Category: Magic Review

Inside Magic Review: One Hundred Years of Sawing

Image of Author Mike CaveneyWe were fortunate enough to be in The Magic Castle the night Mike Caveney presented a lecture on his new book One Hundred Years of Sawing: The Astonishing History of Magic’s Most Iconic Illusion.

Mr. Caveney is the magic world’s scribe and if society was somehow destroyed; thousands of years from now, archeologists would learn all they could know about this epoch from his books.  He knows magic history and, more importantly, loves magic history more than any magician we know.  Future societies will be forced to conclude that magic and its history was our world’s focus.

Sawing is a work of love and a gift to those who love magic.

There were a total of 1,200 editions of the book published.  100 of which are Deluxe Editions.  We have number 390 of the Regular Edition and will proudly keep it on our special magic bookcase; next to the Taschen book, Magic: 1400s – 1950s.  He co-authored that mammoth book with Ricky Jay and Jim Steinmeyer.  Both books are heavy.   Not just in content or tone, but by actual weight (together they weigh 16.6 lbs). We have braced our bookcase and the supporting beams in the wall accordingly.

Sawing brings readers through a wonderful trip through history from the effect’s origins before 1921, its golden era in 1921, the patent litigation over the effect, and its history through our modern day.  It is filled with incredible stories of the magicians who invented, innovated and stole the illusion.  Mr. Caveney treats readers with incredible images at each juncture.  In many cases, these are photos we have never seen.

Put all that together and you can imagine our joy in paging slowly through the book.  It is a very slow read.  Not because it is long but because it is full and detailed.  As far as we can tell, there is not a significant event in the history of this illusion that is not addressed.  Of course, we realize that our knowledge of the trick is now completely informed by Mr. Caveney’s recitation of its history.

In deciding to write a review of the book, we worried that it would either be too short – “we loved it!” – or too long – “on page 129, Mr. Caveney begins to address the development of ….”  That worry persists and is perhaps proven to be valid by the length and depth of this review.

Words do not do justice to the words and images Mr. Caveney presents in this book nor the history he has neatly set before readers.

If you love magic, love history, love the stories of odd but enchanting individuals of magic history, this book is a must read.  Or more correctly, this book is a must have so you can spend hours with it and enjoy all that it provides.

We are so thankful for authors and historians like Mr. Caveney.

Check out his website here.

InsideMagic Review: 5 out 5! 

Unfortunate Article on Phantom of the Card Table

Inside Magic's Famous BunnyWe are loathe to ever write anything negative on the pages of InsideMagic.com.

We do not provide reviews of new effects if the review would be less than at least four stars.  We just don’t review tricks we have found to be unsatisfactory.  We don’t promote articles or videos that we believe expose or denigrate our art.  We have held this position since our start in the mid-1990s.

The reason behind this philosophy is based on the fact that as a whole, magicians are good people and their work represents a source of income and a source of pride.  We would be the last organization to interfere with those sources of positivity.

And so, why are we writing this post about the two-part series published in Genii last month and this?

The series was written by Jamy Ian Swiss on the momentous night in Brooklyn when the Phantom of the Card Table, Walter Scott performed seemingly impossible feats of card dealing whilst wearing a blindfold.

The event has been captured in books and has gone down in magic lore.  Most recently, a copy of Cardini’s version of the manuscript has been published by Conjuring Arts with notes, a preface and forward.  It is a fine production and we have been pouring over it since our purchase on the first day it was available.  Please take the time to read about the making of the new book, Phantom of the Card Table, Critical Edition.

Mr. Swiss concedes the publication itself offers the magic community something of value and is well produced.  In doing so, however, he attacks several magicians, magic historians and dealers.

We don’t mind honest criticism and we have no puppy in this battle.  But we were distraught at the vitriol used in the attacks. He questions the motivations and credentials of contributors to the effort in harsh terms and provides his “considered opinion that Joe Crist, Walter Scott and Eddie McGuire all had a lot in common.  All three were confirmed bull___t artists.”

We think the Phantom / Walter Scott story is fascinating and view the new book as a major step-forward in the study of our great art’s history.  It is just a shame that a two-issue article on the matter could not be presented on a higher, non ad-hominem, level.

