Saturday, April 29, 2006

'Til We Meet Again

It will be awhile before I can check in here again. I'll be on the road -- I have a house to close up, and a brother who's getting set to have three tumors removed from his neck. So until I return, play safe, look both ways before crossing the street.

And if you smoke, please consider dropping it. I've lost a sister, many friends, and possibly my little brother soon --- thanks to tobacco.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Magic on the Menu -- the Lecture!

There was a legendary magic magazine, which was published especially for the close-up magician. The Magic Menu was its name, and when it vanished, everyone mourned.

But, hark! We have something which appears to be a lost issue of the Magic Menu! "Tips & Tricks for the Professional & Aspiring Restaurant Magician" it's subtitled, and it's available only if you get Jim Sisti to come to your town to lecture.

Well if you have a magic club, an IBM Ring, or an SAM Assembly -- do it! Get Jim to your area, and do buy this book.

Because Jim leads the first half of this book with twelve essays that cover how to get an audition, how to get the job (two separate things), advice on tips (I only slightly disagree with him, but he does have years more experience at this than I), material, problem customers, what types of magic should meet your needs, making sure you keep the job and prosper, and so many more things. This is good advice -- no, this is great advice. And your career will be greater if you heed it.

That's not all. He follows these essays with seven effects which are ideal for walkaround, and geared especially for restaurant settings. Seven all-star creators of these effects: Jim himself, Tom Ladshaw, David Acer, Al the Only, Bert Allerton, Chris Hurlbert, and Tom Mullica. You'd expect great magic from these fellows; you won't be disappointed. The effects aren't complicated, they reset easily, and you'll have no problem with people examining them.

"Transmutation" is changing the volunteered (!) bill from a higher denomination to a lower. And then having the original appear in a coin purse which has been on the table away from your hands all the time.

"Signature Transpo" has your signature and your volunteer's switch from one business card to another - and leaves them with your business card (always a good idea).

"Forget Me Not" is when you sign your Voodoo Business Card -- and your signature flies to a playing card which your volunteer has been holding.

"The Happy Birthday Card Trick" tells us that it "is not a powerful illusion; it is a cutesy trick." When everyone sings "Happy Birthday," you deal the cards to the beat of the song. You land on their chosen card. You flip over the cards you've dealt and there, with a single letter on the back of each card, is spelled out "Happy Birthday!"

"The Two-Card Trick" has two cards mischiveously switching places back and forth between your pocket and the volunteer. But that's OK, because you're going to show them how it works.

"The Flushing Joker," like "Happy Birthday," will require a bit of room. You manage to deal yourself a Royal Flush in spades, but can't find the volunteer's card. No problem. A snap of the fingers and you flip the cards over -- to reveal their card's name spelled out on the backs of the cards.

"Torn" is a nice, simple, you-can-do-it-at-the-next-table torn and restored card effect.

Any one of these would be a nice complement to the essays. As it is, you might just have an entire night's act with this. Certainly, you have the makings of a career by following the advice in the essays.

The only thing I'd improve about this book, is I'd like it to come with Jim, demonstrating the effects therein. I've got to move somewhere that he lectures!

Jim Sisti's Mixed Symbols

There's a card trick as old as the hills, which I think I read in a Martin Gardner book, and that usually means it's so old that it's new again. Not only that, Jim Sisti disguises this principle with flavor and style, and it comes out a mentalism routine. (Some might call it mental magic, but I shan't quibble.)

It starts like a card trick, and this can lead your volunteer into a false sense of security. But the cards are ESP cards, and they're jumbo sized. Not super-jumbo, but large enough to create a sense of discontinuity in their hands.

I'll describe the effect as the documentation describes it, then I'll describe what the volunteer seems to remember. They are two different things.

"EFFECT - The performer hands five ESP cards, each bearing a different symbol, to a spectator and requests that he remember one. The spectator is then asked to shuffle the cards. The magician takes the cards back and, after an apparently fair mixing procedure, correctly divines the selected symbol without even looking at the faces."

WHAT THEY SEEM TO REMEMBER: The performer hands five cards to me and I remember one. Then I shuffle them. Then he shows me which one I was thinking of.

Yes, I tried this a few times -- including one time with someone who was familiar with the aforementioned "old trick." In this new guise, it flew right past him. When I recapped "Now, you thought of one of these symbols. You shuffled and mixed up these cards. Now - let me see your eyes...." they believed what I said. They forgot or ignored - or SOMETHING - that I had taken the cards back at one point.

It's a simple routine, and an effective one. Jim even manages to get all the instructions in fewer than two 5 1/2 x 8 pages (we've known since the days of Magic Menu that he knows the value of conciseness). I don't have the slightest idea how much Jim charges for this. It's available only at his lectures, which would be well worth attending at any rate. If he comes through your town, don't miss him -- and don't miss this routine.

--Gran'pa Chet
"If ya thinks ya is right, ya deserfs credit. Even if ya is wrong." --Gus Segar (through Popeye)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why Paint Magic as Evil?

