Category: Guest Essay

Guest Magic Essay: Paw Lawton

Paw Lawton has been associated with Inside Magic since we started.  A former assistant to our father and advance man for circuses, carnivals and a few magic shows, he knows his stuff.  His take on the stuff he knows is often jaundiced and embittered by years of seeing the shady side of our magical arts.  Ironically (or fittingly) he actually recorded the song “Shady Side of Our Magical Arts” and was involved in lengthy litigation with the songwriter of “Sunny Side of the Street.”  He ultimately lost but as he noted, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”  Such is the philosophy of Paw.  We asked him to pen a short essay on the current state of our art.  That essay, edited to remove libelous and offensive sections, follows.

There is no magic now that is not the best ever.  The Internet has demolished the traditional magic store and replaced it with email touting (like a real tout would do) “The Best Trick” or “The Most Amazing Illusion Ever!” If the ads don’t come with those titles, we get testimonials from people we don’t know (or know too well) saying, “I was fooled so badly, I bought three of _____!” “This trick had me from the start.  I had to buy it just to learn how it works!” “This is the illusion I carry with me at all times!”

I haven’t seen a trick I had to carry at all times since my Color Changing Knives.  That’s it.  I can use the knives as knives so that makes them something I would want to carry.  I don’t even carry cards with me.  Does my impromptu audience care?  No, not one of them has asked me to show something else with props I should be carrying.  It makes sense that I would have a knife with me and because I am a magician, it makes sense I could do something magical with the knife.  I can make it change color and then change back and hand it to my spectator to see if he can open it.  He can’t.  I can, end of story.

I have been in the business long enough to know that advertising is a different animal than talking or writing or drawing.  You have to create the need.  Fill the need.  Move on.  You move on because 8 out of 10 times, the need you created wasn’t there to begin with, didn’t need filling and the thing you sold couldn’t fill it – or would break the second it was used.

Continue reading “Guest Magic Essay: Paw Lawton”

PhD Thesis Defense on the New Magic Shop

Hardware stores substitute for Magic Shops.

It is a tough thesis to defend but it is one we hope to convince a group of professors at our on-line PhD Thesis Oral Examination this Thursday.

There are those who would suggest spending good money for four and a half years of on-line instruction for a doctoral title in Common Things and Thoughts at one of the lesser on-line schools would be a waste of money but we stuck it out.

First, because we cannot understand the language they speak – it is not a U.S. school.  So really we’re getting a free language class at the same time and if we ever visit the native island from which the education has been provided, we will sound like a well-educated native.

Second, the cost was surprisingly small. We pay in the native island’s currency and yes there was a decided increase with the Hawaii volcanoes and thoughts of the utter destruction of their own island from flying bricks of lava, but that never happened and a “vang” (their equivalent to a “dollar”) is still roughly 86 cents.  They believe education is essential and so they have many programs through which folks like us can learn at the rate of about one-hundred vang per year.

If we were on-campus, it could be slightly cheaper but more expensive for dorm living plus we too would worry about flying bricks of lava even though they would be about 800 miles from our island.

But back to our thesis.

Magic stores were once prevalent brick-n-mortar places where folks of magic backgrounds congregated and exchanged stories, sleight of hand methods, taught and encouraged youngsters, drank soda and smoked cigarettes.

Those stores are gone pretty much.

According to a statistic we just made up, there are 2/3 fewer magic stores of the brick-n-mortar type than there were in 1972.  In 1972, we learned magic by demonstrating Cups and Balls and Hyrum the Hank 14 hours a day for 50 cents an hour credit towards goods at the store.  It was a wonderful training ground and we were under the best of the best when it came to tutors.  They were patient, kind and knowing.  Our guests were the best in magic as well.  We had stars from New York come to visit our Palm Beach area store and we could listen to their stories and still have it count towards our 50 cents an hour credit.

But those days are gone.  We’re not sure how the young’uns learn magic now but assume it is through ad-hoc clubs at school or on YouTube.  We wish they could have met the folks we met and worked hard to perfect a Color Changing Knife move.  Maybe they do and we just don’t see it because we are looking in the wrong places.

And that, our good and kind friends, is where hardware stores come in.  Yes, they too face blight and some are being lost to deconstruction or remodeling but in our area here in West Hollywood and the island nation on which our esteemed professors reside, hardware stores are alive.

