Saturday, June 7, 2014

Episode 11 "Razor's Edge"

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As soon as I got the trick I thought of different methods. The one using the magicians choice I mentioned in the video. But here are some more.What if you don't switch the bladed string with a gimmicked set of five. But merely pretend to attach the string on the blade (there are plenty of ring and string moves in the literature that would apply here) and then removing the blade secretly as you go into your pocket for a gimmicked set of four strings? That way I would seem like you are adding four more strings to the mix. Yes, that initial string now "has" to be pulled. And with a little bit of audience management this is a piece of cake. (for instance you hand them the "lame" string as the very first thing saying "Alright the first one I decide on, here hold on tight" and then pull. "But the next choices are up to you!")

But I stayed away from using other methods and focused on what was suggested on the DVD. So I made the gimmick, went out there and and did my thing.

The core group (commonly referred to as "friends") put on their "no way you are actually doing this"-face on. They have seen me do all sorts of tricks. And whenever I go into the chance and influence realm they did it. So they loved it as well. A very positive start. I need to mention that I did the Nathan Allen version with the gimmick already set up, as that version is way more practical.

The "stranger" group was next. All see me doing magic for the first time and only that trick. The reactions were different. Not much, but different. One woman flat out refused to hold on to the string as soon as there was the mention of a razor blade. Even after saying that it is my responsibility as I do the pulling she refused. So I asked her, which one she would have picked. Then I pulled on the other one, leaving me with her choice of string in my hand, which had the blade on it. "I'm so glad you refused. Are you psychic?" So the reaction was stronger. And more unpredictable.

And the third group was done in my theater. I established credit first and did that thing as an encore piece. I made sure that I hammered in the fact that my hands are my living. So naturally the anticipation went through the roof.

So we have a case of a really strong trick and a very shallow package.

Watch the street style performance by Morgan Strebler:

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If you watch the video you may realize that tying the razor blade to a string is not really exciting. It is what people in the show business call DEAD TIME. And it must be avoided at all costs. So why no approach with the blade already attached to the string? That would save a lot of time.

As I said in the video review: This seems like a rushed project as all the flaws are in fact addressable. You can solve every single issue and then really have a really good product. However this is not the case.

Also no variations. This is the sort of trick that screams variations, further ideas and tips while performing. All of that was missing from the DVD. It is sad to write this, as the implication and the impact of the trick has this grand scope that falls flat because of lousy execution.

But as a more upbeat way to finish this review: If you have the gimmick of five strings in your hand you are actually able to flash the razor by opening your hand slightly. That way you can convince your audience that you really have a razor blade in your hand. So you can milk the danger aspect much more, than by simply telling them that there is a razor blade in your hand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Episode 10 "RED"

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If you have seen the video you know that I think that "RED" is an okay-trick. Not the best thing, nor the worst. So I got "RED" last week. And I have been trying to give it a fair review by actually performing it. Here is how it went:

My core group (friends) have seen me do better. Their reaction was pretty average. Yes they had no idea how it was done, yet they felt there was some awkward moment in the procedure. One actually pointed it out verbally "Why did I have to put cards in the box?" My answer "So you would not forget your card" was a rather weak response. This issue is never addressed on the DVD.

Then I tried it with the stranger group. All see me doing magic for the first time. The reactions were much better. I actually had two groups to try this on. The first one saw me doing "RED" and only "RED" and the second one saw me do some preliminary card tricks and then "RED". The difference could not have been more clear. And just as I expected. Doing just "RED" people told me, that the deck is probably gimmicked. I was not going to argue with them. The second group had handled the cards before "RED". At least that is what they thought, as they have not been aware of the deck switch. So they were much more amazed at the fact that the red card in the deck was the selection. It actually was the talk of the night.

And the third group was done in my theater. And I realized that this is a good transitional piece to get from magic to mentalism. Did it play well? Not really! It is a rather weak transition. I have a similar effect (ungimmicked) in my show at that very moment. And I will give you that trick so you can compare: A red folded card is on the table in a cloth peg. From a blue backed deck the spectator touches any face up card. After the spectator had many chances of changing his mind he finally commits to a card. The spread is closed and attention is directed towards the folded card in the cloth peg. The cards is pulled off the peg, unfolded and it is the freely selected card.

All you need is a red backed deck a blue backed cover card and a folded dummy in the peg. The rest is simple stuff... a cull, a mercury card fold and Alexander de Cova's cloth peg switch, that he teaches on third volume of his "Treasures" series. (later published as "Paperclipped" by Jay Sankey) I do not let them sign the card... as I don't want yet another magic trick, but a simple transitional piece to get to the mentalism.