How many times have I seen some "magician" joyfully exclaim that "they thought I'd sold my soul to Satan"? Wayne Houchin makes this infantile boast on his Stigmata DVD; others proclaim that their routines convince people they're possessed or otherwise evil. And then they complain that people aren't more accepting of magic, that "those superstitious hicks" are offended by magicians, and don't see our craft as an art.

Are they mad?

Not only are they glorifying in being perceived as evil, they're upset that their audiences don't rejoice in perceiving them as evil.

And they have this rash assumption (carried over from Faustian literature) that Satan is someone who can grant great power, that he has great power which can be bestowed, and that (somehow) Heavenly Father is helpless against it. (This carries over to the idea that someone could be possessed against their will.)

In another time, another place -- are these the people who would try to conquer populations by fear and intimidation, with smoke, mirrors, and terror?

Our vocation/avocation will always be mistrusted as long as there are people who abuse it.

--Gran'pa Chet

Monday, April 17, 2006

An Entertainer Entertains

I just spent another hour being highly entertained and didn't even notice the time passing. Glenn Bishop has added a number of fun videos to his site (see the link over in the right column of the main page of this hyar blog) and I'm still tingling from the sheer fun of it all. There's a couple of clips with him performing effects on Chicago television of a few years back, and I got a real kick out of the befuddlement of the TV personality trying to follow that elusive pea under three shells. And then Glenn pulled out bottlecaps and did it again -- the poor chap was completely lost and astounded.

My favorite happens to be his rendition of the cups & balls. I really like the fact that Glenn goes right back to the classics here -- the Vernon influence is obvious and acknowledged. But it's Glenn's relationship that he builds with the spectator that makes this a real winner. In lesser hands, these same words might very well make the fellow watching him (right there at Glenn's fingertips!) feel like a fool, and become resentful. Instead, the guy is very amused and entertained (there's that word again) and ends up shaking his head after the entire piece (which includes some linking rings) is finished.

Glenn frequently feels he has to step up and defend himself, since he gets attacked on various boards. I say he doesn't have to defend himself -- just put up links to these video clips.

But that's not why I called you all here today.

No, I convened this meeting to talk about a DVD which I wanted to review more than a year ago. But at that time, Glenn pulled it off the market and it just didn't make sense to raise interest in a non-existent product.

What I'm talking about is Glenn Bishop's Tested Tricks for Tableside Tricksters. No card tricks -- "just" a scam, a fooler, and some real magic. At least, it looks real!

It's been said, by no less than Bill Palmer, that no one does the 3 Shell Game better than Glenn -- you read about the TV clip of it just a few paragraphs ago -- and Glenn offers us a chance to do it just as well. I will admit that Glenn performs better in front of an audience than he does for a cold, lone camera -- so do watch the aforementioned clip. If you want the sort of reactions that you see Glenn get, then you'll want his explanation -- with his little subtleties. It's worth mentioning that he's been doing this routine since he was eight years old. We might not ever get quite as good as this boy.

Coins to Glass follows and, if you've much history in your blood, you won't be wondering how he does it. This is, after all, an old routine. But you'll be wondering how he does it so well and so smoothly. And part of it, is that Glenn suckers you. Once he has you positive that you know how he's doing it and what he's doing -- he proves that it couldn't be that way after all. In this, it reminds me very much of Michael Ammar's Incredible Coins Across which makes it VERY obvious how the coins are moving across - and then reality is yanked out from under you. Glenn's "Coins to Glass" is very much like that. And nice and noisy -- which makes it great for trade shows!

I absolutely LOVE Leipzig's Pride! The spectator sees - and feels -- the coins go right through her hand. This is also known as "Cap & Pence" if you're trying to look it up. There was some clunkiness in Leipzig's handling (Hard to believe, isn't it?) which Glenn cleans up admirably.

Now -- the Cups & Balls. You might guess how much I love Glenn's version of this wonderful classic. (Yes, Glenn does return to the classics, and I do find that admirable. There are reasons, and it has to do with the way these classics affect audiences.) The demonstration suffers from Glenn not having a spectator to act and react with (Which is something at which he excels!) and he makes the moves VERY obvious for teaching purposes. For entertainment value, see the aforementioned TV clip. You'll appreciate the power of this routine much better. Then come back for the explanation - and the ease at which Glenn loads the final loads. I have the feeling that even if he flashed them, his actions seem so normal that no one would notice.

Die Namic Diamonds finishes up the set, and will make you crazy when you watch the demo. It's the paddle move -- with a kicker that you see coming and is irresistable in its inevitability. Your non-magician spectator might not see it coming -- I doubt they will -- but it's equally entertaining either way. Because even if you see it coming, you're thinking "No way! No WAY!!"

And that IS a nice paddle move, by the way.

For this DVD, I can't believe he's selling it for only $20.

What can I say? I need to get more of Glenn's videos. He's fun!

--Gran'pa Chet

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jeep! and Jeep again!

Someone asked me why I sign my posts here and elsewhere with a merry "jeep!"

Lee Falk used to occasionally stop a story, in his marvelous and widely-imitated adventure strip the Phantom, and recount the character's origins. He captioned this segment "For Those Who Came In Late." As someone who ALWAYS came in late, I always loved these segments.