One can go into a hardware store and walk the aisles for hours without being harassed or questioned.  During that stroll, one can find things that will easily fit into the average magician’s imaginary construction of the perfect act.

An example from our thesis, the harness ring is a ring ostensibly for a harness.  A harness is a device to fit over a horse.  We have not seen many horses with loose or broken harness rings since we were a replacement for a rodeo clown in a strange mix-up that led to a court case and our first double-wide trailer we could call home free and clear.

And yet, most any hardware store sells harness rings of various sizes and polishes.  We buy them whenever we can afford the $1.75 to $3.25 they charge depending on the diameter or circumference –  we wish there was a way to figure out the circumference from a number representing a diameter because they usually list either circumference or diameter but not both and our needs are always circumference-based.  It seems like there should be some relationship between the two sizes.

We then mosey (keeping with the western theme) over to the rope section, purchase a yard of their softest rope with a core; and Bob’s your close relation.  We remove the core and we have the perfect Ring on Rope with a shiny, durable ring and a non-fraying rope ready to break-in.  It is not as smooth and soft as they type one could buy from a magic store on the web but it is cheaper, novel and a perfect example of how magic props can be bought and assembled from items purchased in a Hardware Store.

This is just a taste of ourthesis.  The paper version is now just under 900 pages with diagrams.  It covers PVC pipe, copper pipe, steel pipe, clear garden hose, kitchen drain equipment (including a chapter on the under-sink pipe system alone), screws, nuts, bolts, hack saws, canvas, coasters, ball bearings (another full chapter), cloth bags and various forms of lighting that attach to metal.

Our session is, as we mentioned, this Thursday.  We are nervous but excited.  Like a mouse who sees cheese but cannot determine if it is in a trap and if it is not a trap, why his friend isn’t moving so much anymore.

It is a shame that the magic store in its original form no longer exists in as many places as it once did but as long as there are shops that sell things that can be used for other things, magicians will seek them out and make their own de facto magic shops – and maybe talk to each other over harness rings.

P.S. we forgot to mention Plungers.  There is a chapter with wonderful illustrations by a former animator for a major motion picture company that makes our thesis something to cherish.  Plungers do everything.

Guest Essay: Rip-Off or Research?

Editor: Mark Panner is filling in for us whilst we work our day job during this busy season.  His essays are not edited or approved by Inside Magic.  In fact, we usually disagree with everything he says and does.

Some call it deliberate theft, others call it inspiration. I call it inspiration because I don’t like all of the negatives that come with the word “theft.”

But I also call it pure gold.

I am talking about using great ideas from other fields to make great hordes of cash in the magic field.

Let’s face it, magicians don’t get paid what they deserve. Some practice hours and hours to perform a trick that takes 30 seconds. If you get paid by the hour, that means all of the practice gets you some money but not much money. We won’t go into the complex math here (but we could if we had to) but say you get $15.00 an hour and you do a trick that takes 30 seconds to do. That means you are only getting a part of the $15.00; like a dollar or something. This is a magic blog not an accounting blog so you can figure it out for yourself later. Take my word for it, though: you are not getting the full $15.00 for all of the work that you put into learning the trick, buying the props or making them after watching how the trick is done thanks to YouTube.

So how do magicians make the money they deserve?

First, don’t buy tricks. As I said, you can learn just about any trick out there on YouTube. Thanks to people looking to make a name for themselves, there are plenty of videos where people expose really good trick and even show you how the props they bought work. It cost them something to buy the original trick but if they are stupid enough to show the world how to make it, that works out fine for the rest of us.

Everybody knows magic tricks cost a lot because of the secret, not the props. So, if you can learn the secret from some teenager on YouTube who is showing off how proud he is to have bought the latest miracle, you don’t need to pay a dime.

Wait Mark, isn’t that stealing?

No. Because I didn’t do the stealing. I just watched a video. The guy who did the video showing how a trick worked bought the trick (or learned it from someone who bought it) and so I am pretty far down the line from anything that even looks like stealing.

Wait Mark, isn’t that taking money from inventors of great tricks?

Again, I am not taking anything from anyone. I am just watching a video. It is a free country and I am allowed to watch videos. If someone wants to show me how to make a trick that would cost $45.00 on some over-priced magic web store, who am I to complain.

