A Trick that Fooled Us

We are magicians through and through. The FOB caused serious damage to us. We’re no Penn & Teller although we refer to our self in the third-person.  But we love to be fooled and fooled horribly.  The kind of fooled where we can’t see straight from the headache that comes on almost  instantly, interrupted by the need to catch or absorb our slobber.

We stamp on the ground like a baffled horse — which was our 22:1  the pick in the Oaks Classic at Churchill Downs the day before the 1999 Kentucky Derby.  It was an all filly race and we figured we had the inside track.  We had a dream that day that the Number 7 was rubbing our back with a light oil (scentless), we woke at 7:07 am, we caught the 777 bus to Churchill downs, found Baffled Horse was the 7th horse in the 7th race and put $777 on the nose.  We watch the race with a certain sense of satisfaction to find that our pick game in 7th.  So even though we didn’t win, it was significant to us and taught  us to not sleep or if we do sleep, not to enter into REM states of sleep where dreams can occur.  We have switched to coffee in large amounts.  We go to 12 step meetings just to get the free coffee and cigs.  We never even smoke cigs, we just light them in a cool manner and blow the smoke out through the cigarette and then toss the flaming stick on the ground with the assured throw once would see in 1940s movies.

But we digress.

What’s new?

We love this trick.  It fooled us so badly.  We were sitting with friends outside the Magic Castle one night an a young man asked if he could show us a trick.  He was smoking a cigarette but really smoking it.  It was as if he wanted the smoke to go into his lungs.  He still had the cool toss and the smelly fingers but he was taking smoking to a whole new and likely unsafe level.  We don’t know if there has been any research on the effects of taking tobacco smoke into your lungs but it seems like something they should look at it.  Maybe the big tobacco companies could look into it since they would seem to have the most data.

He performed the trick and I could find no explanation.  None.  Now I learn that it can be bought here at MJM Magic.  Check it out and see if doesn’t make you drool.

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Impostor Syndrome and Magicians

There is a wonderful, short essay in Jeff McBride’s newsletter today from a fellow magician by the name of Santiago.  His topic is one that we ponder incessantly – the Impostor Syndrome.

Magicians may face this more than other realms of the variety arts.  After all, our whole job is to be an impostor.  We recall Robert Houdin’s famous saying that a “magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.”  We weren’t around when he said or wrote it but we think it applies in spades to our feeling each time we take the stage or the close-up table.

Part of being a magician is deciding how we represent ourselves to the audience.  Do we claim to have magical powers (or can a psychic truly read minds)?  Or are we simply using skills undetectable by the audience to accomplish what appears to be real magic?  Or are we just presenting puzzles for the audience to guess their method?

Pop Haydn taught in his phenomenal School for Scoundrels that when presenting the Three Shell game, the audience doesn’t see it as true magic because they know there must be some way the invisible movement of the pea is being accomplished.  But that does not diminish the effect.

We are a sucker for charts.  You could tell us that the earth was round, the sky is blue and grass is green, and we would nod knowingly.  But if you showed us in a chart or a graphic, we would say things like “of course, now we see!” and we would say it in a manner that implied an exclamation point at the end of our statement.  Probably by speaking emphatically and nodding like a bobble head and smiling like a fool who is doing brain damage from incessant head nodding.

We mention charts not only because we love them but also because Santiago includes charts in his essay.

If you have pondered the Impostor Syndrome or are suffering from it, you should check out the essay and sign-up for Jeff McBride’s newsletter.  It has yet to disappoint.

Read the essay here.

Sign-up for Jeff McBride’s newsletter here.

Inside Magic Letters to Editor Answered

As required under the new California Conjurers and Variety Artists Correspondence Act of 2019, Inside Magic will publish appropriate letters to the editor on a periodic (but not less than, as required by the CCVACA “once every once in a while”) basis. 

Today is just such an every once in a while.

We welcome your letters in any form or language.

 

Dear Ed.