In the video I promised to give you yet another version to accomplish the trick. This is it: "The Omega Deck" by Jens O. Jahn. Basically it is like the "Invisible Deck", but both side of the deck can be shown. Backs are seen. And the freely named card has a different colored back. But due to the structure the effect looks as follows. A card is named. The deck is introduced. The deck is spread, one card is face down, red backed. Then the deck is turned over, blue backs are seen. the red backed card is turned over and it really is the named selection. So from a dramatic point of view you get three effects leading to the climax. First: that a card is face down. Second: that the other cards have a different back. Third: that the odd card is in fact the freely named selection. So this combines elements of the "Invisible Deck" and the "Brainwave Deck".

I talked about the misleading trailer for "RED". Here it is in full glory:

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"RED" is the sort of trick that sticks out like a sore thumb. You have to handle the cards very delicately. Personally I'm very sloppy with my cards. So handling them in the required delicate manner is something that would tip off my audience. If you do treat your cards nicely, I would say go for it. But there are many reasons not to do the trick. Moral integrity shouldn't be the first one, but should be among the first few reasons.

Btw: A good face up classic force could be hyped up to deliver about the same reaction. Just saying!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Episode 9 "Vortex"

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I would lie to you telling you that this trick is the second coming of Dai Vernon. It is not. However this is great filler. Really great filler. There is just magic filler and then there is great filler. The difference is simple. Great filler is something people remember. And this weird image of two cards twirled together, as brief as it is, will be remembered.

My core group (commonly referred to as "friends") loved that trick. They have seen me doing card tricks for many years. And they loved it. That gave me a lot of confidence to actually do this for...

...the "stranger" group. All see me doing magic for the first time. The reactions were this "what the bloody shitty fuck just happend"-face among colorful language. Man they begged me to repeat this. Begged me. And it was tough not doing it. But I'm getting told that the guys still talk about it, whenever magic, or cards come up. And that is a really good thing. If I were to leave my business card there as well they would have been future clients.

And the third group was done in my theater. Which is the perfect setting for this. Even among all the strong stuff (the cups and balls, rope magic and even the sponge balls) this stood out. Not as a strong piece of magic, but as a memorable piece of magic.

Watch the demo:

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You can put this in several existing routines. It can be done as a mere optical illusion or even be sold as some sort of hynotism. In fact the fact that only one side of the cards in the hand has the weird twirling thing and the other side looks regular can work to your advantage if you do any dual reality stuff. I'll leave you at that to explore the possibilities.

The next thing is a rather simple fact. If you have the gimmick in the deck, it can be used as a locator card, as a slight bevel of the deck will allow you to edge read the position of the gimmick and therefore the location of the selection and/or stack.

Here is an idea that I think already exists. It must, as it is so obvious. Make yourself some of your business cards with that design, allowing you to do that Vortex effect with your business cards. After the examination they can keep the business cards. I hope you see the opportunity that lies within the idea? If the back side of you business card is white and of standard size (as most of the client's cards are) you can even fuse your business card with their business card. After the trick they keep yours and you keep theirs. If you have any sense of business you know what to do from thereon.

Episode 8 "Freaky Body Illusions"

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There are a ton of things taught on the DVD. Like making your thumb travel, stretching your thumb, switching fingers, pulling off your finger, breaking your fingers, pushing your thumb through your ear and so on. All of those don't need any of the supplied gimmicks. So I'm not concentrating my review on them. Just the stuff that you need the props for.

The box can be used to store all the needed props, which is a good thing. The living hand illusion can be set up in there. And you can get rid of the gimmick in there as well. However if you do that you cannot use the box for the twisting the head illusion. I mentioned it in the video, but I feel the need to say it again: The ins and outs are not taught and the suggested order of the tricks do not make it obvious how to get in or out. In fact the suggested order of the tricks make it downright impossible to get rid of a few of the things. I wouldn't mind this fact if this was a product intended for the magic community. This is clearly not. The target audience are kids. And they would have a hard time to figure that shit out.

But I decided to show some of the bits to my core group. My friends. They have seen me succeed and fail with magic many times. I did the levitation, the living hand thing and some of the finger things. The reaction I got was mixed. But one thing was very apparent. It is highly entertaining. The finger stuff was a good opener, the hand thing was a solid piece of funny, but not a convincing piece of magic. And the levitation, well they had no clue, save for the fact that I really didn't levitate.  One said: "It looks like you float, looks like and illusion" Looks like an illusion means it doesn't look like the real thing.