Wait Mark, won’t that keep magicians from inventing new tricks?

No and so what if they do? It will teach them to price their tricks right. Charging $45.00 for the latest miracle is too much no matter what the trick is – especially if I can make it with stuff I have around the mobile home or in my company’s supply cabinet.

Plus, most of the times once I learn the secret, I don’t want to do the trick any way so there really is no loss. I just saved $45.00 and avoided the hassle of paying and waiting for the delivery and then finding out it is a stupid method and not for me.

I have always said that magic reviews should tell you exactly how a trick is done so that you can determine for yourself whether you want to buy the trick. I bought a trick two years ago at a convention here in Michigan and the guy said it was easy to do and didn’t really require any sleights.

Well, he lied. To do the trick, you had to force a card and last time I checked, that’s a sleight. If I had known that the only way the trick would work was if I forced the card at the beginning, I could have saved $45.00 and bought something from someone more honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do a force. In fact, I can do maybe 15 different forces but why should I if I don’t need to? Just to look cool? The guy demonstrated the trick and the way he described it was like this: a person takes a card and the card ends up in some impossible place. Now I know why he was so vague. He was hiding the secret. If I knew the secret before I bought it, I could have saved my money and bought something useful like really cool decks of cards or food.

Wait Mark, shouldn’t we reward people who work hard to invent magic tricks?

We do. We get them press in the magic magazines and they get to travel around the world doing lectures and selling their “secrets” to magic club members. We had a lecturer at our Mystic Hollow Magic Club last month who said he had been in five states in three weeks and lectured five times before coming to Michigan. I know for a fact that the club paid him over $100.00 plus paid for his hotel room at the La Quinta by the airport and some members of the “executive committee” took him to dinner at Denny’s afterwards.

So the inventor gets to put on a show for about three hours, gets paid $100, free room, free dinner plus he gets to sell his special tricks at super-inflated prices. I watched pretty carefully and he sold about $50.00 worth of lecture notes and gimmicks. So, put that all together and he is taking in $150.00 for a three-hour show. Math is not my strong part but that is close to $50.00 an hour. Is he a brain surgeon or a lawyer? No, but he is charging those kinds of rates. So who is really “stealing” here?

He would keep touring and visiting magic clubs even if he didn’t sell anything because he is getting a free room and free food plus $100.00 a lecture. Sounds like a sweet gig if you ask me. I do table-hopping at the IHOP (I have a whole bunch of jokes about “hopping at the IHOP” – they are really funny) and have never cleared $100.00 from a weekend of work. It is hard for me to feel sorry for someone who gets to travel, stay in nice places, eats free (yes, I get free breakfast at IHOP but that is something I just do, they are not “officially” giving it to me).

I am writing a book (my fifth one this year!) about this secret to learning secrets and I will be selling it on Amazon and eBay. And before you get any ideas, don’t even think about trying to rip me off because I am going to get a copyright on it.

My dad used to say, “It’s a dog eat dog world, Mark. Make sure you’re the dog and not the other dog.”

Mark Panner Fills In for Us

We have been very busy at our daytime job.

That has kept us from the spacious office suite here on Santa Monica Boulevard where this humble magic news outlet makes its home in West Hollywood, California.

It is good to be busy but bad to be neglecting of the tens of people who read Inside Magic religiously – and by “religiously” we mean by candlelight, copious amounts of incense and chanting.

We have asked one of the least qualified but most available magic writers (so it averages out) to take over for the next few days or until readership drops below the web equivalent of anemic.

Readers of Inside Magic may remember Mr. Panner for his contributions in the past to this and other magic websites. You can read his horrible review of Inside Magic Favorite magician Bob Sheets here.

He is related to us through a complicated story of inter-marriage and bad life-choices but we offer him space here only as a matter of convenience for us, not because it is in the interest of marital bliss.

Mr. Panner has published several books on magic, all self-published and, as we understand it, still unread. He has claimed to have invented several of the greatest effects in our art including:

The Balls and Cups (his take on the classic “The Cups and Balls”), Card to Walet (intentionally misspelled in an effort to avoid litigation and scorn by the creators of “Card to Wallet”), Torn Newspaper (the review in Magic Magazine noted that it was a fine effect but lacked the ending audiences have come to expect from similar routines like “The Torn and Restored Newspaper”), and the now disregarded Paint Ball Catching Trick.

