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

Posted by mattlee in Uncategorized.
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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 The amount must be settled in cold had cash, hastily withdrawn from a nearby bank.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

Posted by mattlee in Ramblings, Uncategorized.
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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”.

Failure inspires. March 7, 2009

Posted by mattlee in Forums, Ramblings.
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A recent thread about failures and success at the SMC forums inspired me to meditate on my own performance experiences.

I have come to realise that I have learnt more from my screwups than from my success.  The adrenaline high from a good show is but a transient feeling that begs the question – How do I do this again? How do I have good shows consistently?

I truly, truly think that this is the hallmark of a good performer.

Audience Reality Check January 13, 2009

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In all honesty, there is nothing like the blank stare of a spectator to humble you and send your inflated ego crashing to the floor.

No matter how good you think you are, no matter what lies you fool yourself with, in that one precious moment, something is certain.

You suck.

Now go try again. Learn from the mistakes you made. The wonderful thing about magic is that it is created anew with every performance. Other artists rarely have this luxury.

Go practice. Shoo.

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.

The Cure December 22, 2008

Posted by mattlee in Card Magic, Ramblings.
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Recently I’ve been wondering why my magic  (magic in general?) seems so inconsistent. Sometimes I can elicit gasps of astonishment, sometimes I look like a clown.

I was trying in the past few weeks to find a consistent way of engaging my audiences, and so far I’ve failed miserably. However I think I might find an answer in the words of Teller.

In most magic, as far as I can see, the plot is, ‘I wish for something. I get it. And its what I want.’

The cause in this case is the magician’s will. He wills it; it comes true.

This is not the drama of a human being, it is the depiction of a god, generally a capricious and trivial one. It contains not a smidgen of genuine conflict, and without this conflict, the magician in a position of god-like power at all times has not a flicker of humanity.

Teller (quoted from ‘Absolute Magic, by Derren Brown)

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.

An interesting conversation. December 1, 2008

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An excerpt of a conversation with a girl (let’s call her J), whom I work with from time to time. I’ve cleaned up the local slang (singlish) but maintained the meaning.

J: Hey what were you doing before magic?

Me: I was playing music.

J: Wow. What did you play?

Me (trying to show off): Guitar and bass and keyboard.

J: That’s a lot!

Me (head swelling): I never got really far in any of them though.

J: Then why did you stop to do magic?

Me: There’s nothing special about playing music. Nowadays almost anyone can play.

J: But there’s nothing special about magic as well

Me (ego deflates immediately): …

Make of this what you will. For me, I’m rethinking my entire philosophy towards the ‘art’. For the record, I’ve never shown J a single magic effect before this conversation. I don’t think I ever intend to.

Talent is a dirty word. August 20, 2008

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Mark Brooks is an artist who illustrates for marvel comics. More specifically, he draws for X-Men, Spiderman and Fanstastic Four.  He has a deviantart account, and recently posted this little rant on the word ‘talent’.

I hear the word ‘talent’ thrown around a lot whether directed toward me or the myriad of other skilled artists here or any of the other places artists like to hang out. I’ve always been of the opinion that there is no such thing as talent but rather the drive and determination to do something you love and the aptitude to keep working at it to get better and better. To say someone is talented(to me anyway) is to suggest that there was one day when we just decided to pick up a pencil or a paint brush and were able to draw or paint well. I feel it downplays the years of hard work, living in squalor, and rejection we put in to get to the level we’ve achieved.

I don’t know about you but I sucked the first time I decided to take drawing seriously and continued to suck for years. I worked my ass off and gradually (very gradually) got better and better and continued to learn and grow. Do I think I was born to be an artist? I like to think so and don’t think I could be as successful at anything else even if I put the same effort forward but it still came as the result of years and years sitting in my room and filling sketchbooks with crappy drawing after crappy drawing. I knew I wanted to be an artist and I wanted to do very little else. It’s an aptitude perhaps but even then it comes after a lot of hard work.

I challenge you; strike the word talent from your vocabulary. Stop downplaying the effort put forward by others or the effort you’re putting forward yourself. It does a disservice to us as artists and becomes a crutch to those that can’t draw and gives them an excuse not to even try. I hear “I can’t draw. I have no talent” or “I can’t even draw a stick figure”. Well, maybe you can’t but it’s only from a lack of trying and not from the inherent ability to not be able to draw. Find your favorite artist here on DA and take a long hard look at their work because you can be just as good if not better. They aren’t supermen and everything they’ve accomplished artistically can be a realistic goal for everyone else. They didn’t wake up one day being able to draw and neither will you. Once you fully realize this ,embrace it, and start putting that pen to paper for hours at a time I think you’ll find that all your artistic goals are in reach.

So the next time you see a really skilled artist and want to compliment him or her don’t say that they’re ‘talented’. Congratulate them on all the hard work they’ve put in to get that good. It’s only a few more words and I think you’ll find it sets you apart from everyone else.

The above applies to magicians as well. We kep buying DVD after DVD, book after book hoping to find some easy solution, some holy grail self-working trick etc. What we are really searching for is a shortcut.

I have come to realise that there is none. Perfect technique, comes with practice.