Saturday, May 19, 2012

Murphy's Laws

Today is a rare document uncovered by a man who obviously spent too much time in an attic with a tinfoil hat on. It has been preserved at a different location. Click the image to read it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weezing the Juice

Today's contributor is one of our prominent buskers here in Las Vegas. All the single ladies, put yer hands up for GRNDL.

An older magician once told me “There’s only 2 reasons a magician goes to a magic show. To make fun of or to steal.” With his new appeal fresh in the news, I remembered this old clip of a little known magician named Orenthal James Simpson. That’s right. O.J. Go ahead and watch the clip if you haven’t.

Now let’s see how I can sort this into what I can steal and what I can laugh at.

First, Bea Arthur’s lines about a “smile more dazzling than his golden awards” and “all-around Mr. Wonderful” makes me giggle. Accolades like that, from a Golden Girl no less, have gotta be worth something in Lovelock Correctional Center. But let’s focus on the magic.

Now I realize that this is Circus of the Stars and this is not what these folks are trained to do. OJ, at this point, was used to being on the field, not the stage. He feels a bit awkward at first, fumbling with the scarf in his hand. He explains that he’s rather new at this, as his eyes flit around the audience. We know he knows we know he’s an amateur. Then he tells his story of being inspired to do magic by Muhammed Ali. Strange inspiration, like being inspired to paint by Tony Bennett, but it works as the misdirection to produce the cane. He’s used his knowledge of his awkward nervousness to lull me in, hit me off guard with a name drop, and produced the cane in a way most magicians don’t. And I like it. It’s not the usual flash vertical appearance. It’s a slow, horizontal appearance and it looks very nice. 

Ideas stolen: Embrace the awkward energy that comes at the beginning of the show, the bit before you get your “stage legs” workin right. Sometimes, just the tiniest tweaks on an old effect can make it seem new again, or Goodwill new. 

Laughed at: The awkward hand-off to the assistant after.

He then goes into a silk-thru-cane routine. After the first penetration, he seems to have gained his stride and stage legs. Then he establishes his character: football player. He lets his character share about his life and then made an analogy using magic. This gives him the freedom to talk comfortably instead of sounding rehearsed as he goes through his routine. 

Stolen: Make sure the script reflect your character and make those scripts about something you are interested in and can talk freely on.
Laughed at: Another awkward transition. (1:45) “The great thing about magic is how things just appear out of nowhere”. Not here. I think it came out of her butt while you were digging around there, but that could just be me.

As he ties the white and blue scarves, he starts to head down the dread “Path of Explanation“, the needless narration of what you are doing. But only long enough to establish what he’s doing. He then goes to a character reference about hand injuries, spiced up with name dropping. Name dropping can work for you, too, if not overdone.
Stolen: Have a script prepared for the procedural parts. Explanation minimal.

Laughed at: “In Buffalo, our colors were red, white, and blue” That applies to all NFL team, Juice.

The byplay between him and the assistant about the candle, sucked. But I liked the idea of her holding the flame as he walks away. Stolen.

His movements during the jumping color sequence was a bit awkward, but again, he used it to lull you before producing the bird. Then another awkward hand-off and an oops at 3:45. Bad steal. Don’t wanna start a habit of those. He then transforms the bird into a scarf, and we come back full circle. He looks the same as he did when he first came onstage. Subliminal callback. Neat idea. Stolen. And he needs to push it further. He needs a finale or it will feel like a pointless journey. But then, wait…what the hell is that in the background? Her dress? Has she been wearing that the whole time? Looks like it was designed by a lazy hooker. He then calls all the kids (using “sweetheart” which is bad enough to use on little girls, but creeps me out when used on little boys) to cheer as he produces Bea Arthur.

Lessons Learned

What to do: Use nervous energy or awkwardness to an advantage. Slow down when you are nervous.  Try things in other ways than the way you’ve always seen them done. Recognize the lulls and procedural moments and script accordingly. Keep scripts consistent with character. Write scripts on subjects that interest you. Keep explanation to a minimum. Keeping a flame stationary while moving the fuel source, looks cool. Subliminal callbacks. Come full circle, then push one step beyond. Talk to kids like you would talk to an adult. Include naked pictures of Bea Arthur on a list of demands so you can plead insanity later. (Guess OJ never saw Airheads)

What not to do: Murder my ex and her boyfriend. Get cocky about getting away with murder and write a book. Rob people at gunpoint at Palace Station. Remind a fellow inmate of my dazzling smile.