The Paint Ball Catching Trick was marketed as a safe alternative to the deadly Bullet Catch. In the litigation that followed the meager sales of the effect, we learned that while the trick did not risk being shot in the face with a real bullet, the content of the particular brand of paint balls sold with the trick contained enough lead to shave years off the life of even a casual performer and “condemned his or her progeny to a dramatically higher risk of mental disability.”

Mr. Panner decided re-market the effect with instructions discouraging the “chewing of the paintball or rolling it around in the mouth for an extended period of time.”

You can still find the original version with the now discredited instructions on eBay.

Mr. Panner complained to the magic community that he was being undersold by “cheap, Chinese imports.” The magic community apparently did not care.

Mr. Panner has performed shows for hundreds of paying customers and clients throughout the Midwest – but never for the same client twice. He says this practice is due to his “constant, driving forced (sic) to keep things fresh.” He also points out that the Better Business Bureau rating is “probably wrong because people only complaint (sic) and never say good things to the BBB.”

For the record, he denies ripping off Criss Angel’s Believe with his own, limited tour of “Bee Leave.” Also for the record, Criss Angel denies caring at all about Mr. Panner’s two hour illusion show featuring the magician dressed in a costume described by a reporter for the Urbana, Illinois daily as “cross between Criss Angel and a effeminate bumble bee.”

Mr. Panner’s contributions will begin later today (or possibly tomorrow) and, as is our practice, will be unedited. Mr. Panner describes the process as “keeping it real, raw.” We describe it as “being lazy, real lazy.”

We should be back in the office with renewed energy and new stories in the next week or so.

It is entirely likely we will be back sooner if Mr. Panner performs as predicted.

Father and Son Native American Magicians bring Wow

[Hey!  If you have news about magic you are doing, have seen or about to see, let Inside Magic know by clicking the Submit Button at the top of the page.  We love to hear what’s going on in the real world of magic.  Today’s story came to us just that way from Bobby Neugin and his son Jeramy — Native American Illusionists.  Check out their website here.]


 

 

 

What’s Happening: Bobby Neugin & his son Jeramy Neugin are father-&-son Native American illusionists who perform as Lost City Magic!

It’s all in the line of duty, but:
Jeramy Neugin has been stung by wasps & bitten by snakes.
He has taken bites of razor blades.
His dad sets him ablaze.

“I put a box on Jeramy’s head,” his father, Bobby, said. “It’s got a little door in the front. You can open the door & see Jeramy’s face. I will stick a napkin over his face & I will shoot the top of that box full of lighter fluid & set it on fire. When I open that door, his face is burnt to a skull. Then the magic is I’ve got to bring his head back.”

Sometimes, Jeramy will slice his father’s arm & scorpions will crawl from the wound.

This is the family business.

Performing as Lost City Magic (named after the Cherokee County community they call home), Bobby & Jeramy are a Native American father-&-son magician team. They strive not just to entertain but to expose people to their heritage.

Their illusions are linked to Cherokee lore (including the “little people”), they perform tricks with wasps & snakes. That means they need live props.

“We can’t go to the pet shop & buy a scorpion or a black snake, but we can go out here in the woods & find them,” Jeramy said.

They can usually find a snake when they need one, according to Bobby. How? “Ask anybody around here that raises chickens,” Jeramy said. “We always make sure to release them back where we found them afterward too”

Bobby has been interested in magic for a long time, dabbling here & there. Magic didn’t become his profession until the past few years — it happened out of necessity.

“Whenever we first started this, we were doing construction work,” he said. “We were out in North Carolina building custom homes. That was paying really well, then that shut off & I realized how easy something like that can be over. When 9/11 happened, it shut down all the investors. It’s like turning the water off on a tap. It shut it off, there wasn’t work anywhere to be had.”

Bobby pitched this challenge to Jeramy: Find us something we can do that doesn’t involve construction.

“He was talking about his age, how he couldn’t do the hard, physical stuff anymore,” Jeramy said. “And while we were doing that we were doing coin tricks.”

So, he said, “Let’s do magic.”

He could have suggested 100 other things. Why magic? “Because the stripping didn’t pan out & we didn’t get a single call as a male escort,” Jeramy said, smiling.