The last two articles you wrote, “Houdini Passes” and “Thurston to End Railroad Travel” have both been downers.  Why not write the funny stuff you used to write like “Cups-N-Balls? We thought you said ‘Cubs-n-Falls!’” or “Pharoh’s Funnies Discovered in Hieroglyphics.”  Those were truly funny posts.  The pictures were even funny with the little bear cubs slipping on ice wearing magician top hats.

Ishmael (call me “Ishmael”)

Dear  Ishmael:

From the condition of the envelope in which we received your missive, it is apparent that your letter was quite old.  First, it was in an envelope; second, it was written on parchment with a whale bone or ivory pen; third, it was sent as a message in a bottle.

Inside Magic has gone through changes since the early whaling days in the Colonies. Yes, we used to be funnier: poking fun at King George III; laughing about the poor quality of silver Cups-N-Balls sets produced by the Revere shop in Boston; as well as making mirth about the discovery of Oxygen as a needed gas for life and that discovery’s use in animal balloons – then made of leather.

But we became more serious after the battle for independence from England, the Civil War and the Great Depression.  See, “Brother Can You Spare a Penny & Dime Trick?” or “Entertaining in Soup Lines – a New Market Opportunity?”

We livened up – for the troops – in WWI and WWII times and even had Atomic-based humor during the Cold War.  See, “GI Wow!” and “Pulling Mammals from Your Helmet.”

Since entering the Internet Age, we have tried to stay consistently funny.  Sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing but still trying.

We hope if you are still alive, you have caught up on the latest jokey Inside Magic and found favor in your now antiquated and whale blubber cholesterol coated heart for this web site.

Dear Editor Tim:

You said you were going to review that trick where the bird crosses its heart and then the chosen card appears?  What’s the story with that?

Laurence

 

Dear Laurence:

Thank you for writing us daily (and sometimes more than daily) to ask about things we have promised (or in your belief have promised to do).

We have a special rule on our computer’s email system just for your well-considered, often multi-paged and illustrated emails in which you point out our failings, errors in speling and grammer that’s badder than you expect.

We also appreciate your sign-offs with quotes you attribute to Elvis Presley; even though we question the provenance of the quotes.  For instance, we doubt Elvis ever claimed “Celion Dione” had “the best voice ever,” or that “Santa’s elves should form an onion (sic),” or “Magic is like what mystery would look like if you squinted.”

We agree that Elvis had strong feelings about working conditions of the common man but doubt he ever opined on Santa’s elves.  Additionally, it was common knowledge that Elvis was referring to the sun when he talked about “squinting” and describing what not to do in a total eclipse.

We will have a full review in an upcoming post.  No need to ask us when or how many dogs we have ever owned, or why we think we have a right to write.  Those have already been asked in your earlier emails and are noted.

Dear Darling Timmy:

Do you like baked goods?  Can I bring you some?  I make good bake goods for you to eat and you will like them.  See the baked good I can make by clicking here: [Link Omitted]

Witth oven fresh love,

Alexandria (Your Pasty Chef)

Continue reading “Inside Magic Letters to Editor Answered”

Criss Angel Heads to Broadway

Magician Criss Angel is taking his show from Las Vegas to Broadway.

He recently returned to Planet Hollywood, where he began the MINDFREAK television series that brought him and his unique brand of magic into the living rooms of millions.  That led to a long run with the Luxor and his association with Cirque du Soliel.

But now, as he points out in an interview with Fox News, his new show has “more lights than all seven Cirque [du Soleil] shows combined — over 2,000 lights. People are going to come to this show even in the entertainment capital of the world and they are going to see a show that will blow their mind unlike any show in the world of entertainment.”

He will bring his show “RAW – The Mindfreak Unplugged” to Broadway in July.

“The Broadway show is another goal that I’ve had since I was a kid and now I’ll be accomplishing that July 2nd — doing eight shows at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre that once housed Doug Henning, my childhood inspiration,” he said.

What will it be like?  Think of it as a rare, intimate evening with a magician usually only seen in huge venues.

He told Fox, it will be like a “stripped-down version of getting to know Criss Angel, as if I was in your living room hanging out having a beer,” adding that the experience will “make you feel like you can go out and conquer the world, especially after you see me levitate in pure light in a way that no one has ever done in the history of magic.”

