Category: Inside Magic Library

Winter Magic Festival in Full Fete Mode

With Magician Stars (and Inside Magic Faves) Murray SawChuck, Gazzo, Steve Daly, Michael Kent and Kevin Burke performing, this week’s Winter Magic Festival promises to be your best bang for your magic dollar.  Shows begin tonight at 7:00 pm (Thursday) at the Indy Fringe event in, coincidentally, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The performers bring their fantastic comedy and magic to the heartland for four days only.  There is no excuse if you live within the seven states and regions surrounding Indy and fail to attend.

Mr. SawChuck is more than a television and YouTube star, he is a great magician who pushes the limits with his boundless energy and able engagement of the audience.  We have seen him in Vegas and The Magic Castle and been astounded – that’s tough for us.  We don’t astound all that easily.  His credits include a Hollywood F.A.M.E. award for Career Achievement in The Magical Arts, the Best Comedy Variety Show of the Year from the Los Angeles Comedy Festival, and Comedy Show of the Year by the Fans Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Mr. Gazzo (we’re not sure if we should say “Mr. Gazzo” or “Gazzo” and so opt for the more formal over the casual term) does one of the very best Cups and Balls ever.  That is not an overstatement to encourage you to see him at the festival.  It is verifiably true and has been evaluated by NASA scientists.  When someone brings up the topic of Cups and Balls, we immediately think of Mr. Gazzo.  He is funny, disarming and works a crowd evidencing his years as a busker in the UK.  Teller said of him, “When you are watching Gazzo you feel like you are watching a show biz Legend.”  We cannot disagree and wouldn’t even if we could.  We’ve seen Mr. Gazzo many, many times and always walk away feeling inadequate with our cups and balls routine (note small caps to underscore our inadequacy) performed in the very same way we did when we were a 12-year-old demonstrating the $1.25 version of the effect in a mall that no longer exists.

Steve Daly (link to his YouTube Sizzle Reel) has been featured on Inside Magic many times and has more than 10,000 appearances in Las Vegas (Nevada).  His act is hilarious and Mr. Daly is one of our favorite people in our art.  He began on the streets of  San Francisco and moved to being one of the leads of Amusement Park Entertainment Companies where he helped design and performing in theme parks across the our big country (USA).   From there he moved to Vegas and was, in our opinion, the true star of the Magic Revue Show called “Showgirls of Magic.”

Continue reading “Winter Magic Festival in Full Fete Mode”

Errors in Magic – As Taught by NASA

We don’t know about you and what you love.  From some of the emails we receive daily at InsideMagic (editor@insidemagic.com) we do know that there is a wide variety of love in the Inside Magic community.  Some of the love is even magic related, so that’s kind of nice.

We received a link to a NASA document that has nothing to do with magic at all.  But in a special way, it is instructive to us magicians who on occasion (or always, in our case) make mistakes in the presentation of our tricks.  You can find the document here.  We posted a picture of the Apollo – Soyuz Command Test Team for reference.  It was a close call for these folks but we learned a lot about how to keep later astronauts and cosmonauts safer.

The document could be seen as overly scientific and technical — because it is.  It has charts, pictures of people and places and rockets and molecules — but it also has a great message.  It is the study of errors and accidents involving several unintentional hypergolic fluid related spills, fires, and explosions from the Apollo Program, the Space Shuttle Program, and the Titan Program.  The Titan Program deals with America’s ICBMs and so they could be sensitive to unintended spills, fires and explosions.  We’re no rocket scientist, we’re just sayin’.

Hypergolic fluids are fluids that can immediately catch fire, explode or poison if they come in contact with certain materials.   That is great for rockets but terrible for hand-lotion or shampoo.

(Speaking of technical papers, we did write a 12-page technical document for the cosmetic industry titled “Bad Things to Put in Your Hair.”  (Quinlan, Tim. 1979. Bad Things to Put in Your Hair,  Nat ShampooSci. 5 Suppl:127–129.) No one asked us to write the document but we thought it important and were trying out a new electric typewriter at Sears on a Saturday and no one said we couldn’t.  We had to pay for the paper we used and the ribbon and the eraser tape).