Bobby loved the magic idea. Now they look back and they see “clues” that pushed them down this path. Bobby has made a living as a bootmaker, a creator of horse-drawn buggies & blacksmith. Now he feels like he & his son have found their calling — & their niche in the magic world.

Bobby and Jeramy have staged shows throughout the area. Here’s the problem if you are a couple of Lost City dudes who do magic in the Bible Belt: “Either you are not good enough,” Bobby said, “or, if you are too good, then you are in league with the devil.”

Said Bobby: “We did a school show one night for some high school kids, and Jeramy did a trick for one of the teachers. After the trick was over, it had scared her so bad she left.”

Bobby and Jeramy try to weigh which illusions are appropriate for their audiences.

Among their illusions: bringing live swarms of wasps to life from a handful of dirt, pulling live snakes from drawings and trapping demons in dreamcatchers

Here’s another obstacle: Business was great after they (and a few wasps) auditioned for “America’s Got Talent.” But they billed their act as a “full Indian show” and bookings died.

Jeramy adjusted promotional verbiage to reflect they were doing magic based on “old West” legends, instead of Native American legends. They started getting calls again.

“That’s just here,” he said. “The further we get from here (the more interested people seem to be in the Native American aspect). Just going across the border into Arkansas, they had people from all over come and see us. Over there we weren’t Indian enough. … They wanted the full buckskins and the whole thing.”

“Old Indian legends again, you don’t destroy what has been good to you,” Bobby said.

The Lost City magicians were encouraged by their “America’s Got Talent” audition (“I thought we did a lot better than the acts that were auditioning with us,” Bobby said), and they have ventured to magician-thick cities to see how they compare. They’ve seen the kind of money big-time magicians make, and they wouldn’t mind earning a slice.

“I have never studied so hard in my life,” Bobby said.

The homework is never-ending. They’re always diving into books and videos so they can come up with ways to top themselves. If Bobby sees a great magic trick on TV, he dares Jeramy to figure it out so they can add a variation to their act.

Instead of having a “wow” trick at the end of a show, their goal is to have an act full of “wow” moments — even if it means a father must set his son’s head on fire.

Got some magic news you know readers around the world would love to read, submit to Inside Magic today.

 

Jeff Busby Collection of Magician’s Insider Tips and Vintage Magic Due for Auction

The Jeff Busby Collection is coming up for auction on August 19th, via Potter & Potter Auctions Inc. Gathered throughout his career as a publisher of highly regarded magic related newsletters, props, and booklets, the collection is the stuff of underground legend, including personal memorabilia of acclaimed magicians to historic posters, ephemera and unique props. The late Jeff Busby (1954-2014) was hooked on magic since the age of seven, working both as a security consultant to numerous casinos in California and Nevada, teaching how to detect cheating methods, and running an international mail order business for professional magicians all over the world. An eccentric character who was seen by some as controversial, his insider knowledge of the magic community was unparalleled. The sale is hosted on eBay’s Live Auctions platform, making it a truly global event that reaches eBay’s 171 million active buyers in real time.

One of the auction’s highlights include “Csuri Notes”, the original typewritten transcriptions of Frank Csuri’s famous notebooks (circa 1960s) collecting the unpublished and published magic effects of Dai Vernon, Paul Fox, Charlie Miller, Faucett Ross, Bill Woodfield, and Dr. Jacob Daley. Spanning over 3,000 pages of text and hand-drawn illustrations, the notebooks  feature a handwritten inscription to Busby. After emigrating from Hungary as a child, Frank Csuri (1911-1994) was a successful nightclub magician as a young man before becoming an engineer, however his life’s work was deciphering and transcribing the methods – many of them unpublished – of magic’s legendary “inner circle” from the 50s-60s. The text includes Csuri’s transcription of “The Vernon Touch” columns from Genii Magazine as well as handwritten pages by Dai Vernon (1894–1992), correcting Csuri’s transcription. A separate lot contains Frank Csuri’s two volume set of original typescript The Magic of Dai Vernon including original pencil sketch portraits of Dai Vernon himself.

The available lots include a compilation of over 400 pages of carefully preserved original correspondence from the 50s-60s between slight of hand masters Ross Bertram (1912-1992) and Faucett Ross (1900-1987). The set contains detailed sketches and lengthy discussions about the methods for various techniques with dice, cards, crooked gambling, demonstrations of shell games, table props and impromptu tricks, referencing the work of contemporary magicians, including Charlie Miller, Frank Garcia, Gene Gordon, Loring Campbell, Eddie McLaughlin, Msgr. Foy, Roger Klause, Herb Zarrow, Bill Gusias, Jay Marshall, and others. It is accompanied by related ephemera such as hand-annotated instructions, original photographs, and promotional materials.

