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)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Episode 4 "Magus Capsule"

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I really would have liked this to be good. The idea is sound, the method implied as sound, but the actual product is broken so much that you can hardly use it in the real world. Even if the Chop Cup feature would not become loose the weight issue is a really serious one. You feel that something is in there. The weight doesn't feel normal. So you cannot hand this out to the spectators. Which makes the whole thing redundant. One of the key things about the cups and balls is the part of being able to hand them out for close examination. It is the conviction of not existing gimmickery that makes up a lot of the amazement that the Cups and Balls offer.

The routines you get with the capsule are okay. There is nothing ground breaking. But you also get a few card tricks with that. And that strikes me as rather weird. On the one hand I appreciate the fact, but on the other hand I cannot lose the feeling that it is just filler. Which brings me to some general criticism about Jay Sankey: His vast output of magic over the years has been seen by most as some creative genius oozing out magic from his pores. I think otherwise. Jay Sankey's filter seems broken. The filter that differentiates between crappy ideas, average ideas and brilliant ideas. Coming up with a magic idea takes little to no effort. Coming up with brilliant ideas however is a difficult task. Sankey's method seems to be the "Quantity Method". Basically he publishes so many ideas that gold will eventually turn up. And this is the case with quite a few Sankey creations. But crap turns up even more. And this is true for most of his card tricks. I'm not saying they are crap, I say that they are weak... And I leave it at that.

The Magus Capsule is a trick that had so much potential. Sure it is not an improvement on the Cups and Balls as the whole scope of the Cups and Balls is eliminated with this product, but the practical aspects of this really make up for this. The better alternative still is the Chop Cup. Because argument that the Chop Cup is way too big to carry around in your pocket is an argument I will not let go through. Simply do not carry the Chop Cup in your pocket. In fact turn the cup the correct way, but your business cards in there and your marker and you deck of cards and you free your pockets even more. Hold the cup in your hand. Place the cup on the table and suddenly you have a "make shift office". People understand why the cup is there. So you don't put your shit all over the table. The cool thing: When you get to the point in the routine that uses the cup, you automatically dump out all of the content, including your business cards. That way you cannot forget to hand them out. It becomes a natural process. And you do a great routine with the cup. So do you see the business opportunity you got right there? Just saying.

The capsule is out of stock with most magic dealers. So this review is maybe a total waste of time. But I would like to see it being produced ones more. This time without the Chop Cup feature.

On the Green Monster there is thread of some magicians not liking the fact that the capsule doesn't look like a real world object. Instead they suggest using those plastic containers you can wear while swimming where you put all your important stuff like money and keys. Personally I don't think that this is an issue. In fact it isn't even a drawback, it's an advantage. Introducing the capsule is a great mysterious prop approach. People will wonder and ask themselves what will happen with the object. The answer is a pretty good and solid routine that they will remember. That is a reason I want this to be remade. It's actually not that bad, if it would have worked. This has potential.... but the Chop Cup part broke it's neck.

Jay, please don't make the mistake again. The mistake of trying to built too much into this to please even those who suck at doing sleight of hand. Also if the demo video shows blue balls, you better put in blue balls.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Episode 3 "Just A Cup"

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Axel Hecklau himself tells you that the biggest advantage of this thing is the flexibility that the gimmick offers. I agree. The simple fact that you are free to have the die under the cup or not, gives you a great tool to play with the "beats" of the routine. Let's assume the spectators point out that the die is probably under the cup. While your hand is in the pocket, getting the final load, you can casually lift the cup to show nothing. Unfortunately now the attention could shift back to the pocket making the "origin" of the final load way too obvious. Well when you place the cup down and up again the die could have materialized under the cup. This appearance will immediately draw attention away from the pocket towards the cup. It does relax the audience, they expect no trickery at that point. And it is exactly then when you load the final load.
So far this can be done with a regular chop cup as well. But not the opposite! You cannot have the die under the cup and then instantly vanish? Well now you can, creating that same wonderful "offbeat" that you can take advantage of by being one ahead.

It would be dumb if any product would get 70/70 points, as the creator would lose money doing so. If the the product would have been all good and free (that's 7/7) this would be wasted. This is too much of a good trick not to be exploited. However I still have an issue with the actual price. It's too much. I'm sure Axel asked people, what to ask for and I'm sure a lot of thought went into the actual pricing. But a lot of the stuff you get is actually not needed. The plastic bag that everything comes with probably cost a little bit to make and have the logo printed on. A total waste of money I think. Those who use it will have everything they need in the drawstring bag and that bag in the big bag of magic.

I have "Just A Cup" for a while now. It actually is in my table hopping repertoire. So I can tell you exactly how well it actually plays in the real world. But first know that I don't do the routine that Axel Hecklau supplies. I changed it a bit. Here it is:

My version is about how magicians lead you to wrong assumptions and use that to fool you. Which I demonstrate. It is a very satisfying premise and the structure resets. The Hecklau version is great but the bag that is being used caused me much trouble.

Core audience: My Sunday audience got to see this in the middle of last year and as far as I remember they loved it. No wonder the time honored premise of stuff appearing under stuff has proven to be most effective.