The man works nearly around the clock performing, inventing and rehearsing.  It is more than just learning the secret to a trick on the internet.

“I didn’t have the Internet back in the day, I went to the card catalog … Now you know if somebody wants to learn a secret they go online and there’s no real work to understand what that secret really means to make it something valuable and to make it your own,” Mr. Angel said.

He is not just working to perfect his performances at Planet Hollywood or Broadway.  He has dedicated much to bring awareness to childhood cancer.  His son, Johnny Crisstopher, was diagnosed with leukemia at 2 years old. Now, Johnny, who is 5, is in remission.

“It really underscored what it means to really be a voice for these kids. And, so for me, my life’s commitment is these kids. I’ve dedicated a lot of my time, my money and just my focus to using my success which I’ve been blessed with to really raise awareness and be a voice for these kids.”

Read the full Fox interview here.

Check out Mr. Angel’s website here.

Why is TV Magic So Unmagical?

Entertainment Weekly writer Brittany Frederick asks why with so much magic on television recently, we are not feeling magical?

She points to the recent spate of shows about our craft such as Criss Angel BeLIEve; Syfy’s Wizard Wars, Close Up Kings, and Troy: Street Magic; The CW’s resurrection of Masters of Illusion and importing of Penn & Teller: Fool Us.   She likes the craft but apparently not the way it is being translated to television sets.  It is tough to disagree with her take.

She points out that Masters of Illusion has been squished from an hour-long show to 30 minutes (including commercials).  The net effect is that “Dean Cain has to go through acts so quickly that you barely have time to let the tricks sink in.”

Ms. Frederick bemoans – again with our wholehearted agreement – the move from logistics of putting on a magic show to the effect in isolation.
“What was so fantastic about Criss Angel BeLIEve when Spike unveiled it in October 2013 was that it was almost about everything but the performance. We got to know Angel a lot better and understand what it was like for him to do these challenging tricks every day. We learned about the history involved with many of his demonstrations. We met his team, and were able to listen in on their discussions about how to make magic happen, whether it was building a prop or finding the perfect location. We saw when things didn’t go according to plan and how they dealt with those situations. These are elements of magic that most TV audiences probably haven’t even thought about.”

Audiences are now taken from appreciating the history of a particular effect and the very real logistical challenges of presenting the trick, to merely asking whether an effect is performed with camera tricks or dodgy editing.

Check out her full article and well-considered opinions here.

Magicians of a “Certain Age” and Dry Hands

As we type, Los Angeles is going through a humid spell. Some accounts have it as high as 70 percent or as low as 50 percent – but either of those extremes is extreme for the region.

Yes, it will mess with our fancy hair-do but it will also let us deal seconds without the need for moistening agents.

When we were very young, we found it amusing that the older magicians in our local IBM Ring had to lick their fingers before every difficult card move. Some had to lick their fingers before even dealing cards. We thought – basking in our youthful ignorance – “we’ll never be like that. We will always have moist fingers and palms. And even if we do eventually have dry hands, we’ll hire someone to lick our fingers.”

We had some issues back then – but lack of hand moisture was not one of them.

Once we hit mid-life, our ability to deal seconds fell off horribly. We could still do the mechanical part but we couldn’t control the number of cards in play.

We thought there should be some product available to magicians of “a certain age” to allow them to again perform as they did in their youth. Something so they would be “ready” when the “moment was right.”

We used those terms in our Google search but it resulted in products that had little to do with card manipulation or magic in its strictest sense.

We asked our magic friends – in strictest confidence, because of our shame – and hoped they would either have a solution or sympathy for our frustration. But we found no support among our peers. We suspect they were too embarrassed to admit their problem to us.

At an IBM convention, we met up with Mr. Second Deal, Simon Lovell. He wrote the book on the sleight — Second to None. We asked him how we could keep our fingers moist enough to do second deals – either double push-off or strike second deal. He felt our pain. He suggested we keep an iced drink nearby and touch it as needed. We thanked him and went forward to find a different solution.