Original posters within the sale include a 1894 color lithograph from Cincinnati of the iconic Harry (Heinrich) Keller (1849–1922) as “Kellar the Great Magician”, introducing the whispering devils that would be copied endlessly afterward; a 1912 poster from Hamburg depicting Servais LeRoy (1865-1953) performing the famous Asrah levitation; a 1920’s poster of Edwin Brush (1873-1967) conjuring objects through the Hindu Basket trick; a 1933 Kansas City advertisement of the great mentalist Mel-Roy (Wilbert Wills Holly) (1888-1966); and an early (ca 1910) poster advertising the magic act of Belgian magician and manipulator Suzy Wandas (1896-1986), who worked with her family in European music halls before settling in Detroit. The later is inscribed and signed by Suzy Wandas herself.

Unique props within the sale include a wooden Mental Miracle Table (ca 1990) – one of fewer than ten manufactured – notable for its inlaid checkerboard top and concealed method for reading messages from the person seated across the table from the mentalist. Other props for sale include a set of 1945 Chick Cup Steel Toolin designed by inventor Paul Fox (1898-1976) and an Automated Sefalaljia or miniature spirit cabinet devised by Stewart James (1908- 1996) in which bells ring, knots untie themselves, balls roll as if pushed by invisible hands (fortunately for amateur magicians, an instruction booklet is included).

In addition to a 1926 Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) Membership Card signed by then S.A.M. president Harry Houdini (1874-1926), the auction also includes rare conjuring books from 1950s, 60s, 70s, such as number 164 from a strictly limited edition of 500 of the Magic of Robert Harbin and volumes 1-6 of Edward Marlo’s seminal magazine (1976-88) – most of which are numbered, signed, and inscribed by Marlo. Edward Marlo (1913-1991) was a prestidigitator who specialized in card magic. Also included, number 55 from the restricted first edition of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic (1957). Bound in pebbled maroon leather with a gilt stamped spine, pictorial jacket, marbled endsheets and a tipped-in gilt leaf interior page, the book is numbered, inscribed, and signed by Vernon to Warner Brothers’ producer Felix Greenfield (1917-1974) on the flyleaf. Also featured, the 20’s-30s notebooks of Al Baker (1874-1951) and Eugene Bulson (1894-1954), including many of Baker’s best-known effects, such as The Pack that Cuts Itself, Vanishing Lead Pencil, The Bakerscope, Al Baker’s Master Addition Slate, tricks with a hook coin, the Telephone Book Test, and the Erectile Dollar Bill.

The scope and quality of works in the collection are truly exceptional – with something for historians of magic, professional practitioners, and amateurs alike. That the a collection of this caliber is available to a global audience via eBay Live Auctions is a bit of magic itself, so check out the lots before they all “vanish”.

To join the bidding or learn more about specific lots, visit: http://www.ebay.com/clt/collectibles-live-events/sleight-of-hand-the-jeff-busby-collection-610069

About the author – Juan Rosa writes about pop culture and comics. His dreams of being a magician culminated in mastering the Fisher Price Magic Show Toy® as a child, but he has never stopped wanting to understand the workings behind the curtain.

Submit Your News and We’re So Sorry

Oh boy, is our face red.

We have a “Submit to Inside Magic” button at the top of every page.  It has been there since we first started Inside Magic in the late 1940s.  The country was getting back to work, the big wars were over, neighborhoods were building, cars had big fins and transistors were just a pipe dream.

When the button was first installed, we received a couple of submissions – some were even magic related.  But we haven’t heard much since.

We had our crack IT staff check things out and we learned tonight why they are called “crack” – but that is a different issue – and we learned why we haven’t seen any submissions.  The staff had the submissions routed to an old website we no longer use: PocketFishermanKnock-Offs.com.

We hadn’t checked that site since the cease and desist letters from Ron Popeil’s blood-thirsty lawyers.

We are so sorry.

The server was filled with news releases, story suggestions, fully written essays and interview suggestions.  Some of them were quite good but are now out of date.