There are some in our art that we like and some we like more or less.  We see no need in attacking those we like less, especially publicly.  We also realize that this post does exactly what we are against.  That explains our reluctance to write it and even greater reluctance to post it.  We mean no ill-will to Mr. Swiss or Genii.  We are devoted fans of both.  Our complaint is only with this two-part article on a subject in which we are so interested.

Meir Yedid’s Business Card Penetration Magic

Image of Meir Yedid's Business Card Penetration FrameWe received our Business Card Penetration Frame today from Meir Yedid Magic.

The premise is well known by magicians and likely performed early in their careers.

A frame is shown with a piece of clear plastic within its four corners. A card is inserted on each side of the frame so that if you looked at the props it appear as a sandwich with card, the clear plastic, and another card.

A threatening sharp stick is shown and without any hesitation, pushed through the first card, the clear plastic sheet and out through the card on the other side. The threatening stake is removed the same way it goes in or pulled through on the other side. You can show spectators that there is in fact a hole through both cards and the plastic sheet. The cards are removed from each side and now the hole is gone. The plastic sheet is intact, nary a hole to be seen. If needed, the frame can be inspected by audience members.

That’s the plot of the classic Penetration Frame and it remains the same with the Business Card Penetration Frame.

The difference is the appearance of the frame. It is smaller in dimensions than Penetration Frames we have used in the past. It works perfectly with business cards.  Playing cards would cover most of the plastic sheet, diminishing the effect. But the frame is also different in appearance from your old Penetration Frame.  It sports a metallic look, a gold metallic appearance.

It is not real gold – we checked with one of the local gold and silver merchants that occupy our building on the street-level.  He previously bought one of our fillings so he knows his stuff.  He said it is not real gold. That explains the very reasonable cost for the effect.

So the question is why would we want to buy another Penetration Frame?

We admit – and have done so under oath in one infamous family law proceeding – that we buy duplicates of tricks we own and purchase entire genres of effects that we never perform in our act. We are almost exclusively a card magician and take pride (because it would not be given to us otherwise) in never using gimmicked cards. That limits the number of tricks we can justifiably buy for tax and rational reasons.

We are usually restricted to bricks of Bee Jumbo Index decks and books on card magic written by John Bannon, Juan Tamariz, John Luka and the Stars of Magic series. So why have we purchased more gimmicked coins than we could ever need?  Considering we don’t even do Nickels to Dimes anymore or Scotch and Soda, that’s a question psychologists have found puzzling and others who care about bank balances, infuriating.

But this effect is different and will likely join our regular routine – the same routine, word-for-word, since 1974 – because it looks pretty, gets our business card and the spectator’s business card into play as souvenirs, and requires no difficult moves. If you have been doing magic for more than a decade, you know the moves. Now you need something that looks beautiful with which to perform those moves.

In our Twitter feed, @insidemagic, we have been repeatedly referencing Meir Yedid’s weekly mailing. If you are not a subscriber, you should be. He has new magic that won’t be found in other stores. Many are gems like the Business Card Penetration Frame. Along with the effects offered are great write-ups and suggestions for handling that you will not find elsewhere.

Some considerations: Even though the frame is not really gold, it looks like gold. But under close inspection there are some minor flaws in the coating – at least on the one we received. The flaws will be invisible to even close-up audiences but we thought we would note it. The trick itself works well and feels very durable. Despite being an effect most magicians know and have seen, in all of our time at the Magic Castle’s amateur rooms, we have not seen it performed. For a lay audience, this will come across as a unique effect. Finally, the wooden stake that comes with the frame is sharp. Be careful reaching into the envelope containing the frame or at least don’t be as grabby and careless as we can be.  Although the blood stain we caused at the tip of the stake gives it a certain something.

Even with the minor finishing flaws, we give the trick a Five out of Five for construction, inspiration and real-world use. Plus, the price cannot be beat.

Remember that Inside Magic accepts no payment for our reviews. If we review a trick, it is because we bought it and like it. If we bought it and didn’t like it, we won’t review it. There is enough negativity in the world and we’d like our Art to be a safe zone for innovators and businesses.

Inside Magic Review: Bob White’s Torn and Restored Tissue

Bob White’s Torn and Restored Tissue DVD deserves a place in your magic collection.