Thanks, Nevada Inmate #02648927. I’ve learned from you. Now I will return to laughing at you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Being an Artist

Du kennst ihn, du liebst ihn, er ist der kreative Kopf hinter Wöchentliche Magie Failure. Sag hallo zu Roland.

I read a quote once: "An artist is somebody who is under the delusion that his contributions to life are more valuable than those of others." I can't tell you who said that, but I assume he must have been through a rough period of life. And by that I mean, he has met people who think of themselves as artists.

Is magic art? Certainly not. The same way painting is not art and music is not. It's just paint on a canvas, just notes following each other. But it can be. The colors can be combined with such skill that the overall image creates an emotional reaction that the observer experiences. The notes can be arranged in such an order, that listeners weep with emotions as they get sucked into an area of their memory that connects the most with the music. And that creates emotions. Various emotions. Art can make you laugh, cry, be angry, mad, speechless and remorseful. It can make you think, or question your beliefs. It can change your whole prospect of life. It can start a discussion leading to interesting answers. It can be a monument of silence. Most often, art truly has a devastating impact on those who observe it.

Now apply that to a card trick! Seems pathetic doesn't it. When was the last time a pick a card trick made you cry? When was the time an Ambitious Card made you question your position in life? Where am I going with this? Well, most magic is not art, therefore the magician is not an artist.

So what the hell are we? Entertainers! It is our job to invade a certain time slot in some body's life and entertain them. If we are lucky we manage to put our personality in this, so people remember the magician, instead of remembering that there was a magician.

If you still try being an artist consider this: Most people, most often don't want to see "art". People go to the movies to be entertained. To have a certain time slot in their life be filled with something that is a spectacle. That is the main function. That's what they pay for. It can be art. But that would only be secondary. First it needs to entertain. So if there is a moral to all of this: Be entertaining! Create an atmosphere that people think that only 5 minutes have passed where in reality it was 20 minutes. That's the true essence of entertainment. To make time pass quickly.

Art most often does the opposite.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Randi Rains on your parade...

Today's guest column comes from a very talented prop maker and designer, Randi Rain

When I was asked to write something for this blog, it was suggested I write about how I am always “bitching” about magicians “bitching” about props that they have bought. Bitching is a magicians favorite past time, but I am tired. I am oh so tired. Like I heard from my mother all of the time growing up, “I don't know how much more I can stand.” So complaining about magicians complaining is not going to help, and I don't have it left in me to even try.

So I thought instead I would go a different route this time. I will attempt to explain to magicians how to buy their props so that they don't piss me off. It's really not that hard either. If every magician will follow two simple rules, everything will be just fine.

The first rule is to know that you are not a review board. You should never buy a magic item where your sole intention is really to go on the magic cafe and tell people what you think of it. You are not an authority. If you were, you wouldn't need to buy anything in the first place. Of course we all know that some stuff is just junk and thrown out there for a quick buck, and if that is the case it should be mentioned, but original items are not the same thing. Remember this part. If you buy an original prop from an original creator, meaning “one of a kind”, then you can't be an expert. Now you may have suggestions. There may be parts you would like to change, but going and telling the magic cafe world isn't going to help that in any way, shape, or form. All you have done is confused the whole thing and any progress on improvements that you would have liked has pretty much come to a halt. So instead, you should contact the creator, not complaining mind you!, but telling them what you wished the improvements would be. More than likely they will do them for you and the product will grow. See, pretty simple so far. Rule 1: You're not an authority.

Now the second rule is even simpler. This rule is, don't buy a piece of magic expecting it to make you a magician. If you can break down your reason of your purchase to, “this makes me a magician”, do not purchase it because it is not true. You should first have an idea. You should have a direction that you want to go. This way you can know what you need to buy. The key word there is “need”. For example. A routine that requires a vanish of a bottle would need such a prop, so therefor Neilson would be a good choice. So you go buy one. You should never buy a prop, such as the one in the example, and then expect IT to make you a routine. If you are one that does that, then you have know idea how entertainment works and shouldn't be attempting it. You should also go back and reread the first rule.

Now there is an exception to this rule, and that is where you see a prop and it triggers an idea. That happens a lot in people who know what they are doing. You see, people who know what they are doing are always thinking. Thoughts are flying through constantly even to the point of insanity some times. Those who are able to stay sane, organize those thoughts in little cubbyholes inside the brain. They are there waiting for the key that unlocks them, and sometimes that key is a new prop that they have discovered. You can plainly see that it's still a not expecting the piece of magic to make you a magician. It is a magician making the prop a piece of magic.