Whenever I show this to strangers it gets the proper reactions. If you have ever done the Chop Cup or the Cups and Balls then you know what I'm talking about.

The phase that is advertised so much, that of having the die penetrate the bottom of the upside down cup into the spectator's hand however gets mixed reviews here. Sometimes I get the people to get all crazy and to scream but sometimes the reactions is "meh". I don't know why that is, but accept that it is.

Axel himself does a great job of explaining how his props and routine is great. Personally I thought my German accent was bad. But it can go much worse:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Episode 2 "Stash"

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If you have seen the video you know that I really like this product. Not so much of the routines that it come with, but because of the potential this thing offers.

One of the ideas that is covered in the instructional video is the changing the sharpie into a cigarette. Dan does the explanation and then has to go through the disclaimer part that smoking is bad. Really? Is this a thing now in the states? You have to say that every time? Dan actually takes a puff and coughs loudly and hilariously fake to get this point across. Dude... political correctness needs a break once in a while.

So I went out and actually performed "Stash". Last Sunday I did the actual routine of the bill going into the pen. Instead of a mustache (bills don't have people on them here) I pretended to draw the spectators initial (which I knew beforehand)My core group was first. I got really cute reactions. But they all agreed that the point of coming back to the pen is really sick. Somehow this made the effect whole. I asked them how deceiving this was. They could pretty much tell me the method, but liked it anyway.

The second group was the "stranger" group. All see me doing magic for the first time. And they really went bananas over this. The got on the roundabout of let's fuck up your brain. And they truly enjoyed the ride. Did they think that the bill in the pen was actually the one appearing in the pen. I think not. But they were so overwhelmed with the concept that this "plot hole" was never addressed.

And the third group was a normal formal booking. I did it on stage; well more of a Party Stand Up thing for 35 people; but it was then when I truly saw this things potential. Because if you establish credit first, they actually believe it is the same bill. If they believe that you can do this, suddenly the need for proof becomes meaningless.

Watch the trailer:

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This back and forth of attention really has something to it, right? It makes you smile and be amused. So let me close with an tip for Dan. If you make your instructions available online (and there is nothing wrong with that) then please do not put the download link onto the page that comes with the product. Links can change. Instead link to your own website and from there people can enter a password protected section of the page that then links them to the video. That way you can change the instructional video as you want. You can add stuff like additional ideas and so on. So people would get just a password instead of a cryptic link that is hard to type in by hand.

So in case you have not seen the Pegasus Page trick... Here is a over the top performance by Max Maven:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Episode 1 "Ritual"

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I asked myself a few question while playing around with the cords and the beads. One of the more prominent questions that came up was: How is this better than a ring and string routine? A usual ring and string routine has more than one phase, each penetration of the string becoming more and more impossible. It is so much more than just three beads melting off a cord. The simple answer is "No, this isn't better than a ring and string routine". So can you do at least a "bead and cord" routine with this? Actually no. In fact the little hooks at the end of the cords make it impossible to truly thread the beads onto the cord.

Is it the fact that three beads come of the cords at the same time? Does that make the routine any better by widening the scope compared to ring and string routines? Again no. Yes, you widen the scope, but you take away the purity of just a single object melting off the cords. That however can be adjusted. You can do the routine with just a single bead.

I actually went out an performed this. I used three settings: The first one is my usual core group of non magicians I go to. They have seen me doing magic many times. So what was there reaction on it? Well I got the "cute" looks, which was expected considering that they have seen much, much stronger material in the past.

The second groups I did that trick for was a groups of people that have never seen me doing any magic. In fact I met those people the first time. So in a quite moment I told them, that I can do one thing that is really cool. Then I did Ritual. The reaction was much, much better. To an unprepared layman this is a strong trick. After this I couldn't resist and did a card trick (Card to forehead) which made them forget the beads and cords trick.

And the third group was a formal booking. It was walk around magic and I could only do that trick once. The reaction was as expected. People were puzzled. They didn't know how I did that, yet they were convinced that there had to be a way. One of the guys actually approached me later that evening and told me that he believes that the beads were never really on the cord to begin with. Seems like the Too Perfect Theory was at work here.

I was wondering why I didn't get the same reaction like Dan does in the video. I believe the lady on the street is genuine. Watch the trailer:

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And then I remembered.... Americans. Germans are very difficult to get them to emote actual surprise and happiness. Seems to be a European thing, that gets worse the more you go North. Americans don't seem to have that problem. They are more likely to go "No way", "Awesome" and all of that. Maybe even to point of deceiving the creator of the magic trick.

I believe I know what happened. Dan Harlan was playing around with the Grandmother's necklace idea and figured out a way not to do the knot bit. He liked it so much to not see that the knot was actually another layer of deception. He may even saw the illogical part of the knot disappearing as proof that the knot is actually a crutch in that trick. So getting rid of it seemed like an improvement. I think not.

So is this a good trick? In terms of deception: YEAH Sort of! Otherwise: No!

But if you wear necklaces this might be a thing to wear. You have one more trick and it doesn't fill up your pockets. But typing that, immediately the Charming Chinese Challenge comes to mind. Looks cool as a necklace and you have a routine with more than one phase/effect.