Chances are every magician reading this esteemed news source is familiar with the Torn and Restored Tissue and has undoubtedly performed it often.  It may have even been the first trick you learned. So why would you want to purchase a DVD from 2015 that features just one effect and that effect being one you already know and have performed?

Because it is a fantastic DVD and will stir joy in your 2020 scarred heart.

Mr. White provides a fantastically detailed preparation portion of the DVD.  He is detailed and shares his decades of experience with the effect.  He gets all the way down to the ply of napkins to use, the color of those napkins (it depends on whether you are performing close-up or parlor), and the grain patterns to detect.

His performance evidences years of perfecting the routine.  We are not ashamed to admit that he fooled us at one point.  We love being fooled so there is no shame but we get ashamed easily so we thought we would clarify that point.

He takes time to talk and show viewers the incredibly well thought out movements and patter that works so well and seems so fresh.  He admits that he has been performing the effect since he was 19 and at the time of the filming, he was 65.

The last portion of the DVD is Mr. White performing the effect live before a real audience.  The reaction is great and the performance is as smooth as butter (warm).

If you do the effect, get this DVD.  If you have never done the effect because you think it is too simple or too well-known, get this DVD.  If you want to see how a professional treats a classic of our art to make a wonderful closing piece, get this DVD.  Basically, get this DVD and enjoy the wonderful feeling of your heart filling with peace and joy.

Inside Magic Rating: Five out of Five!  Our Highest.

Inside Magic Review: The Imp Bottle

Advertisement for Imp BottleEditor’s note: With the pandemic causing dramatic changes in our Art, we thought we would republish some of our reviews from a while back.  Here is one from September 19th, 1907.  Inside Magic was just a pamphlet then and published in limited quantities (and qualities). 

The hottest trick on the market is the new Imp Bottle effect.  It is the rave of all the magicians in the know that we know.  It has received oodles of praise in the magic press and greats such as Houdini, Kellar and Thurston have testified to its endearing qualities and profound affect on audiences.  Just how good is it?  Inside Magic’s review follows but the skinny is that it is the genuine article, the cat’s meow and how.

Effect: You show a cute little vase made from a high quality wood and finished with a brilliant sheen.  It stands erect on the table or in the magi’s hand.  You explain that this bottle contains an “imp” that can be mischievous at times if not assuaged with praise.  If the imp is pleased, he will allow the vase to lie down with its top touching the table.  If, however, the imp feels frightened or insulted, he will refuse to allow the bottle to be set in such a configuration.

You demonstrate what you have explained by praising the imp and comforting it with soothing talk.  You then set the vase on its side and it remains in that position until you take it back up.

You now ask one of your many spectators to hold the vase and try to set it on its side.  Despite the volunteer’s kind words and good intentions, the imp in the bottle refuses to recline.  The vase remains standing straight up.  It is quite a mystery.

Review: We received the effect from a magic supply house for the purposes of this review but that shouldn’t bias our assessment.  We have to give it back when we are done with it.

This one is a real fooler.  The effect as described above is exactly what your audience sees.  You can play up the story of the “imp” with gusto and ad libs aplenty because the effect is almost a self-working one.  When we performed this for an audience recently, we gave a story about how the imp was entrapped in the bottle by a mean sorcerer who was jealous of the imp and his charming ways.  Perhaps the story went on too long because the audience dwindled to a single member and we presume he remained only because we set the imp bottle in his hand as we provided our patter.  Nonetheless, he was suitably impressed when he found that despite his kind words and magic flourishes provided by his free hand, he could not make the imp comply with his instructions.  No matter what he tried, the bottle would not remain on its side.

We felt badly for those in the audience that left before this pay-off because it was a real hum-dinger!

In the future, we will limit the time allotted for our story about the imp to no more than five minutes.  We started losing audience members around the ten minute mark and so five minutes ought to provide just the right amount of backstory to build up the astounding final effect.

If you are a close-up magician, this is a trick you should have in your waist coat or vest pocket no matter the situation.  It is the perfect combination of “easy to do” and “great to see.”

For those of us who do stage shows, it may be possible to build this into a very large bottle with a real imp but we haven’t worked out the plans for such an illusion.

Inside Magic Rating: Five Out of Five!