The second group was the "stranger" group. All see me doing magic for the first time. In this case I have tried it for a few different audiences. Kids, adults and a mixture of both. I started with the finger tricks, which in every case got nice reactions, but far from a magical experience. The hand thing got a strong reaction from the kids and initally from the adults as well. However the later group really understood it as a gag and not as a magical thing. The mix group was the weirdest. The adults had more fun enjoying the kids reactions than anything else. I didn't do the levitation thing, as the setup of the show didn't allow for that.

And the third group was a formal booking. I felt weird doing anything with the green gloves, so I didn't do it. I did the finger thing as "my personal warm up" and there it went great. I did the neck breaker and then actually did the head twister to "fix" the break. It went okay, but I'm used to much stronger reactions.

Watch the demo:

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I really think that for a product for kids this spoils way too much. I especially don't like the fact that the third hand gimmick is exposed like that. I think that this is a really good principle if used sparingly. Then again the thumb tip is over exposed and pros still use it. But it makes life harder than it has to be.

So this is certainly nothing for a professional magician. For an amateur maybe, as he gets a lot of material which if you really put thought into this can be used to enhance existing routines. I don't recommend it, unless you have money to burn and some kids who would love it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Episode 7 "The Turbo Tube"

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On the DVD Mark Presley gives you several ideas how you can use the Turbo Tube. Holiday themed presentations and all. However this is again very trivial. Think change bag and you have all the many routines that you can do with it. But there is an aspect I didn't mention in the video. It is amazingly satisfying to do. But I guess that holds true for all sorts of apparatus.

So I did a routine using the Turbo Tube for my friends, which I call my my core group. I actually stuffed three colored silks into the tube, then shot them out and they were knotted together with one another. I honestly asked them what they thought of the trick. And I got an honest answer: "You love your toys don't ya!" So it came across as a toy. Well....

The second group was the "stranger" group. All see me doing magic for the first time. It was a stage show for children. Actually the perfect audience for it. I kept the colored silks in the tube and only prior to the trick I took them out leaving the tube on the table in the shade behind me. I did a few gags, miscalling the colors of the pieces of silk. Very standard stuff. Then I turned back with the pieces and stuffed them into the tube. I never made any mention that the tube should look empty. I just left the the way it was. And maybe that was for the better. As soon as the blendo shot out I ditched the tube. Was it deceptive? I couldn't tell, the laughter was so intense that the children obviously didn't care about the method, even though it was so obvious.

And the third group was a normal formal booking. A wedding. I told the audience in advance that the next bit is for review purposes as I was just testing a new thing. The reaction was a laugh when the confetti shot out. A laugh. No wow, no "how did you do that?" Just a laugh. So I decided, if I want a laugh, I might use it again.

Watch the demo:

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Mark obviously put a lot of work into this. And I can imagine that to him the Turbo Tube is his baby. However sometimes a child looks good only to the parent. I tried to find reviews of the Turbo Tube online an all I found was this lonely statement entitled "Confetti Launcher":
"What attracted me to this product was the confetti launcher feature. You don't need any co2 cartridges. the silk or confetti goes anywhere from 5 feet to 10 feet depending on how you have the gimmick set up. You can't shoot handkerchiefs larger then 18 inches and even that's pushing it if you don't follow the exact institutions. The dvd video tutorial need to be more crisp, but I've seen a lot worse. Presley goes into great detail of the Turbo Tube. I was impressed by the design. It didn't look like your common sparkly birthday magic prop. It looked like professional.

The handkerchief that came with the effect wasn't silk, but a rayon material. It looked quite raggedy, but I guess it was supposed to judging on how it looked when I saw the dvd tutorial. Overall I'm pleased. It works and I think this will work well in my stages shows."
There you have it. One review that is split. Arguing that the shooting part is the feature that attracted him to buy it and then some lines about how it has disadvantages. This is pretty much how I feel.

The Turbo Tube is far away from being a main stream product. It has it's very specific use and can hardly be used outside of that. But it does it's job well. A piece of silk going airborne and then landing safely back on earth.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Episode 6 "Stolen Cards"

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Table Hopping: I've done it so many times. And I will probably do it many times as well. And as mentioned in the video Stolen Cards by Lennart Green is not suitable for that particular kind of magic.

However it is good for any other close up setting. I can imagine that this plays well in a bar with a few of your friends. Did I say "imagine"... let me correct myself. I know for a fact that it play well in a bar. Because I tried. My core group (the people I'm hanging out with on a regular basis) loved that trick. They even loved the look of a deck consisting of many different back designs. It is different enough to endure yet another card trick.

