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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.

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

You know you’re a magician when… June 3, 2009

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I’ve been exceedingly busy of late. Most of it is work related, however I have in my spare time gotten married and bought a house.

Recently, the wife and I had to trot down to HDB to pay the outstanding amount for the cash above valuation. This is before collecting the keys. HDB regulations are such that the amount paid at handover cannot be a cheque. This makes sense as a cheque can bounce – something you don’t really want when you’ve already handed keys to your flat to a buyer. The amount must be settled in cold had cash, hastily withdrawn from a nearby bank.

Anyway because of this, I had to good fortune to finally see what a SG 1000 dollar bill looks like. (Its purple BTW) Two things immediately popped into my head.

1) My entire life savings converted into 1000 dollar bills can fit into a box of cards. I just realised how poor I am. I suppose I’ve got to learn from our famous friend here how to be financially independent.

2) You know you are a magician when, upon seeing a SGD $1000.00 note you need to suppress the overwhelming urge to fold it into eights and stuff it into a thumb tip.

1-on-1 : The Center Deal with Jason England March 10, 2009

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Theory11 is selling the Center Deal for$10. The same sleight that Dai Vernon allegedly tracked halfway across the country to find and learn, is now being sold for $10.

I suppose this is a timely reminder that although modern magicians can buy almost anything nowadays on the internet, the things that really make a magician are not for sale.

Stage presence, character, and hours of practice are all not for sale. Similarly, one will only truly acquire the center deal as a sleight in one’s arsenal after blood, sweat, tears and countless hours of practice.

Such things cannot be sold, and more importantly, cannot be bought.


Many hours of incessant practice must be spent to acquire the requisite amount of skill; but it must be remembered if feats at card handling could be attained for the asking there would be little in such performance to interest or profit anyone.

-S.W Erdnase, “Expert at the Card Table” Pg 72

Abracadabra March 7, 2009

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From wikipedia:

Abracadabra (sometimes spelled Abrakadabra) is a word used as an incantation.

The term originated from the Aramaic. The original Aramaic phrase was used with a Hebrew prefix Alef rather than the latter version with an Ayin. The difference was that the original meaning was “I will create, as I say,” while the latter was “What was said has been done.”

I suppose that before revealing the final loads in the cups and balls routine, one should say “Abracadabra! Lemon!”

On a more serious note, this has got to be the coolest magic word ever. Indeed, even J.K Rowling agrees, as Harry Potter’s killing curse spell is “Avada Kedavra”, which she openly admits is derived from “Abracadabra”.

Magic Day @ The Arena January 8, 2009

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So its been announced

Ning has finally posted it in her blog here.

I’m actually quite pumped about the whole thing, and having to come up with an 8 minute routine is quite a creative challenge. Hopefully I can deliver.

The thing is, I’m hugely, hugely honoured that I’m going to be sharing the stage with Enrico and Bob, 2 of the magicians I really, really respect. That really puts a lot of pressure on me to perform at my best, but at the same time I can’t help question myself if I’m worthy of even being mentioned in the same breadth as them. All the same I’m really happy to be given this chance, and I promise: I will be the best I can be.

Beautiful Magic? December 15, 2008

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Although I want and strive for my magic to be ‘beautiful’, magic can sometimes become so ugly to point of being vulgar.

For those who know what I’m talking about, no explanation is necessary. For those who have no clue, you’d probably won’t understand even if I told you.