Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Linkish Links

It was with a little thrill that I learned John LeBlanc (no relation to the Suspense radio episode) included a link to this li'l blog on his website. It seemed only fair that I do the same, that is - list his also. This meant I needed to do at least a cursory reading of his blog, which I did, and found it entertaining and informative. What's more, I didn't find any obscenities in it, which means I can recommend it. You'll find it listed to the right with some highfalutin' French name (Escamoteurettes) which means John has something to say. He's one of the people who really think through mentalism, and has led some mighty interesting discussions.

Since I was re-doing the blog page's template anyway, I thought I'd include a few more sites which are dear to my heart.

Richard Osterlind is a good friend and arguably the greatest mentalist since Joseph Dunninger. His site is listed, and if you dig into the "magicians" section, you'll find not only a store, but his blog. Said blog includes some of the best ideas and applications which your everyday entertainer could hope for; the store -- well, I'd just as soon you not buy anything from him. That way, I get to hog it all.

Steve Pellegrino runs Magicentric, and his are opinions which the amateur and professional should heed. What I really like about Steve is that he can make mistakes, admit them, apologize, and press on. In a business fraught with egos, that makes him quite unique. Plus which, his entries are always entertaining, usually informative, and frequently outlandish. You'll love it.

Meridian Magazine is my favorite on-line magazine, and can wring a smile out of the most depressing day. It's not rose-coloured glasses either; sometimes it cuts to the quick. And I really miss Jack Anderson's editorial hand; he was one of the hardest-hitting reporters of the past 40-50 years and the world is poorer without him.

Google News is just a convinient place to find the local news.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Inside the Mind of Richard Osterlind

The following review first appeared in the Mentalist Sanctum, a friendly forum for mentalists by Steve Pellegrino:


Since this is a much more user-friendly forum, I'll be able to speak more freely. (Right. Like anything on the 'net is truly secure!) Here I can clearly state that I've been looking for something like this for a long, long time.

Let's first address cost and value. The book is $25. It's 71 pages, counting cover, copyright, and some white space. Its value may not match the price if you own the [i]Mind Mysteries Vol 1[/i] DVD. If these are your feelings or thoughts, I strongly urge you to [i]not [/i]buy this book. You may not be ready for it. Heck, [i]I[/i] may not be ready for it!

Value... That can be an intangible. Let's say you're a performer. Maybe not even a full-time entertainer; let's say you do this part-time.

Now let's say you have opportunity for some up-close advice from a successful entertainer who's put a lot of notches on his belt. Step-by-step advice. Someone who opens up the techniques and psychology. Someone who shares what works, what doesn't work, and what it took him trial-and-error over a 35-year period to learn.

How much value do you put on such a manuscript? How much can it help your career?

Because that's the bottom line, isn't it? Will it help you become a better mentalist? Will it enable you to "get that big break" -- a TV spot or an agency to sign you?

Well maybe. They say half of success is to be ready when opportunity knocks at your door. In this case, to be ready to become the best possible mysterian you can be.

Because that's what you'll be if you study -- really study -- this book. If you bought the DVD, you bought what Richard calls his "money act" -- the act with which he puts food on the table. And with this book, you take advantage of 35 years of testing this material in front of tough audiences. More than 35 years of experience -- you also get to learn what Richard learned when watching his own performance and the nuances he's learned in the past five and-a-half years.

Yes, he's continued to learn. And there's no reason why we can't take advantage of it. Jim Sisti notes that "never content with an effect being good, (Richard) is always combing through every nuance of a routine looking to wring every last drop of entertainment and mystery out of it until it's great." I'd go further; I'd say that he doesn't stop wringing even when it's great.

You have the [i]MM Vol 1[/i] DVD? Then you know the material and you know the methods. Want to make it better? Want to perform a Bank Night where you know the timing to every second, where you literally manipulate audience members into feeding you jokes and straight lines? Would you like to see how to turn it into an actual story -- where your audience feel themselves become major players in the story?

Would you like to know what Malini meant for magicians when he said "It's all in the eyes"?

I am very sorry to see such extensive dissection of the Perfected Center Tear and ThoughtScan. These are quite possibly the most valuable effects in mentalism and quite literally, the perfection is in the details. And the most valuable secrets of these two items are right here in this book. This means that what I've learned through extensive practice and study of the two booklets devoted to these effects ([i]the Perfected Center Tear and Other Assorted Routines[/i] and the [i]ThoughtScan[/i] instructions) is available to anyone with minimal study. There's a begrudging feeling that new readers are getting this too easily. (grumble grumble... See [i]Matthew [/i]20:11-12)

All the routines from "the Act" get this sort of in-depth treatment. Even the ones which shouldn't -- because there's more to "the Act" than we saw on the DVD! No, it's not fair that any of us should get this experience by proxy, but we do.

