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Plots vs Methods September 9, 2011

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Methods bore me. Plots are so much more fun.


5 Phases August 9, 2011

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From a conversation with Adeline Ng, inspired by watching a certain Singaporean magician who performs with his daughter.

“Ascanio said magic has 5 phases: Learning, practice, corrected practice, assimilation, in front of audience and perfection.

I think most people never get to the third phase and jump to the fourth and pretend they are at fifth.”

Well said. Very well said.

Cheers April 18, 2011

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Magicians are not the only weavers of illusion.  Every act of creation is at once a truth and a lie.  Every artist–including painters, songwriters, movie directors, poets, and so on–is a magician, an alchemist.  We take from reality and reconstruct a world that does not truly exist, a world that is a mere reflection, a lie of the “real” world.  We are thieves and liars of the best sort.  Here is to the tricksters, to the craftsmen of ruses, to every act of amiable social deviance!

Taken from Joe Hedges’s blog (http://joehedges.com/music/2011/04/07/the-joy-of-trickery-this-is-not-a-pipe/), where he talks about the training he received to perform an illusion to close his concert.

Cheers Joe.  You’re one of the few people who understand us and what we go through.

Female Magicians December 2, 2010

Posted by mattlee in Ramblings.
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“What really sells, is sex. I witnessed men undergo complete personality makeovers in the presence of female salespeople. The women had the most basic human response on their side; regardless how behind schedule or how crazy the day, a male doctor would snap to attention at a mere whiff of perfume or a glance at a pretty girl, his instinctive desire to reproduce having kicked into gear.”

‘Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman’ by Jamie Reidy

The same applies to magicians. If you still subscribe to the notion that female magicians are in some way inferior to males, you need a reality check. The fact is that magic happens in the spectators minds, and women are far better than us at screwing with the mind.

I’m of course assuming a certain level of competency here of course. A lousy magician will always be a lousy magician regardless of gender. Although I’d bet good money that the female would still get a decent response.

How to present a magic trick very badly November 9, 2010

Posted by mattlee in Forums, Ramblings.
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Some of the most unqualified, turgid and downright idiotic advice on presentation I have ever seen can be found here: http://forums.ellusionist.com/showthread.php?90123-Your-patter-sucks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all well and fine with meaning/beauty/art in magic, however I do seriously think sometimes it goes overboard to the point of insulting the audience.

I noticed Derren Brown’s name is thrown around that particular thread in reference to his statements in his fantastic ‘Absolute Magic.’ (In my opinion, the best magic book to this century)

If one actually read the book you’d find a section where the affable Mr. Brown explains why he does not like his ‘Matsu’ presentation of Oil and Water and instead favors the ‘this is a trick’ type patter (which he presents in ‘Devils Picturebook’) Essentially, that’s what I’m trying to say.

Sometimes a trick is JUST A TRICK. Trying to sell it as anything more makes you look like a pretentious douche bag.

Nothing to do with magic May 5, 2010

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It’s 930 on a Wednesday morning. I’m quietly sipping a cup of coffee at a cafe in town after fetching the missus to her class. She teaches music and movement to preschool kids, and her various assignments take her all over our sunny island.

If I had the time I’d tell the story of how we both became happily self employed, but that’s not the subject of this post. I’m writing this to show I’m exceedingly thankful that I’ve got the chance to earn a living doing things I’m passionate about.

Perhaps you might think me naive, but I choose to believe that the majority of professional magicians do what they do for the same reasons as me. If so then it does help once in a while to stop and thank your lucky stars that you have this opportunity to really do what you love for a living.

I did that this morning, and it’s good for the soul. Really.

Giving up? July 30, 2009

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Gapingvoid the blog’s recent post hits me. Hard. Especially the line in the middle:

To be the best in the world at something- or even REALLY good at it- the sacrifices are utterly, utterly enormous. “Have it all?” Are you insane?

What are you sacrificing today to improve your magic? If you can’t find one thing, I suppose that would explain why you can’t do shit and your magic sucks.

Downhill… July 22, 2009

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Seth Godin’s recent post on his blog has this little nugget of wisdom:

The best time to do great customer service is when a customer is upset. The moment you earn your keep as a public speaker is when the room isn’t just right or the plane is late or the projector doesn’t work or the audience is tired or distracted. The best time to engage with an employee is when everything falls apart, not when you’re hitting every milestone.

Applying the same principle to the performance of magic, the best time to improve is when the audience is not exactly in the mood for magic, and you have to win them over. Probably won’t be the best ever performance you’ll give, but probably will contain lots of lessons to be learnt.

Reviews June 19, 2009

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Every now and then I get to review some of the the merchandise from Ning’s online shop, ‘Magic Boutique’. I am always happy to do so, because then I can actually pretend to have an opinion about something that matters.

