Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Blood makes noise...

Passion breeds many things. Love, education, sadness, and even anger (especially anger). I cannot think of one person more deserving of the word "passionate" than Denny Haney.

The highest compliment I can give Denny is that even my wife liked him.

I only got to truly meet him within the last decade when I lectured at his shop in Baltimore. After that, any chance I got I would stop by and visit just to hear stories and talk shop and gossip a bit. Him and I saw eye to eye on many things (even if he was shorter than me). His magic shop contained a wealth of knowledge and with his passing that shop has got a lot less of that knowledge in it.

I have mentioned before how we are losing our greats slowly and they are NOT being replaced. It's like a sports tournament bracket. (or the Highlander if yer nerdy like me) We are slowly being whittled down to the last man standing.

My prediction that has been in full view the entire time...

I'm not trying to be dire or come off as one of those idiots who like to claim "magic is dying". I'm not that delusional. We are however seeing a definite decline in magic of those who know any history of the art or how to perform. The worst part is the ones who are dipping their taint in the well will be long gone before the damage they are doing fades away.

There are very few of us who care enough to try and inject some knowledge into the lives of magicians at large. The fewer there are, the fewer there are that can be helped. I personally have no idea how to reach those who need to be reached on a macro scale. The ones who need it don't want to hear it and you can't really give it away for free because no one will value it. You can't even put it on social media so the people who really need it will see it.

I stole this from Shaun Robinson on Memes for Magicians
I think I am a mix of excited and terrified to watch the next decade of magic unfold. I want to see who will step into the light to rise up and take over the mantles of those whose hearts were too full and just had to give some of that passion and love away to those who wanted it. If you are very lucky you might one day become that person. Someone people will look up to and travel just to learn from and hang out with. If you are really REALLY lucky, one day some weirdo might even talk about you on the internet in their magic journal for 3 people to read.

Farewell you magnificent bastard.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

More audio fun!

For those of you who might remember, I did a post about how to run your own sound. It seemed to help people out and I am always looking to update the community on new stuff that might help them.

Today I share with you two new tools to help you make your music making experience easier. The first one was shown to me by Naathan Phan (the magic asian man). It's a bluetooth media button that doesn't go to sleep on you after 30 seconds and has a decent range. The weird thing is, if you search for blutetooth remote, it won't pop up because it's a "media button". Regardless, it's small and easy to use.
Little, yellow, different... (except for the yellow part)

The other audio toy comes to us from Ryan Stock. He runs his music from on-stage when he can. To do this you usually need a direct box to get a balanced signal which can be a pain to deal with if you have the wrong cables or there is no DI box handy. Well that's a thing of the past now!

A company with a weird long name (rapcohorizon) has produced the LTIBlox. It's part of their line of Blox named audio stuff. This one in particular is intended for use with a laptop or other audio device that takes a headphone input. It also has a volume knob built right in so you can adjust on the fly. This lets you have your ipod/ipad/media star/etc right there on stage with you so if something goes wrong, you can adjust it tout suite. Just make sure you have an XLR cable handy because you never know what you are up against in a new venue.

That's a sexy knob right there...

So make a new year's resolution to pick up some new equipment to make your life easier.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Part of the problem?

I think if you are a female in magic and happen to be considered "attractive" there are a few things you should know.

If you become high profile you will become a target. Plain and simple. People will attack you for the way you look over what you can do. Humans are shitty that way. Don't let it shake you but also don't become famous if you can't handle it.

The second thing is you will be a role-model and you should be more aware of how you present yourself, especially in the age of "the internet is forever". The younger generation, male and female (and other), look to those they see in the media, social or otherwise. It's where they draw their inspiration from and if you are on TV or have a big social media following they are looking at you closely.

It is (or should be) your responsibility as a performer to be the example of how to do things right be that in skill or motivation. There is nothing wrong with being hot and showing off what yer mama gave you, but temper it with talent as well. If what you show is nothing but TnA there are those out there who will think that is all you need and voila', more shitty performers in the world trying harder to get by on their looks than cultivating a skill set.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to use your assets to your advantage. It's entertainment after all. People like their "celebrities" to be easy on the eyes. However, the novelty will eventually wear off and if you can't deliver in the talent portion of our show, you might just fade into obscurity (or become a judge on a shitty TV talent show).

This post brought to you by Ariana Grande.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In tents...

I have talked a lot about creativity. Not only on this journal but in my lectures and to anyone who would ask (and some who didn't really). However I haven't really gone into a lot of detail about a process on it.
I'm getting there calm down you creepy %$#&.

One of the biggest things you can do to be creative is to place restrictions upon yourself. This means doing, or not doing, certain things. More accurately, it's creating within certain parameters. When you have a framework to operate in it's MUCH easier than having an open field of possibility at your disposal.

Having TOO MUCH freedom can lead to Overchoice or choice overload. Whenever someone hires me as a consultant for a TV show or to create something for them I always ask for the details. It can be something as simple as "I want to do X with B". Mind you that's if I create for others. What about creating for yourself? I find it best to start with asking questions. What is the main goal? Why am I doing this? What are the props? What am I trying to say/do? What is the ending? Asking questions is very important to the creative process. This allows us to erect Tent Poles.