Great Magic Tricks and Magic Dealers

1926-Johnson Smith Co. AdAs all readers know, InsideMagic.com does not do paid endorsements of Magic Dealers or their tricks for sale.  When we review a trick, readers know that we really, really like it and are not receiving a red cent for the good word.

Not that we are against being bribed to writing a great review for a lousy trick but the offer doesn’t come around that often.  That could be because Magic Dealers are notoriously honest and we have a readership hovering in the single digits and the hovering is in the lower range of that single digit range.  We prefer to think that Magic Dealers are honest and above bribes.

But the subject has caused us to wonder: why do Magic Dealers like Viking Magic, Meir Yedid and Cody Fisher produce quality tricks.  They could produce the same effect to do the same thing with lousy quality but they don’t.

We got to thinking about this when we received Viking Magic’s Nest of Brass Boxes.  The tolerances of the brass machining is exact and, dare we say — and we do dare, it’s our nature — perfect.  The trick is not new, it is the quality of the trick that makes the difference.  George Robinson is not just a nice guy and proprietor of a great shop, he seems to insist on quality when less than quality would do.  The brass is beautiful, the instructions are great, the delivery was prompt and the trick works right out of the box.  We didn’t have to make the gimmick or even polish the brass.

Meir Yedid apparently loves magic as much as we do.  His services include the latest magic news and his descriptions of the effects he sells are first class.  He gives a short history on how he came upon the trick, offers his suggested variations on handling, and great prices.  Again, he doesn’t need to do this.  People in our business know Meir Yedid.  They trust him and so he could rest on his laurels.  We recline on our beanbag chair, we have no laurels on which to rest.  If we did, they would probably have thorns making for a difficult resting experience.

As many InsideMagic.com readers know, we have a jones for color changing knives.  It could be because it was the first trick we received on the first day upon being employed by the legendary Barry Gibbs — developer of the finest Rising Card effect ever made, the A.M.Y Rising Cards — at the legendary Magic Wagon at the no-longer existent Palm Beach Mall.  He instructed us to learn the moves and to come back for our next day at work with it practiced.  He also told us to clip and clean our fingernails before demonstrating any magic at the kiosk.  That set was from D. Robbins with the locking blade.  We loved it because it was our introduction into our mentorship with Mr. Gibbs.  Over the next two years, he taught us so much but the Color Changing Knives stuck — pun intended.

We have purchased Joe Mogar sets, Rodger Loveland‘s beautiful and larger set, and now two more sets from Meir Yedid including a set made from used car parts.  How many sets does on magician need?  We don’t know but when we find out, we’ll share the news on this humble site.

Cody Fisher is not only inventive, he is a great guy.  His personal approach to dealing with customers and past customers is the finest — and it does not have to be.  His tricks are strong enough to be a less interested or helpful dealer but that apparently not his style.

But why?  Why make such great Magic Tricks with such high quality and great customer service?  Because we are a small market?  No, they would have greater economic incentives to do the bare minimum and take the least path to satisfying the customer.  The economics of the situation would seem to dictate that they should do enough to get the sale and move on.  Yes, customer service would help build loyalty but pricing lowered by lesser quality would compete against this benefit.

We come to the conclusion that they are magicians first and Magic dealers’ second.  They promote our Art and care about their customers because they want to put out the best quality effects and follow up with customers because they care about their customers’ use of the products.

They don’t need to but they do.

We are thankful that they do but we are not above taking bribes for endorsements.  Perhaps that’s the difference between us and them.  Fortunately in the last 25 years of this site’s existence, we’ve never had to face that dilemma.

 

Triple TUC is Great Coin Magic

Inside Magic Image of Triple TUCWe, like most right-thinking people, open the box in which came a trick ordered and awaited, ripping through the straw, tossing the invoice and cutting open the plastic with our color-changing knives (red one, of course).  We don’t review the instructions, we just look at the props.  That’s all.

We play with them, examine them for quality control and then try to recreate what we saw in the advertisements.  It is only when the trick cannot be done exactly as seen in the short, well-edited video, that we give in and read the instructions  – or watch the instructional video at the handy  link found on the paper we tossed earlier.