If you have a story, a suggestion, a press release, essay or interview suggestion, please resubmit it for consideration by our previously under-worked editorial staff.

If you previously submitted your news and thought we ignored you, please accept our most sincere apologies.  As a small but earnest magic news daily, we cannot afford to alienate a single reader and it was never our intention to give that impression.

Here is to new beginnings!  Click the button above or this link.

Mark Panner’s Genius Magic Idea: TUBER

Michigan magician and estranged relative Mark Panner continues his contribution — in a sense — to our virtual pages.

Genius is what I call it.
Unless you have been living under a rock or have had a rock hit you in the head, you know the hottest thing in the world is UBER. It is a remarkable service that allows ordinary people to summon a cab or a limo to take them places.
It used to be the only way you could get a cab or a limo was if you lifted your hand in the presence of a cab or booked a limo. Now, you can use an App (a shortened version of the original “applique” – a hold-over from the early days of the inter-net when it was all based on handicrafts from the 1970s; decoupage, tie-dye and LSD) to summon a cab or a limo without raising your hand in their direction.
Everyone is doing it and when “everyone is doing it” I know it is a goldmine waiting to happen. That’s why I am launching TUBER. Inspired by – not copied from – UBER, it lets you summon a magician to your location to perform anything from a single trick to a full-evening show.
Let’s say you are on the corner of Fifth and Main in Anytown, USA. And let’s say you want to get a good Oil and Water or Cups and Balls performance and you want it right now. You click on the TUBER app and you’ll see all the magicians able to do the trick – literally. You click their icon and they will be there in a hurry.
Uber has a couple of different levels of service. You can use Uber and get a limo or town car. You can use Uber-X and get some guy with a car and possibly a valid driver’s license and less than bald tires. There is a price difference – obviously – but you get what you pay for.
Tuber will act the exact same way. Tuber will get you a magician with real skills, dressed appropriately for his or her act. Tuber-Ex will summon a guy or gal who knows some tricks but might need to borrow props from you (like coins or cards) and will probably be dressed like a normal person.
But I am adding a third level. Under Tuber will bring a person who will tell you about a cool thing they saw on YouTube and may even share his or her guess on how the trick is done. This will be the cheapest level but just as entertaining as the top-flight magician you could hire through the top-level TUBER service because you will be seeing videos of real, talented magicians.
I have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the first million but after that, I will be selling shares to investors and then, I hope, selling out to Google or Microsoft.
The best thing is that even if the magic angle doesn’t work, I have already gotten leads from a consortium of potato growers who like the name and would like me to do something similar to deliver potatoes to people.
I don’t know how I come up with these genius ideas. It is truly a gift. You’re welcome.

Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians

Joining the Magic Castle has been a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to meet people who share our passion for Magic.  Lisa Cousins works keeping the prestigious The William W. Larsen Memorial Library the fantastic resource it is for all members of The Magic Castle.  We are honored that she allowed us to print her essay in our humble magic news outlet.  You can read more about Ms. Cousins in an article published on LosAngeles.com.

I.  Obsessions

Harry Houdini is remembered first as an escape artist, but he was also a “séance-buster” who despised fraud in the séance room, and did all he could to expose it.  His 1924 book, A Magician Among the Spirits, is an account of his experiences with the spirit mediums of his day, and in no case did he discover anything but scams and shams and magic tricks.  He conducted his investigations with both an open mind and a wishful heart, as it was the death of his mother that led him to his inquiry into the realm of spirit in the first place.  He sincerely hoped that life continued after death and that communication with the departed was possible.  He was mortified to discover nothing but hokum, and morally outraged that bereaved people were being fleeced by con men using standard magician’s effects.

While he maintained that he was not a skeptic, his activities as a debunker inspired several generations of skeptical magicians to embrace him as their mascot.  There is a branch of magic called “gospel magic” where standard magic tricks are presented with a religious-instructive twist, but in the main magicians are a skeptical bunch.  They have direct experience with how easily people can be tricked, controlled, manipulated, and deceived, and using Houdini’s example as something of a guiding light, are in general quite dismissive of spirituality in any form.  This is all perfectly understandable, but for someone like myself, an avid reader and tremendous fan of spiritual literature for decades before I took up the study of magic, I entered the world of magic and magicians and found myself a stranger in a land already famously strange.

