) be in separate rooms. There are several sneaks at work here. If you thought you knew the "Ashes" routine, you might be surprised at how much life is in this. Try not to laugh when he keeps saying "I don't know if this is gonna work or not," as if he isn't in complete control of the situation.

I am almost embarassed to admit that I really thought I knew how to do the Paddle Move. But "Pen Paddle Move" shows me a way to do it in *slow motion* directly under
someone's nose. And to continue in his vein of using everyday objects, Richard demonstrates this with those flat pens that your client may well be giving out at a
trade show you're working. (Which is the case, and the patter, used here.) Since, using these pens, one can give them out as samples (or advertising!) it's funny to
watch people rubbing them, tapping them, clicking them - all in an attempt to make them change as they've just seen them do!

There's not much which can be discussed here (without tipping the method); it either works well, or not at all. It works very well indeed.

"Dad's Favorite" is a quiet, unassuming Four Aces routine which doesn't pretend to be mentalism. What it provides is opportunity to practice audience management and
humour. It provides a nice break, and is a useful in-betweener so that everyone can catch their breath. The real star of this routine is the back story. It doesn't go for the "tug your heart" as Copperfield's Four Aces routine did; this gives you a pleasant, homey feeling. I think you'll like it.

And yet ANOTHER of those great pieces from a book shows up! You're probably familiar with the "Haunted Key" gimmick - but what if you did it without moving at all,
not one muscle? What if you convinced yourself that you really were using the power of your mind to move something? Aw, now I've said too much ---! Using this technique, I've had little problem in moving the key in someone ELSE's hand. Learn this principle, and you learn a LOT more magic than just this one effect.

Richard then demonstrates - and later shows how to build - one of his popular effects called "Solid Ghost." Don't expect this to be Glorpy. The patter backstory builds a
"creation of reality" which develops into something solid and round, very much like a baseball, which appears under a handkerchief. Thump it with something; it thumps.
It's solid. Your spectator feels it. It grows and, just when you think you can get ahold of it, it's not there. And we're told "it was never there" at all.

A good portion of this disk isn't "pure" mentalism at all, but you'd be cheating yourself if you dismissed this portion. The title of the series is "Mind Mysteries" and that mystery definitely happens in the audience's mind.

Pay VERY close attention to what Osterlind teaches during the explanation for "Pen Paddle Move." He's very passionate about magic & mentalism, and he insists that
these things can and should be done as if they're the highest of art. His passion is on display when he mourns a magician he saw who made something beautiful into "just
a cheap trick." During this explanation, he also teaches how to utterly disarm someone who says they know how something is done.

Once again, I'm grateful that Jim Sisti is there to make this an almost interactive conversation during the explanations. During the explanation for "Dad's Favorite," he actually seems to be second-guessing what I would do if I was there.

It's almost incongruous that "the Final Answer" starts this disk. It's so powerful that it overwhelms the fun little routines which finish up the home stretch. (Though I'd argue that Haunted Key is just as powerful.) A wise person would remember that these DVDs are for teaching, and would create an act from these effects. That's what routining is all about: making one effect flow smoothly to another, and for it all to tie together into one great whole.

Which of course, leads us back to the classics and Tarbell's excellent instructions for routining an act. I am beginning to think that Richard is on a mission to lead us to Tarbell and beyond.

--Gran'pa Chet

Mind Mysteries Too Vol 6 -- this is too long

"Something different" is what Mr Osterlind says he'll start the first set with, which is three signed cards to impossible locations. (Miracle Flying Cards being its title.) What makes this really effective, is that it becomes more and more impossible as each location is revealed. Here is a principle that we'd do well to absorb - to go from the believeable to the unlikely to the impossible. Thus will the impossible become, at least, believeable in context even while the mind is reeling. (The 4th Superman movie - the first with Chris Reeve - used this principle to get to an outrageous climax.) Unlike typical card magic, the choosing of the cards Once again, Osterlind blurs the line between mentalism and magic; perhaps he'd prefer the term "mysterian"? Though I don't think he's offended when some say he doesn't do "pure mentalism," whatever he's doing seems pure to his audiences -- and I get the same reactions when I perform his material.

Spirit Writing on Card invokes a thought-of shape onto a card - as a matter of fact, the shape is burned into the card. At first, one thinks he might actually be burning that shape with his lighter, but the reveal shows *that* wasn't the case. As a matter of fact, it's only when some of the burn marks are wiped away that the shape becomes clear. Nicely done, easy to do, but pay attention to the presentation - it makes the difference between real mystery and "ho-hum." (You're getting tired of hearing me stress presentation, aren't you?)

As a throwaway, as this is beginning, he abruptly demonstrates a mastery over fire as he's beginning this routine. He *just does it* as if it's something he doesn't even think about. This is how a real magician/mentalist/mysterian (? I need a new word.) would treat the physical world, and it sharply makes him an "other" in the audience's mind, even while they "know" that he's just a normal mortal. Well, they *think* they know this; there have been too many times when even *my* audiences have been unsure.

(From time to time, I abruptly move from "Richard does this" to "What happens when I perform this." My reasoning is that these are *instructional* videos and we are interested in how well they'll teach us to perform these effects.)