We spoke with our physician and he expressed surprise. “Why, no one has ever asked me how to make their hands more sweaty.” As we recall the exchange, he sounded like the Wizard of Oz in the final scene when he provides a heart for The Tin Woodsman.

Continue reading “Magicians of a “Certain Age” and Dry Hands”

Indian Magician Dies During Escape

Indian Magician Chancal Lahiri who went by the stage name Jadugar Mandrake apparently died during an escape attempt in West Bengal, India on Sunday.

We never met or corresponded with Mr. Lahiri but as John Donne wrote, “any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

We know there are deaths occurring around the world every second and our focus on this particular tragedy must seem strangely specific – especially for someone with whom we had no relationship other than the love of our wonderful art.

More likely we are moved to bring this to these pages because of the incredibly cruel and wicked response we saw on Twitter and other social media outlets.  Perhaps there has always been a subset of our population that could see the death of someone as fodder for entertainment or their own self-aggrandizement.  Before social media, however, we never met them or had to read their vitriol against someone they also likely never met.

Those that did meet Mr. Lahiri, however, feel his absence in their lives at this moment.  There is no joy or entertainment in the event for them.  He will be forever gone to them.  A part of their lives on which they doubt relied, taken from them in a public way.  Our prayers are with those who mourn his departure from their life, their days, and their shared enjoyment of this world.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

David Blaine Takes on UK

In an interview on this morning’s Heart Radio from the UK, Magician David Blaine talks about secrets – and how well he keeps them.

Even though that is what a magician does best – keeping secrets – his pals remind him to “not tell anyone” before letting him in on some confidential information.

He is in the United Kingdom for a tour – the first time he has ever toured with a live show.  He was suspended in a Plexiglas (“Perspex” in metric, we think) box near the Tower Bridge back in 2003.  But he didn’t tour in the box.  It remained in one place and was not dragged around the nation for people to peer at him trying to avoid motion sickness.  For that we and he are grateful.

His new show is called “Real or Magic.”  The title is somewhat similar to our tour of the tri-county area, “Really, it’s Magic.”  We had to adopt that title because we were ill-prepared and hardly able to perform the new effects we had inherited just five days before we started the tour of two towns in three counties.  (One of the towns was on the border so it still counts as a “Tri-County Tour” according to the official rules.  See, “Tri-County” entry in the 2nd edition of Black’s Law Dictionary).

The write-up on the Heart Radio page dispels an image of David that is apparently going around in the UK world.

Mr. Blaine, according to the article, has a “reputation for being somewhat of a ‘weirdo’, but in person he’s surprisingly friendly – and normal.”

Phewf!  In our book, being called a ‘weirdo’ is right up there with being called a ‘magician.’   At least that was our experience our whole life up until the typing of this article on our Underwood Portable TypeWriter; being watched by our covey of doves and two rabbits (both female – we think) over by the bed in our studio apartment near the train tracks for which we haven’t paid rent but for which we do little shows performing tricks a/k/a babysit for the building superintendent’s kids while he is out looking for a “better job than living in this dump by the tracks.”

Back to Mr. Blaine.

He loves being a father to his eight-year-old.  “Being a dad is the greatest feeling and the greatest joy and greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my lifetime and I can’t imagine anything ever equaling it.”

Continue reading “David Blaine Takes on UK”

American Museum of Magic VIP Invite

We received a very exciting note from Joshua Wilde of Wunderground Magic about Marshall, Michigan’s American Museum of Magic.  His post follows.

The site is located in the beautiful historic town of Marshall. The museum’s extraordinary treasures, dating from as early as the 16th century, tell the story of the history of magic – a story with deep Michigan roots!

Readers of Inside Magic are invited to partake in the American Museum of Magic’s 9th Annual Magic Gala on the evening of Saturday, June 15th. The festivities begin at 5:00pm with a reception at the Oak Hill House. Then at 7:30pm the party moves to the Franke Center for the Arts at 214 E. Mansion St. in Marshall for an evening of magic by the internationally renowned magician Matthew David Stanley.

You’re invited to an evening of wonder and magic to support the American Museum of Magic, featuring Comedy Magician Matthew David Stanley.

