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:

MIND MYSTERIES GUIDE BOOK VOL ONE by Richard Osterlind

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.

*jeep!
--Gran'pa Chet

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