Our next effect could be considered a hypnotic effect as well as a PK thing. It's Multiple Key Bending, and it happense in the hands of an audience member who seems to be hypnotised into feeling the keys actually breathing in her hands, and that she's unable to unclasp her fingers. I'm no hypnotist, and I've convinced people that the same thing is happening. Of course, when she opens her hands, several keys are bent and she actually felt them bending at the time. And - oh boy! - he's able to show, during the explanation, how a potential disaster can actually increase the intensity of this effect!

We saw Richard perform the classic Clip Line on the Easy to Master Mental Miracles DVDs, and we go into the next clip wondering if the classic routine has been improved beyond its need. I don't think so. There are now opportunities for the audience to choose between at least two different clippings, and then to choose either side of the chosen clipping. The empowerment of the audience seems to increase the mystery here, and makes the prediction seem even more miraculous. Knowing the original, it still looks incredibly impossible. Richard points out that one should choose this or the original, based on the audience and the situation of the performance. Either will produce audible gasps; this version works with the more attentive and bright audience.

If you didn't buy *Making Real Magic* the book, you didn't read Osterlind's excellent introduction to the explanation of Amazing Memory Demonstration, in which he states that you perform this effect by *really doing it*. The audience shouts out 20 different items, with details. (Not just a car, for instance, but a car of particular make and colour.) He (and you, if you choose to learn this) not only plays back the list, but can remember any individual item (if they ask for #17, you'll tell them #17) and finishes by relating the entire list *backwards* - AND states whether each item has already been called and checked off.

To further stun us during the explanation, he playfully relates that this comes from Corinda and we should have been studying the basics.

And now I mourn, for Richard demonstrates and teaches StenoESP. Well, one version of it, at least. This is SUCH a powerful routine, and has been SO successful when I've performed it, that I truly mourn that it's out in the open now. He published it in one of his books, which is always a perfect way to hide a good routine from magicians and mentalists. It's simple to see and comprehend. The mentalist predicts and/or mindreads thoughts of one, two, three, and/or the entire audience. Though this can be also done with a steno pad, Richard demonstrates the version using spiral-bound index cards. I have performed this with as few as one and as many as 30+ people, and it has never once failed to astound. And I can't think of how often I've been approached afterwards and asked if I were truly psychic. (Curse me for my honesty! I could have answered "How much is it worth to you?")

What's the difference between a card magician throwing away cards and still having those cards, and a mentalist doing the same thing? I don't know. Maybe you'll say a mentalist doesn't even do such a thing. But I don't think Osterlind's audience makes such a distinction (and I'll have to try this) when he performs Out of Hand and describes a terrible predicament he once "had." It's a funny story, and shows the dilemma an actual psychic would have with real life. And he starts out realizing that, during a poker game, he's dealt himself five aces. He gets rid of one. He still has the same five aces. He gets rid of another. He still has the same five aces. This goes on and on and on, and his frustration level grows. Somehow, he ends up with a Royal Flush in spades. This is a nice turn on the Magician in Trouble and a different "throw one away, still have all the cards" routine. This is more of good old regular magic than mentalism, but he still gets away with it. I'll probably try this at some point, because it looks like so much fun!

Richard then chooses to have a little fun with a magician in the audience. Industrial Strength Link is a variation on the spring-on-ring routine, this time using a coat hanger and not being the old spring-on-ring routine. In short, the audience gets much amusement from the magician who knows spring-on-ring and then finds himself befuddled. It could easily become a mentalism routine by claiming to cloud the mind of the helper. You might not have opportunity to pull it on a fellow magician, but oh BOY is it funny when you can!

Now *here's* something which looks like you're controlling your audience member. A couple of what may have once been "betchas" are combined into Coin Snatch, in which you literally grab a coin from their palm before they can close their fingers. (You start out underneath their hand.) And then you grab a coin off a table before they can, even though they're just a couple of inches away, and you're more than several feet away. Don't use these as effects on their own; they make great change-of-pace effects between other routines.

Card Warp gets turned on its ear with Original Inside Out. This deserves a backstory developed for it, because it's a very visual impossibility. You fold a card into quarters. It visibly turns inside out. To stop it from doing that, you put a big ol' paper clip on it. It still turns visibly inside out, without disturbing the clip. The card isn't gimmicked, really; it's even given away at the end. Again, we've stepped solidly into the realm of magic again -- unless the mentalist is clouding our minds again.

Hm...we really are crossing that line so often, that it's a wonder we have any idea where we are at this point. And the point is that your audience will be - not confused - but mystified.

During the explanations, that black curtain is back, triggering my claustrophobia again. Fortunately, Jim Sisti is more on-camera again, and that chemistry between the two professionals is on-camera also. Watching it now, I can see why Richard wanted to stand with no table earlier. He really does use his hands so much in talking that there is a real possibility he'll smash his hands on the table. (I'm also guilty of using my hands; my mother always threatened to tie my hands so I'd be unable to talk.) And he really is more animated when Jim's on stage with him and, once again, Jim asks the questions that we would if we were there. The straight man rarely gets the sort of credit he deserves (just ask Bud Abbott some eon) and I think we owe Jim a round of applause for representing us, the viewers, so well.

Volume Seven to follow, with an overview and possible essay afterwards.

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