The NASA document is 100 pages long (including a list of acronyms) but concludes thusly:

Some type of human error can be traced to nearly every studied incident as a root cause, whether it be an error in the design phase or an error prior to or during operational use of hardware containing hypergols. Humans are most definitely not perfect and even when the most knowledgeable personnel are intimately involved in the design phase or during an operation, mistakes can be made and critical items can be overlooked. One can deduce, however, that most incidents happen during some sort of dynamic operation.

Given the pages of errors and very serious injuries and death related to the use of Hypergols, the authors ask if NASA should continue to use the compounds.  The answer is yes, but we should learn from our mistakes.

So much for the NASA and their rather serious, downer study on how we need to be careful when launching people into space.

Now we turn to the magic part.  Setting aside flash paper — a substance that can cause injury (and according to an article by Joshua Jay, death) — we don’t deal with much in the way of explosive materials.  Our tricks are based on coins and cards.  That’s pretty much it.  We can get a paper cut or maybe have a coin stuck in our nostril but that is about it.  Our mistakes do not result in injury or death but embarrassment and shame.

And yet, we learn from those mistakes.

We were performing a Classic Force with an antiquated and sticky deck of cards yesterday and missed it entirely.  (We’re speaking in code so only magicians know what we mean).  We had to do a quick corrective maneuver like a palm to the side (more code) to get a satisfactory ending to the trick.  Some how the selected card appeared in our pocket.  A miracle.  A mistake and failure but saved by a risky move distracted by intense, almost creepy eye-contact.

What did we learn?

We learned how to do a side palm almost one-handed (more code but if you think about it, and you are a magician you’ll be impressed but you shouldn’t be, we got lucky), and we learned how not to perform a Classic Force.  These were real lessons for us.  We wanted to perform one of our beloved tricks but didn’t have a deck that would work.  We should have performed a different trick — after all, that’s what happened at the end.  Our pride led us astray.  We figured we could do a Classic Force with a deck that had been used for years and could not be properly fanned.

Oddly, that was not our only mistake in our bazillion year career of magic.  But we have learned from each.  Don’t look down the muzzle of a flash wand, ever.  Don’t toss balls of flaming flash paper towards the audience.  Get a good grip before you riffle cards for a force or selection.  Double check your stack – always.  Never let your animals wait too long.  Don’t pull coins from a child’s ear that may be infected and thus sensitive.  Have a key nearby if you’re going to do a handcuff escape – just in case.  Don’t try fire-eating unless you are trained by someone who knows what they are doing and even then don’t.  Juggling broken glass bottles looks fun but there is a risk of quick and deep cuts to the essential veins and arteries around your wrists.

We’re guessing you have lessons you’ve learned as well.  Share them with your fellow performers — don’t expose secrets, but tell us what you learned.  We all benefit.

Thank you to the Inside Magic reader who sent the Hypergols paper.  It was fascinating reading and inspiring.

Free Magic Summer Reading from Conjuring Arts Center!

We love to read magic books and love to read free magic books even more.

There are two types of  free magic books: 1) those in the public domain; and, 2) those that are not in the public domain but are being illegally copied and distributed by some evil person or persons.

We shy away from illegal anything and especially illegally copied books.  Perhaps it is our day job as an Intellectual Property attorney that has biased us against counterfeit and knock-offs.

Maybe if we were not so aware of how authors and inventors dedicate so much of their lives to creating the property others hope to steal, we would be all for the theft.  Maybe not, though.  It still seems wrong.

But what are you going to do, the cynics ask.  Everyone steals and books cost too much and they are only stealing a single, virtual copy and they pay for almost every book other than this one and they were raised by Honey Badgers so they don’t really care.

We know readers of Inside Magic are not like Honey Badgers.

Our readers do care about doing right and avoiding doing wrong.  Our readers are good people.

That’s why the news from The Conjuring Arts Research Center is so exciting to us.

The Conjuring Arts  folks are launching their perfectly timed summer reading program today.