Much like a real tent, these ideas give everything else structure. There is a reason you hear certain films from a studio referred to "tentpole movies". It's what gives that studio a structure. It's a different type of structure than trying to create magic, but the concept is still similar.

You need the main ideas that will support everything else that you will be doing. Take this routine for example:

When I decided I wanted to do tricks with duct tape I made a list of the things I could DO with that tape. Once I knew how it started and how it ended it made everything else find it's "natural progression". I also knew I wanted certain visuals. Smiling through the roll and then the tape appearing over my mouth was one of those moments. I almost always think of the effects first and worry about method later.

Sometimes you add more poles as a routine progresses. I didn't plan to split the rolls initially but I felt the act needed "something". When I decided on that happening, up went another structure to support the other parts of the story to make that happen. Having those moments and a story, either obvious or subtle, really helps. You don't HAVE to have a thread pulling you through the act, but people respond better to some sort of structure or theme because we like what we know. Humans are easy that way.

So if you are trying to make something new, or change something you have that already exists, just try to give your routines some framework with certain ideas/moments/effects/etc. It will force you to focus on what's important and cut the wheat from the chaff as it were.

PS: I hope you appreciate how difficult it was for me not to make any dick jokes while talking about tents and poles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

I decided to remove my pants for this post...

Lets talk about magic demos. There are more or less three prevailing kinds.

Filmed Live during a Show : These might be the most preferable for the serious professional entertainer. You can see how it works in front of a normal audience and hear/see the impact. Scott Alexander is pretty good about doing this as he pretty much lives on a cruise ship it seems.

Sometimes it's a teaser, sometimes it's a full performance, and sometimes he is black. Regardless, it's likely he has done these routines more than thrice and it shows. His stuff does tend to be on the expensive side but at least you know these tricks have seen battle.

Filmed using random people who said yes to being on camera:  This is the kind of demo you usually see for the bigger stores like Penguin, T11, E and so on. They walked up to someone and asked if they wanted to see some magic (or more likely lied to them about filming for a TV show and testing out effects on camera all without signing film releases). This kind of editing usually cuts around the important moments and might even splice in some reactions from other magic effects or jokes. There is no real way to know.

You have to be careful with these videos as what you see may not be what you get, especially if it's chopped all to hell and you don't see how they get into or out of the effect. I wish more of these demos would specify if it was for your social media feed or for real world performance.

Filmed in your parents living room a studio for just the camera: This one you tend to see for solo releases and kids who own a smart phone and don't tend to see sun light too often. This one tells us the LEAST of the three. You don't see real world reactions, handling, or practicability (I'm not entirely sure that's a word). If the ad copy sounds too good to be true it likely is. Here is an example:

On the website it says "Examinable Box has been Blake's GO TO opener for years" and yet there is no live video to be seen. You'd think after all these years he would have recorded at least one of those shows right? For the price tag of an effect like that, I'd like to see real people reacting to the prop to see if it justifies the price tag.

There are hybrids of all of these and some outliers obviously.  Just make sure you educate yourself.

Buyer beware.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Follow up...

Relevant to my last post:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

This post will not cut away...

Magic on TV/internet/etc has evolved a lot since... well since screens became a thing. Georges Méliès started with trick photography in films like "A Trip to the Moon".

 Over time we went from that to live performing with magicians like Mark Wilson. As time went on, magic being performed like it was onstage was the norm (nielsen). Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Harry Blackstone Jr, Paul Daniels and so on. In the mid 90s Gary Ouellet dominated the TV scene with shows like World's Greatest Magic and Champions of Magic. Eventually David Blaine and the street era would crash the party and companies like Elluionist and Theory 11 would glorify it to no end.

Now we are in the time of internet magic. TV specials have been replaced with netflix specials. Spectators are now voyeurs with shows like Carbonaro Effect (and pretty much any other show). Have you ever heard the phrase "it all comes back around"? well we started with tricky editing and we have come back full circle to it... or have we?

There was a time when every magic show was prefaced and even INSISTED there were no camera tricks. Many of those shows were live which would have prevented that from happening anyway. When taped recordings started to be a thing, it was stressed EVEN further. Eventually that warning tag fell away when it started to become a lie for certain performers (you know who you are).

Having said all of that, let me ask you a question. Where do we draw the line on what is a "camera trick"? It used to mean altering the footage somehow or using technology to "enhance" something. In a lot of modern magic shows the magical effect is made in the edit. They change the order of things and get "pickup shots" to enhance the magic. There has been editing and camera cuts to make the magic appear better in past shows for sure, however it was liberally sprinkled around. Like a spice girl.

There are now magic shows where every trick, every shot, every other minute has been altered in some form or fashion through quick cuts and time remapping. You could pretty much hire an actor with NO magical skill and the outcome would be about the same. (I'm not saying they should. If any TV execs are reading this forget you read that last line)

So where do we take a stand as a magical community? Well, we don't. We never have and likely never will. There will just be a group of us standing in a corner muttering to ourselves. If any of you younger magicians are reading this, try to be better. Don't let the asshattery of the current social media magicians affect you or your ethics or devotion to magic as an art form. You can... and SHOULD be better.

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