For Those Who Came In Late, E. C. ("Gus") Segar created probably the best comical adventure strip with Thimble Theatre. It didn't start out as an adventure strip. It was a gag-a-day strip, spoofing silent movie serials, with a cast that included a vile villain (whose name escapes me now), a Hero by the name of Ham Gravy, and the damsel in distress (played by Miss Olive Oyl). Then Olive's brother Castor was introduced, and suddenly wild and wooley adventures were the order of the day.

In 1929, Castor and Ham hired a sailor to run their ship (on the way to break Dice Island). Said sailor's name was Popeye, and within a couple of years Popeye had pretty much taken over the strip.

Segar continued to introduce fantasy characters with strong possibilities for humour. One of the best was Eugene, the magical 4th dimensional jeep. Not only could Eugene predict the future (which was of little help, since all he ever said was "jeep!") but he could petrify sea hags, travel through 3-dimensional space & time, and eat all the orchids Popeye would supply.

And he was good luck, to those who practiced virtue and honesty. (Thus, he wasn't good luck for Wimpy.) So when I was editing a Popeye zine, I began signing my letters with a "jeep!" and a picture of Popeye. Nowadays, I do most of my letter writing on the web, and I can't usually draw a Popeye picture. But I still sign my letters and posts with "jeep!" since it seems to be good luck.

--Gran'pa Chet

Make 'em Beg

Just got back from the doctor's, where I had to deal with a substitute. (I hate it when my doctor goes on vacation!) He saw my copy of M-U-M ( )and asked if I was a magician. For some reason, I seem to have come up with the perfect answer - at least until someone comes up with a more perfect answer. I said that I perform the splashy magic for the kids, and mind reading & mental work for the grown-ups. This intrigued him, so he all but begged me to show him some proof of my "mental powers." Afterwards, when I was leaving, he was begging me to come to the race track with him. (America has become gambling-addicted, hasn't it?)

Now this doctor's initial reaction when he saw M-U-M was not enthusiastic. As a matter of fact, he sort of contemptuously spoke about a relative who annoyed people with card tricks. Yet immediately after I said That Perfect Answer, he was dying to see some magic. This got me to thinking that there are ways to overcome the initial prejudice against magicians.

Partly, it's how we present it. By distinguishing - in a SHORT answer - differences between kids' magic (which I love; I love the splashy, over-the-top stuff, and I'm good at it) and "grown-up" magic (which I don't perform that differently, but "grown-ups" think I do) he wanted to see what "grown-up" magic was.

I'm also intrigued by how we can tap into specific audiences' expectations. For example, Cherie & I plan to move back to Arkansas or Missouri in the near future. We've tried and tried to get an assignment to St Louis. When we do move back, I plan on taking advantage of the closeness of the Ozarks and all the superstitions and legends with which I'm familiar. I may even present myself as having been trained by one of the old weird women of the mountains. Steve Pellegrino tells me that St Louis tends to perceive magicians as children's entertainers only, but I'll bet they'd react differently to Ozark magic!

And that's a key idea, I think. Find what's in their hearts -- everyone carries some superstition with them. This doctor was a horse race fan, so mentalism really touched his "greedy li'l ol' heart." There's some way of presenting magic to every person, I think.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

More on pettiness

A very few folks have suggested that I talk about Richard Osterlind too much in these entries. Get over it. Since mentalism is a key topic here, it's inevitable. And this is a follow-up to my earlier entry. Steve Pellegrino (Go check his wonderful sites!) dug a little into what the Petty Thieves were saying and doing, and posted, at Mentalist Sanctum, a terrific post that I urge you to go read:
-- and my reply follows below.

Hm, I think I "get it" now, Steve. All this nonsense over the past couple o' years hasn't been an attack on Richard, per se, but an attack on all Richard represents. "Old school" (I don't think Richard OR Jim would be insulted at that term. This is, by the way, the term used for we who still prefer wood axles for our yo-yos.) seems to enrage these frustrated kids. I've seen this in more than one field. (I was attacked VERY strongly by persons at Duncan Toys, re: their "finger" TV commercial.) It's a mark of wannabes, and - as you noted - kids who want to emulate what they see on TV, including the video edits.

Unable to build themselves up, they take the easy road of trying to tear down an obvious symbol of reality - since they're stuck on "unreality." Unable to be good themselves, they're determined to destroy good.

Richard should be flattered. A man is measured not just by the friends he's made, but by the enemies he has. It's like discovering that the Ku Klux Klan has put you on their hate list.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Petty Thieves

If I ever create something of merit for magic, just shoot me.

You want background? John LeBlanc has background for you. and it'll take you awhile to read. Richard Osterlind has background too:

What it boils down to, is a little boy who wants his name known. So he steals an effect from a well-known performer and creator. Gives it a different name. Reduces the size of the gimmick. And wonders why people of good taste and decency aren't throwing money at him.

It's no use trying to talk sense to evil little boys. It's not even any use to try to make sense of them.

I've given enough print to this little coward.
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