Monday, March 27, 2006

Breaking Through the Breakthrough Card System

OK, the long version of the review. (As the audience runs screaming to the exits!) The official one, the one which I'll post to my blog and (eventually) to the Magic Caffeinated.

Some folks have complained that my reviews are too laden with praise, or that I never seem to turn a critical eye. People whose products I've reviewed know this isn't quite so, but the accusation has a gram of truth in it. I tend to only review products I think are worthwhile, hoping the drek dies in silence. In the past, I've written blistering reviews of some real crud; invariably, sales would increase on said crud. Also invariably, I'd get letters (this was before e-mail) that told me it was just as bad as I'd said, but they had to see for themselves.

To balance all I've written about Richard Osterlind's products, I would be delighted (heh heh heh) to write that something he produced wasn't that good. If he'd only produce something lousy, I wouldn't be faced with this label of being an Osterlind booster. Someday, surely, he's going to miss the mark -- or perhaps he missed it in his early days, and such a thing is no longer available. Someday, he's bound to produce a loser.

But this isn't it. This continues his streak of winners, and is packed densely with thoughts you can use. I don't care if you never "do" mentalism. I don't care if you never pick up a pack of cards. Just learning the thinking behind the movement, the dialogue, the staging, and the type of audience contact -- this will improve your performance significantly, whether you're a magician or a lounge singer.

Michael Ammar said, in a wonderful introduction to a collection of the Magic Menu, that experience is the best teacher and that learning from others' experience enables us to gather more experience than we can in a lifetime. In Mind Mysteries Guide Book 2: the Breakthrough Card System, you can internalize about THIRTY YEARS of hard-won experience. Want to avoid some mistakes -- without making those mistakes (as poor Richard did)?

Richard spends, I feel, entirely too much time justifying the BCS. Why do I say this, when there's only a few paragraphs of defense? Because I feel the BCS requires NO defense. Richard speaks of comparisons people have done between the BCS and memorized decks. I dismiss such comparisons, as being similar to comparing the Zig-Zag Girl with Sawing a Woman in Half. The BCS is a prop - an excellent prop - to make you a mind reader, a precognitator, and a mental wizard. And the real secrets aren't in the prop, but in its use.

To absolutely prove this, Richard takes us step by step through each routine on the DVD of the same name (available separately). In each instance, he shows us how - through meticulous detail - how to focus on the effect itself. And the effect is NOT "pick a card/I name your card." The effects are:

- You get inside someone's mind, and see through their eyes.
- You determine what they've put in their pockets -- even when THEY don't know.
- You invade - INVADE, mind you! - someone's private thought. And you don't use any "Is your card in this bunch? Is it in this bunch?" routine. No, you just KNOW.
- You do this again --- but this time, even your volunteer doesn't know what card they've picked and put back in the deck.
- You demonstrate, conclusively, that you're the Number One Blackjack Player of All Time -- and that no one's thoughts are safe from you. You don't just demonstrate this. You actually prove that you're dangerous, and that casinos fear you.

Presentation. Technique. Subtext. Which of these are more important? In Osterlind's world, they are not separated; each is blended into the other.

Is there a problem with using cards in mentalism? Osterlind shoots that superstition down. Not just in an essay, but by deed. And if there was any doubt, a new routine is introduced:

A Poker Demonstration. Now anyone who plays poker with a mind reader is a fool, we know that. But Osterlind doesn't show himself as a mind reader in this demonstration. As a matter of fact, there's only one way to describe what he does in this demonstration -- because it's not a "I know what your hand is," it's a "I control reality and how it unfolds" incident. That word is "magician" -- in its literal meaning. Demonstrating this game, you can weaken it and say "This is how card cheats do it." Or you can weaken it and say "Mind readers have this advantage in card games." Or you can just do it - without explanation - and creep everybody out. Heck, I've tried it and it creeps ME out!

This is actually a weak review. I could make this much longer, I could edit this down and make it more concise, and I could certainly tell more about the strengths of this book.

But I'm too stunned right now, just from reading it. And from watching the DVD while reading it - which creates a whole new experience. I am beginning to see why Janelle, an audience member on the DVDs, never seems to be able to come out of shock.

$25 from -- What a ridiculously low price for solid gold!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Bishop Moves Diagonally

Glenn Bishop did me the great honor of listing me as an interesting link on his blog. This surprised me, mostly because I thought that Glenn had ended his blog. I am overjoyed to see it back and Glenn actively involved in communicating with his fans and peers.

Glenn is one of those people who always has a great story to tell, who knows his history, and has been able to make an audience absolutely stunned while they love him to pieces. It's a rare talent. And I enjoy reading whatever he writes. It's not easy sometimes - Glenn has dyslexia, so it's not easy for him to write it. But it's always worth any struggle (Is it "i" before "e" except after "c" or when sounded like "a" as in "sleighbells" or "neigh"?) because he's always so darned interesting.

I have two of his DVD tutorials and, though they're pared to the minimum required to teach the routines, they surely keep me entertained.

He is also one of those people that internet kids just love to beat up on. I don't know why some people attract this sort of abuse, but Glenn's one of them. Every so often, he figures he's had enough and walks away from the 'net. We're very lucky that he decided to come back.

There's a technique he's been teaching that has card people all a'twitter. It's called the Punch Deck and I have to confess that I have no idea what it is or what it's used for. But from some of the descriptions I've heard from some people who know cards, it's a powerful piece of ammunition in their arsenal now. Glenn seems to be the acknowledged master of this technique, or at least the acknowledged master of teaching it.

But me? I'm still struggling with my double lifts. This is WAY beyond my skill levels!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

a Sanctum for Mentalists

Did you ever check Steve's blog, linked over at the right? If so, you're at least aware of his service to mentalism. That service goes by the name of the Mentalist Sanctum, and it's a forum where you must convince Steve that you're serious about mentalism and about contributing, constructively, to the forum. This has - so far - eliminated the in-fighting and childishness which has been destroying the Magic Cafe lately, and which bored me away from the Ellusionist forums prior to that. I hesitate to recommend it, because I'd prefer it stay small and exclusive. So forget you ever read this.

This post is a little late being posted, because I'm recovering from a bout of food poisoning. I've been meaning to write a piece about my pseudo-job of going around lecturing on diabetes. If I don't get around to that for a few days (You DON'T want me going into detail about why I'm not sitting in front of the computer so much) I'd still like to encourage anyone with diabetes to contact me. We with diabetes should be living longer and healthier than our neighbors without diabetes.
Free Website Counters
Halloween Stuff