I don’t “believe in God.”  I experience divinity every minute of every day.  This has nothing to do with what becomes of us when we shed this mortal coil; this is strictly here-and-now.  What’s more, I have zero interest in persuading anybody to join me in my opinions.  I don’t see truth as some kind of numbers game, where stacking up the believers makes a truth any truer; indeed, I’m fond of Oscar Wilde’s observation that “A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes it.”  Even if I ardently wished to make you see this splendid world as I view it through my enraptured eyes, I couldn’t do it anyhow.  It’s too late, too unique to myself, the road was too long and full of surprise twists to fill you in on all the parts that contributed to “the making of” my point of view.  In other words, do your own studying.  Or not. Continue reading “Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians”

A Thankful Magician

Looking back over the last year, we have much for which to be thankful.  But we are never sure when we are supposed to be thankful.  We may have been thankful at the wrong time, at Thanksgiving and so technically our thankfulness will either be redundant or just for the blessings received since the day before Black Friday.

But there have been many things since the official start to the shopping season that we consider thank-worthy.  For instance, our eyebrows are growing back following what could have been a horrific flash paper ignition accident when we looked down the business end of our flash wand to see if the glow plug was working.  It was but we couldn’t see it because of the over-stuffing of the muzzle with what we thought was too old flash paper.

We are thankful that our neighbor here on Santa Monica Boulevard was evicted and we do not need to lie awake worrying whether he was abusing cats or learning to play a stringed instrument.  The new tenant seems nice.  She operates a “call service” – we’re guessing that means she acts as a human alarm clock and calls customers at appointed times to make sure they get a fresh start on the day.  Apparently some of her customers do not have phones – or maybe they don’t have good phone chargers – because she frequently has to leave her small office to call on them personally.  She works around the clock but is very quiet and frequently brings us gifts of personal-sized shampoo and conditioner from some really nice hotels.

We are thankful that our audition at The Magic Castle is coming up.  We will be performing before the membership committee in February and we were sponsored by the incomparable Pop Haydn.  The extra time before our ten to fifteen minute presentation has given us plenty of time to completely re-work our act at least twelve times.  We know the committee wants to see our skill set and so store-bought magic is eschewed.  So, we dropped our rather lengthy Hippity Hop Rabbits routine.  That could run – with the right crowd – fifteen minutes by itself.

We are thankful for finding Paper Cream to keep our very dry hands more moist and thereby allowing us to perform sleights like dealing seconds and bottoms.  We were getting complaints about our constant licking of our fingers before dealing cards or performing card maneuvers.  It got so bad we were asked to leave a party for licking one of our volunteers’ fingertips before she dealt the cards in a spelling card trick.  It is tough to say if it was the licking or the fact that we did a spelling card trick with someone named Ida.  Maybe the hostess didn’t appreciate us using a name that was so short.  Maybe she was jealous of our ability to triple lift.  Maybe we should have worn pants.  Maybe we should have shown up on time and not the next day, at 3:00 am.  Life is full of questions, just like the police.

We are very thankful for the invention of The Stripper Deck.  We use ours constantly and wonder how magicians survived without it.  We read that Dai Vernon once made his own using a shard of glass he found in a bathroom.  He was very industrious and wise.  We hope he washed his hands after making the deck, though.  We do wish they had a different name for the deck.  If you go to any of the stores here in West Hollywood and ask for a Stripper Deck, they treat you like you are crazy or they try to sell you something that is not a proper magic trick.  Because we take seriously our oath to not reveal magic secrets, we never correct the sales people or explain what we mean by the term “Stripper Deck.” If you ever come to our editorial offices / kitchen / bedroom / guest room / den, you will see piles of odd decks and personal-sized sample bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body cream.  If we are ever raided by the authorities, it will be difficult to explain that little corner of our little space.

We are most thankful for the friends we have in Magic.  Those who we left behind in Michigan and those we have met since coming to Hollywood.  Magicians share a common personality type that transcends the influences of environment and access to sunshine.  The magicians here have accepted us despite our pasty complexion and regional differences.  We would like to think they have been so ready to include us in their magic circles due to our exceptional skills and winning personality but fear it is really just because magicians are friendly and accepting.

Magic is a wonderful art daily brought to life and changed in exciting ways by people who are in it for all of the right reasons; and for that we are thankful.