The Triple T.U.C. Coin(s) from Tango Magic, is a trick that matched this experience exactly.  It wasn’t until days of playing with the gimmicks that we realized we were supplied with not one very clever coin but with three.  That’s how well it is made and how hopeless we would be as an archaeologist.

We’d find a bone, maybe a real big one, and declare to the world, “look we found something that someone probably ate; maybe at a prehistoric restaurant like in a cartoon documentary we saw when we were young.”

We would also fail as a surgeon but the reasons for this failure proved difficult to describe without making us throw-up a little in our mouth.  So trust us.

The T.U.C. coin does everything you could want it to do.  Matrix – got it.  Three Fly – no sweat.  Coins Across – are you kidding us?

The machining put into the gimmick(s) is/are so good that we want to reveal it to you because we like you and want you to like us but that’s not how magic works.  We keep secrets at Inside Magic. In fact, we don’t even know where the bathroom is in our spacious office because our staff is so well-trained in the doctrine of secrecy.

We received T.U.C. coin(s) last year but were in no shape to figure it out.  Our brain was occupied with other notions and concepts destined, we thought, to get a MacArthur Genius Grant — that’s how delusional we were at the time.  We saw things that weren’t there, heard voices that weren’t spoken and believed “rubbing dirt on it” would cure most athletic injuries (or snow in the case of skiing or snowboarding).

But now we have many of our faculties back and our senses are relatively restored thanks to boarder crossings to purchase necessary equipment and ointments.  It’s true that one sense fails, the others take on extra importance.  We now have fingertip control with the precision we have always sought.  We can deal seconds like its nobody’s business (whatever that means – we cannot imagine a business plan getting funding for such a project).  But we still lack one of the most important senses, common sense.

Is there a chance that we will perform Three Fly or the Matrix in our routine we have not changed since 1974.  Likely not.  But if asked to perform a new trick, we will likely have a go (an “English” way of saying “we will try”) at performing the Matrix because it is so darn pretty with the T.U.C. package.

This is not a cheap trick but the type of engineering required to make it likely  not inexpensive (that’s a scholar’s way of saying “it cost a lot”) and that’s okay.  It means fewer will own this FISM Award Winning effect.  That makes us special and unique (which is a lazy editor’s way of saying “special” or “unique”).

Visit Tango Magic this very instant to check out the T.U.C. coins in different denominations.  We assume that means the denominations of the coins and not their religious affiliations.

Inside Magic Review – Five out of Five Stars!

Lance Burton Nails It

Inside Magic Image of Lance Burton, Master MagicianWe just got back from Indio, California and boy are our arms tired.

That joke doesn’t work unless one has flown back from the location in the first part of the joke but it is applicable in this case because we could not stop applauding like one of those monkeys that crash cymbals together until their battery wears out.

Our battery didn’t wear out until we got to our valet to drop off the car at our spacious Beverly Hills residence.  The valet, known as Officer Mike, always helps us out of our car when we return because he thinks that protects the public in some way.  Perhaps he is right.  Also, perhaps he has the authority of the State of California to enforce his decisions and respect that authority.

Officer Mike said, “Stop clapping.”

We said, “Oh, are we still doing that?”

Officer Mike said, “Stop asking stupid rhetorical questions and get out of the car.”

Officer Mike was concerned because he felt it would be difficult to drive our vehicle while clapping so vociferously or at all.

In hindsight he was probably right.

We were clapping because we went to see the Lance Burton show.  It was fantastic.

But it wasn’t just Lance Burton; it was Lance Burton and Friends.  And what friends he has.  Fielding West and Keith West performed magic as well. They were incredible as one would expect (and we are the “one” in that sentence even though we speak in the third-person).

We have never seen Mr. Burton more relaxed in his presentation and work with the audience.  He is always great with kids and this show was over the top.  He asked for “four or five” kids to join him on stage for the Vanishing Birdcage and was soon sharing the platform with closer to twenty-five kids; many of whom helped to hold the soon to be disappearing bird cage right before their astonished eyes.

There are great magic show and then there are shows that one will never forget.  This was the latter.  As he travels with his friends, make the trip to see him.  You will thank yourself and perhaps think fondly of us for urging you to go.

A Trick that Fooled Us

lil fobWe 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.

Magicians of a “Certain Age” and Dry Hands

Inside Magic Image of Frustrated MagicianAs 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.

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