Anyway, here are the last 3 reviews which I wrote. I sincerely hope you find it useful:

Avenue by Dorian Rhodell, from dananddave.com:
This DVD promises a ‘modern take on classic magic’ from a ‘student of Larry Jennings’. Let’s find out if it delivers shall we?

First off, like all other Dan and Dave products, the production values of this DVD go through the roof. This is good. Honestly however, I did not like the DVD, but this is due to my personal tastes in card magic. First off, almost all the effects require a table – which I don’t really like, as I perform stand up most of the time. But more importantly, I found the effects too convoluted to perform for the average spectator.

What makes this even worse is that the effects were not clearly presented. This is because the effects were demonstrated in the studio with Dorian facing the cameraman and imaginary spectators. There are no live audience demonstrations of the tricks contained inside. Having seen the trailer which DOES contain live footage, this travesty is inexcusable. I feel that in order to truly appreciate the effects contained inside, we will need to see them performed live to an audience.

What saves this DVD from being dismissed as another lousy magic product is that it does contain some very decent sleights and they are explained in detail – for example many people confuse the Pughe’s Pass and the Ego Change, but there are some subtle differences in the handling (Pughe’s Pass has better angles, Ego Change is more visual). Mr Rhodell is a pretty decent teacher and I did not have any problems following along with his explanations. His explanation of George Pugue’s One Card Shift (now known as the Pugue’s Pass) is flawless and will properly direct the keen student on the path to mastery of the move. He also explains the Mexican monte move which is a very good way to show 4 cards as 3. It is natural and looks beautiful. Again, Mr Rhodell’s explanation is excellent. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other little gems in the DVD. For example, fan’s of sandwich routines will find a lot of ammunition contained in the explanation for one particular trick.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Rhodell is a student of the late Larry Jennings. He is a technician, and an excellent instructor. However I find his creations overly complex. Not all of course, but enough that it is an issue.

If you buy this DVD, buy it for the sleights and the explanations, but I would not recommend the tricks.

Panic by Aaron Fisher, from Theory11:
I’ve always loved Aaron Fisher’s material – stunningly visual yet without going over the top and confusing the spectator. ‘Panic’, is no exception. A deck of cards visibly melts away leaving the four kings behind. That’s the effect. No more, no less. The wonderful part is that the spectator actually sees the deck slowly reduce (for lack of a better term) between your fingers.

Like any good piece of magic, there are some considerations to performing this. First off, although the standard version is technically angle-proof and low on sleight of hand, it is still very hard to perform. I can’t say more without giving the secret away, but suffice to say, your acting skills have to be really, really good.

Aaron includes another version in the DVD with ‘advanced handling’ which he calls ‘Widespread Panic’ where he incorporates the effect into a full ‘Cards to pocket’ type routine. Those of you who have read Aaron’s book ‘The Paper Engine’ will find this handling rather familiar, and it is essentially a variation of his ‘Here, There, And Everywhere’, which is the last trick in the book.

Ironically, I find the advanced handling easier to sell than the standard version, but that might be just me. However what I don’t like about the effect is the inventory management involved – introducing the gaffs and remembering which pocket has what… a working pro probably won’t have the occasion to use the trick, especially if he’s table hopping.

In short, ‘Panic”s strength is that the trick is extremely visual, and if you are looking for an act to fit into a parlor show, you can’t go wrong with this one. In fact, if that’s the case, it comes highly recommended.

Bicycle Karnival Midnight from Big Blind Media:
I have to confess, I can’t see the point of using novelty cards. All the standard arguments notwithstanding, I’ve always felt they seem too gimmicky to the average spectator. I know magicians who have used novelty cards with varying degrees of success, however my belief is that such things are best left in the hands of flourishers. (Pun intended)

Still, they look pretty damm good. And if the whole point of custom/novelty cards is to be eye candy, then these cards fulfill the job very, very well.

They are literally the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen.

Add them to your collection if you have one, but please, don’t use them. They deserve better.

Practice, Improvement & Life June 9, 2009

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“When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

“After you have practiced for a while, you will realize that it is not possible to make rapid, extraordinary progress. Even though you try very hard, the progress you make is always little by little. It is not like going out in a shower in which you know when you get wet. In a fog, you do not know you are getting wet, but as you keep walking you get wet little by little. If your mind has ideas of progress, you may say, ‘Oh, this pace is terrible!’ But actually, it is not. When you get wet in a fog it is very difficult to dry yourself. So there is no need to worry about progress. It is like studying a foreign language; you cannot do it all of a sudden, but by repeating it over and over you will master it. This is the Soto way of practice. We can say either that we make progress little by little, or that we do not even expect to make progress.”

“There are, strictly speaking, no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.”

Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind Beginners Mind