VIP admission includes a one-of-a-kind insider tour of the American Museum of Magic at 5:00 pm and a wine and cheese reception at the museum before the show. General admission includes the show only.

Matthew David Stanley is the proud recipient of the prestigious Lance Burton Award presented in Las Vegas, NV as well as the “International Brotherhood of Magicians Stage Champion Award”. He has been featured on NBC and FOX television networks and currently tours the United States, as well as internationally, performing at comedy clubs, colleges, theaters, and corporate events.

Tickets are available at the museum. You can also reserve them by calling (269) 781-7570. Tickets can also be purchased directly on-line at Brown Paper Tickets.

Marshall is one hour west of Detroit and 50 minutes south of Lansing – located just east of Battle Creek at the intersection of I-94 and I-69.

The American Museum of Magic is located on Marshall’s main business street at 107 East Michigan Street. It will be open on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Please consider helping us get this Michigan treasure back on its feet by joining us for some fun! If you are unable to join us but would like to help out with a tax deductible donation, please send the museum a check at P.O. Box 5, Marshall, MI 49068.

If you’re not familiar with the American Museum of Magic, it’s the largest collection of magical props and memorabilia that’s open to the public, and it’s just down the road from us. Please show your support for our magical heritage by attending the Gala or making a generous donation to the museum.

Tickets for the RECEPTION & MAGIC SHOW are $70 or for MAGIC SHOW ONLY $35. Tickets for this event are available online. or if that link doesn’t work you can find them from the main page of the American Museum of Magic at http://americanmuseumofmagic.com/events/summer-fundraiser/

Please come and invite your friends for an evening of pure magic!

Take care,

Josh

P.S. Share the Wunder, not the secret

Big Guy Magic Shop is Magic!

We went on an Inside Magic journey and recently returned.  We traveled through the heartland of this great country and stopped where we could to see places of magic interest.

One of the places we stopped was Big Guy’s Magic Shop in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.  We had a wonderful time meeting the Big Guy and his wife Mary.  Their shop is incredible and very much brick and mortar of the classic magic shop design.  There are tricks everywhere – in and out of beautiful and refurbished counters with streamers and signs festooning the place.  There are chairs to sit and chat and wonderful chats to be had with the Big Guy and Mary.

Local magicians were visiting throughout our time in the shop.  We even saw a celebrity magician just as we were entering and will keep his identity from the peering eyes of our tens of readers to protect his privacy.  Also to protect our embarrassment because we didn’t recognize him in his everyday dress clothes; complete with a hat – although not a magic hat, so there’s that.

Name a trick and the Big Guy has it.  He showed us his backroom and it is filled (as in, there’s no more room for anything) with magic.  His eCommerce site boasts – in a modest way – over 17,000 tricks.  And that’s not like saying he has 16,000 thumb tips and the rest in sponge rabbits.  These are classic effects and the latest.  He even has a texting service to let customers pre-order effects before they hit the streets – the tricks not the customers.

We bemoan often the lack of real magic stores and wonder if there is a place for the classic magic store amidst the eCommerce world with its fancy tools.  The Big Guy proves it can be done.  He has a place to learn, trade stories, work on tricks and just relax in a magician-friendly environment.  He holds lectures from some of the big names in our craft and is the hub for magicians available for shows. Check out his About Us page for images of some of the big stars that have visited.

We walked out with new effects and some classics we needed to replace in our collection and we were happy.  We didn’t stop smiling until, well, we’re still smiling.

The chances that you will visit Pewaukee, Wisconsin may not be as great as the chances you will turn on your computer, but either way, we hope you visit the Big Guy and his wonderful magic offerings.

We should point out that we received not a dime for this unabashed hagiography of the Big Guy, his wonderful wife, Mary, and his spectacular online and in-life store.  It is our pleasure.  It was such a wonderful experience, we want to spread the word.

Check out his brick and mortar establishment here.

Visit his on-line cornucopia here.

Sign-up for his newsletter and text service while you’re there.  You won’t be spammed but you will be treated to advance notice of great tricks that are sure to sell out.

Inside Magic Rating – Five out Five – Our Highest!