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


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