So many people, who call themselves magicians, buy pieces of magic on a whim. People buy on impulse. They have to have that new thing that they think will make them a magician. One could say, “they are like kids in a candy store.” Well, not really. They are more like perverted deviants in a sex shop trying to find out what new apparatus there is that they can stick in some orifice. It gets to the point of being sickening some times. That's not what magic is, but!.. If you must, because it may be a disease that can't be helped, reread rule number one. Rule 2: Have a need.

Those are the rules. Pretty simple in my mind, but maybe some people don't understand the “why” with these rules. Let me explain. I build, create, invent magic because people ask me to. There are people out there that want me to share what I can do with the rest of the world. That's because there are a lot of people out there with a need for me share what I can do. There are a lot of ideas out there and even more locked up in those cubbyholes I talked about earlier. Original creators are not out to scam anyone. They are not out to rip people off. They are just simply trying to make a living. No different than anyone else in this world. So remember this the next time you feel the urge to blab about some apparatus that didn't quite get you off hard enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Go Naked!

To kick guest week off here is some words of wisdom from the pitbull of magic - Christopher Lyle 
For all of you restaurant workers out there like myself, I present you with a challenge...

Next time you go to work in your restaurants, take nothing with you. You heard me...Nada! Not even a deck of cards. Empty pockets, no rubber bands on your wrist...NOTHING!

Play your entire shift by pulling from your environment. Can you do it? If you can't, then you're a slave to your "props" and they will always own you. I know it's fun to whip out the coolest piece of shiny and unleash it on the masses, but is this really furthering the art of magic?

A true performer should be able to take nothing and make it into something. Every so often, I will "go naked" as it's a nice change of pace and keeps me sharp. Can you be equally entertaining and amazing with nothing as you can with a pocket full of magic shop fodder?

What would happen if you got to your restaurant and you locked your keys in your car with nothing on you? Your gear was inside along with your wallet. You had to be inside in just minutes to begin...what would you do? Would you buckle under the pressure or would you be able to provide your audience with world class magical entertainment?

If you prepare for these little moments in time, then it won't be a big deal when they do occur. It also provides you with a challenge and the opportunity to think "outside of the box of cards" and really focus on entertaining your audience.

A magician can only perform magic with his props and toys. But an artist can do far more. What are you? There's nothing wrong with only being a magician, but personally...I want to strive to be more.

The true artist should be able to show up with nothing and do miracles. If you can't, then you should work towards it. It will make you better in the long run!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I remember the first time...

I saw someone do Snowstorm in China. I thought to myself, "That's a lot of confetti".

Therein lies the problem with the effect. It uses something everyone is familiar with. We know it's not "snow". I am not actually sure what the effect really is in that trick. Turning wet paper into little bits of dry paper maybe? I'm not sure the audience knows either.

How old is this trick? Well for one it was in Tarbell. That makes it at least 70 years old... and we still do it. Most of you the same... damn... way.

I was recently at a show where a small child said to his father "I remember this from the other show we saw". That, ladies and gentlemen, is the shit you don't hear when you are performing. I am telling you now it's played out. It's done. It's over. Time to give it up. Put the fans away and toss the bits of paper. You're done.

The snow has melted.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Night Crawlin'....

Old effect, new instructions.



It finally happened...

When hell is full, the dead will make their own card decks.

When the Blue Crown announced it's website "House of Playing Cards" and the promise of "something never before blah blah blah" I knew it had to be the ability to create your own custom decks.

Damn I'm Good.

If you thought the flood of vanity decks was bad now, just wait til' every yahoo who thinks they know how to design stuff gets their hands on this. We are going to see a HUGE flux in custom decks soon. From the horribly tacky to beautifully autistic... er... artistic.

It's a new era and I am curious to see how long this plays out. This is a great tool but like all tools, must be used properly. Tho' to be honest...

I am very tempted to make my own.

PS: Next week is another guest week. It's been too long. Stay tuned for my special friends and their random thoughts.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Lick it, stick it..

Jeff McBride posted some advice on his Facebook from a teacher past.

The idea of making every move deliberate is a good one. For those of you who need to hear it from a magician, Vernon was known for similar advice. Remove any extraneous moves until you can accomplish the same thing in as few motions as possible (paraphrasing like a mofo here).

The most direct path between two points is a straight line (unless it's on a globe. Thank you Batman: The Animated Series for that one) so why do we tend to meander thru our magic with so much wasted motion and moments. If you need all that posturing to waste time in the music, maybe you need to find some better material?

Take the advice in the article and see if you can posit-ively impact your performance by trying something new from someone who knew what they were doing.

We can still learn from our mistakes.