The second group was the "stranger" group. All see me doing magic for the first time and only this trick. The reactions were different. I had not built up enough credit for this to be the strong. Somebody actually mentioned that it's probably some mathematical thing that works automatically. And he was not far away from the truth here. My conclusion is that as a stand alone piece this is weak.

And the third group was not a normal formal booking. It was done in my theater. Which is the perfect setting for this. I did enough magic to have established credits as a accomplished performer that does not have to rely on self working things, so this got the best reactions.

Watch the demo which is cut in the middle:

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So you see this has lots of potential in the presentational field. Lennart tells the story of him having stolen those cards. And considering his age and skill this really is a believable thing. However I bet that most magicians would fall flat with that story. So here is an idea:

You collect autographs from different magicians. You show the backs of the cards and show signatures that are on the back of the cards. David Copperfield, David Blaine, Criss Angel... But also Fred Kaps and Tommy Wonder. You can tell stories about them. The cards chosen later on have Penn written on one card and Teller on the other card (or Siegfried and Roy). Then the marker cards are turned over and reveal the same signatures. "I've been there twice."

You also have your one way deck finish. And you can have fun counterfeiting all the signatures.

But what I particularly like about this is the fact that you are bringing out a new deck in a motivated way. This allows for a very natural deck switch of the main deck. Not that this matters for most magicians, as they simply do magic with one deck the whole time. But if you want to get the most out of you card act a complete deck switch for either a stacked or gimmicked deck for the big finish is strong weapon.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Episode 5 "The Gorilla Grip Balls"

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The classic of the multiplying balls. Think about it, it is actually a wonderful looking trick. Balls appear out of nowhere and vanish the same way. The ball is a symbol of play and naturally most routines come across as playful.

In fact most of these routines are hard to do. The moves have to be choreographed, the face, the body language... all has to look like the most easy thing in the world. And there lies the crutch that we have to rely on. Props that work. In this case balls that don't slip out of the fingers. Ball that easily slip out of the shell. And shells that stick to the balls.

The Gorilla Grip Balls promise that reliability. And they fail. I assume a gorilla grips things very lightly. And a gorilla probably drops stuff all the time.

As I said in the video, the balls do what they promise in the first few weeks. Then the material that these balls are made of changes. It may be the humidity, the dryness or the sun's UV-rays. I really don't know. All I can says is that I don't want to buy a new set every few weeks.

The white balls are terrible. They got a yellow tint after only a few days. The shell doesn't match anymore and suddenly you have an unusable product.

I have performed and created my fair share of ball routines. Some use shells and some don't. So I wanna close this review on a positive note. Any Silk and Ball routine needs the balls to be slightly slippery. In this case the Gorilla Grip Balls might be the thing to use. A white ball, a red ball and the red shell. With a green silk this could actually be something to explore. You can have the white ball penetrating the cloth, vanish and reappear. You could then put away the white ball, which would come back. Then the ball could change to red and so on.

This however would not be part of the initial instruction and would require some basic routine construction that lots of magicians seems to lack.

Here is an attempt of what I'm talking about:

I did that routine for years, in my humble days of busking. I can tell you at least one thing. It plays well. The fact that it is not a card trick may play a big part in this. The bit using the Gozinta Box, the Para Box, the Inner Outer Box or the Lubor Fiedler Box is not part of the original routine. I included this to offer yet another magic way to introduce the ball. The gag that nicely foreshadows the effect of the inner box becoming the outer box is by Tom Mullica.

The actual routine consists of three parts. The first one is the penetration of the ball through the silk, which ends with the vanish of the ball. There a tons of methods out there. The most practical I found was in Jochen Zmeck's Handbuch der Magie, the German magic bible. At page 173 it starts. Following that is a pretty classic repeated appearance of the ball. The basic handling for that you'll find in Frank Garcias sponge ball book. That phase finishes with the appearance of the mandarin. Fruit always plays well. In the past I used one of the lemons I would use anyway for the Cups and Ball. So I got less props and you have a nice little element that strings the show together.

The third phase is a reprise of the first one. But this time the premise is extended to the part where the penetration can be seen half way. This is what got people. And it is necessary to have a spectator take out the ball. The thought of MAGNET is just there. You must not ignore that and need to prove that magnets are not the modus operandi.

In order to do that last phase you have to experiment a little bit. The thickness of the cloth is key. The Gorilla Grip Balls can actually work, but I would be scared to do so, as the balls are heavy. And heavy balls make it much more scary to pull of. The balls in the video are the "Multiplying Golf Balls" a great product by the way.  (just 10 bucks)