At Conjuring Arts we believe that some of the greatest secrets of magic can only be discovered by reading great books. Every week until the end of the summer we will be giving away a FREE! PDF download of a great magic book. The book will be available for download for absolutely free from the beginning until the end of the week at which time a different free book will be given in its place. Please enjoy reading these classics of magic and spread the word about our FREE Summer Reading Program with your friends!

We promise that if you download each book each week you will have the beginnings of a Great magic library.

We just downloaded their fully bookmarked edition of The Expert at the Card Table.  It looks great and even has line and chapter numbers like you would find in a bible for those who treat the book like the bible of card magic that it is. Continue reading “Free Magic Summer Reading from Conjuring Arts Center!”

Magic Patents Don’t Help: Learn from Horace Goldin

We uploaded into the Inside Magic Library, the 1938 decision by the federal district trial court in the Southern District of New York dismissing Horace Goldin’s lawsuit against R.J. Reynold’s Tobacco for an injunction blocking their alleged exposure of Goldin’s trade secret for Sawing a Woman in Half.  You can see the decision here.

The Court’s decision was correct — Goldin was wrong and apparently didn’t even appear for the hearing.

The Court buys R.J. Reynold’s defense that it did not take Goldin’s secret.  The tobacco folks claimed they got their version of the secret by reading a book written by Inside Magic Favorite Author Walter B. Gibson.

We are publishing the decision to demonstrate an unfortunately frequent mistake of magicians.   A patent only keeps others from making the exact same illusion — it cannot protect the secret or even the idea behind the secret.

Mr. Goldin also failed to understand what is meant by “Trade Secret.”  This is still a common mistake made by magicians.   True, one can protect trade secrets under US intellectual property law but a trade secret must be secret first and foremost.

The method of performing a magic trick is not a trade secret if it is known by others — even if it is known only by magicians.  It may be a secret of the trade but that does not make it a trade secret.

A magician can protect a trade secret only if it is truly secret, he or she has taken the steps to protect the secret, and the person being sued had some agreement or contract with the magician to keep the secret.  Unless there was an agreement between the parties or there was some sort of special relationship between the parties where a court could conclude all agreed the secret was to be kept, there is no basis for a lawsuit.

T. Nelson Downs’ Modern Coin Manipulation – Magic Work in Progress

Several months ago, we published an article about T. Nelson Downs' adopted hometown celebrating his part in their history. Researching the story got us thinking and researching and reading.

That's a lot for a bear with little brains, as AA Milne noted. So it took us a lot longer than we expected to get where we are now. And where exactly are we?

We have read, re-read and corrected our distillation of the several copies of Mr. Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation floating about the public domain realm of the interwebs. None of the publicly available and public domain versions of the book were ready for publication. There were pages missing, headings applied incorrectly and very poor scanning performed. Our various attempts to run optical character recognition scans met with failure due to one or more of these flaws.

Our solution was to purchase some pretty sophisticated OCR, image and books assembly software. We were able to stitch together images from different scanned versions into one document ready for OCR and assembly. Still, we wanted to do more. Mr. Downs' book has historical references throughout that need to be chased. For instance, he begins the book with a defense of his position that he was the true inventor of the Back Palm.

He provides the place and time for his first public use of this essential sleight and suggests that those who claim to have invented the move are wrong or disingenuous. His use of the sleight was to hide and produce coins as part of his Miser's Dream routine. But he notes that other magicians use the same move for card effects.

Speaking of The Miser's Dream, Mr. Downs dedicates substantial portion of the book to teaching this classic act. His instruction is outstanding and the images are very helpful but if one hopes to duplicate his success with the act based on a quick reading and memorization of the script, that one will be frustrated and sad.

The moves taught are knuckle-busters plus. Perhaps part of his motive in writing this book was to dissuade would-be imitators from starting. If you are just starting in Magic or have worked as a professional for decades, this book will have something for you. You may not yet have the skills to perform everything but you will find something to fit your routine with a little practice.

Robert Browning was clearly speaking of magicians when he wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp / Or what's a heaven for?"

We will put T. Nelson Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation in the Inside Magic Library for those who would like a copy. The version will be revised periodically to include annotations and cross-references. Let us know if you find any problems with this or later editions. Enjoy!