Did I know there was so [i]much [/i]rich history behind the Radar Deck (I knew some of it) or the Magazine Test? Did I even suspect that the Watch Routine had evolved even more since the DVD was filmed? How could I have known how Linking Finger Rings was structured to be an encore -- and how to ensure the audience begs for an encore?

Could I have known how to manipulate and "play" an audience so skillfully that they're almost behaving as if following a script? [i]Maybe [/i]-- after a coupld of decades of practice. Here I get years - YEARS - shaved off my work.

What would I do differently if I had put this book together? It's a ridiculous premise -- I don't have the knowledge or experience. I couldn't have put this together.

I would have explained what a "13 Invitational meeting" was, especially on page 16 when it's first mentioned. I'd have let the reader know who Raxon is and why that's important. Sure, some readers would know this - and some readers wouldn't. (For grins, there was a Raxon who was a Captain America villain. Another piece of useless trivia for your pleasure.)

And those are the only two criticisms. Maybe when I become a lot more experienced, I'll be able to find others - but I doubt it.

Y'know, I take something back. I said I don't have the knowledge and experience. Well, I don't have the experience.

But I now have the knowledge.

--Gran'pa Chet

Friday, February 03, 2006

Mormonism and Magic

Let me just rattle here a bit and see if something sensible comes out of this.

Magicians and mentalists are just too darned cynical. We use deception to simulate marvelous implausibilities, and then assume that anything which isn’t in our immediate experience is similarly fake.


We get so caught up in selling our personas that we start believing in them, and think we’re controlling powers and abilities far beyond those of mortals.

And now from left field –

People have written me and asked what Mormons think about magic. They know that there are some fundamental Christians who think that it’s the devil’s work and that all we magicians are going to Hell. (Most of those same fundamentalists think Mormons are going to Hell too, so I don’t worry about ‘em.) They wonder if we have the same concerns. Other Christians wonder how we reconcile what we do with what we know.

That’s really several different questions.

“Do Mormons believe there is such a thing as real magic or demonic powers?” Yep. Probably not as you consider them. We believe that when Jesus said that, with faith, we could just tell a mountain to move and it would move – well, we believe him. And that pretty much sums up what we think is the similarity between “real magic” (as people think of it) and faith. As far as demon types, we know that 1/3 of Heavenly Father’s children rebelled against him. Those 1/3, led by Lucifer, will never know the joys of being born into mortality as the rest of us have, and will never have bodies. But they remember their lives (and ours) from before this mortal life, while we’ve had a veil pulled over our memories. (And that veil isn’t very thick sometimes.) As Brigham Young once pointed out, sure Satan could cause this water jug to jump up and dance about, but that wouldn’t serve him any purpose. Similarly, if we exercised faith, we could do such things – but what purpose would they serve?

We believe what Jesus said and says, and we believe that we don’t exercise that kind of faith for the most part, nor do we waste our energies with wanting to do silly little tricks that serve no purpose.

We also know that we prefer to be anxiously engaged in good pursuits, and that magic – for magic’s sake alone – is pretty frivolous. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with entertainment value provided to an audience – humans were meant to laugh if they were meant to do anything. And for those who perform magic as their jobs, it’s not frivolous: it’s putting food on the table for the family.

“Do we believe that witches and wizards should’ve been put to death?” That part of the Mosaic Code which says to suffer no witch to live, was mistranslated. Joseph Smith found that the actual command was to suffer no murderer to live. That’s an entirely different concept. Even people who decry capital punishment might recognize that it was an effective deterrent for a wandering bunch of people who lived in a desert for 40 years.

On the other hand, we tend to recognize that a lot of people who proclaimed themselves wizards were not pulling these stunts for entertainment. No, they were after power and riches. We can’t be surprised when such people met bad ends. People love to be entertained, but if they find you’ve been tricking them into being your lackeys….

So that brings us to today, when we feel that David Copperfield, Kreskin, and Richard Osterlind are marvelous entertainers; while folks who pretend to have power from God or gods are just power-hungry fools. And we feel pretty badly towards anyone who seeks power.

Because the greatest power has always been the power to serve. He who is the most powerful who walked among us, has been and is the servant of all.

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