Category: Magic Review

Woody Aragon is Amazing and That’s Okay With Us

Spanish Magician Woody Aragón is amazing.

We tried to think of a better superlative but were stumped.  Imagine Winnie the Pooh braced against a tree tapping his little furry skull and murmuring “think, think, think.”  That image fits both the writing of this review and witnessing the work of this great magician live at The Magic Apple Day of Lectures at the beautiful Sportsmen’s Lodge located in Studio City, California this weekend.

Mr. Aragón began his lecture with one of the most impressive displays of card magic we have ever witnessed.  We love to be fooled, really fooled.  Mr. Aragón’s simple, charming approach to the presentation of magic fooled us so thoroughly that we immediately lost our ability to think like a magician.  We no longer looked for technique or moves.  We became fully engaged as an audience member – a lay person seeing magic for the very first time.

As we have often noted in these pages, Oil and Water is an effect that seems to have run its course.  It has been done, sold, demonstrated, taught and performed more often by often less than accomplished magicians than most any other trick.  Mr. Aragón performed easily the most magical version of this effect that had – before this weekend – lost all of its magic.

We feel some false assurance in our assumption that we know everything there is to know about everything.  A subset of our omniscience is all magic sleights.  We may not be able to perform anything more difficult than a riffle shuffle or a very loud and obvious pass, but we know about the moves.  We can detect a second deal at fifteen paces and can tell you when a palm is about to occur.

Yet, Mr. Aragón used very few sleights to accomplish his magic; and those he did use were well within our mastery.

How, then, can he do what he did?  How can he visually, slowly and repeatedly separate the reds from the blacks in a small deck of eight cards?  And, more importantly, how can he cause the same separation of the remainder of the well-shuffled deck from which he borrowed those eight cards?

At the end of his presentation, he began his lecture.  This was one of the first lectures we have attended where we actually learned brand new ways of thinking and performing magic.  Often we do not think or really perform when doing magic; at least not well and almost never at the same time.  But Mr. Aragón’s lecture has made us a convert to this idea of thinking about the magic trick from the perspective of the audience and accomplishing what needs to be accomplished as part of a well-considered routine.

His movements and interaction with the audience are casual and spontaneous.  His reaction to tricks that have apparently failed or his volunteer’s misunderstanding of his instructions seemed genuine.  Yet, like a great chess master, it was all part of a plan.

Sure, we think about our performance and try to mystify through distraction and presentation but we had not taken it to the level Mr. Aragón has mastered.

He is a delightful character on stage and wins the audience’s support with his charm all the while executing the very do-able manipulations to accomplish true miracles.

We purchased his multi-DVD set and have set about to practice his routines.  But unless we can also perfect our Spanish accent and learn to be charming, we will remain only an admirer of his talent.

As competitive as we are, we are okay with just being a delighted fan of a great magician.  It is a nice place to be.  We are thankful to The Magic Apple for bringing us to this place.

 

The Modern Conjurer by C. Lang Neil Free From Conjuring Arts

Book number three in the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s Summer Reading Series is a brand new version of the first edition of the amazing classic The Modern Conjurer by C. Lang Neil.

The experts at Conjuring Arts did a great job of making a fully searchable PDF with very helpful bookmarks.  They tell us it is one of the first magic books to have photographs — quite a breakthrough for publishing in 1902.

Conjuring Arts produced a  new edition featuring magic with coins, cards, balls, handkerchiefs, and more. Even more impressive, the text actually contains  photographs are of very well known magicians performing their own effects.

You can see the greats in action including Charles Bertram, T. Nelson Downs, Paul Valadon, and H. De Manche.

David Roth, the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s Master in Residence highly recommends this work and we fully agree.

Best of all, you can download it for no cost if you get over to the Conjuring Arts’ site before 2:00 pm on July 28th.  We have included the link below.

The Modern Conjurer by C. Lang Neil -Text based PDF with bookmarks.

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!”

Dan Garrett’s Heartz Is a Keeper

Inside Magic Favorite Magician Dan Garrett’s newest effect Heartz is a winner.

We have spent incredible amounts of money for effects we have never used or even opened.  Most of the items were brought home and immediately condemned to permanent storage in our old steamer trunk or magic junk drawer.

Those effects probably grabbed our interest initially but lost their luster by the time we returned to our estate.  We are neither wasteful nor wealthy so we have tried to break this habit.

We now only buy magic tricks that we will actually perform.  It does not have to be a trick we would include in our professional act.  If we are sure we will perform it somewhere for someone, it is worthy of further consideration.

Few tricks may the cut.

Mr. Garrett’s Heartz is one of those very few tricks worthy of our attention and funds.

Here is what the audience sees.  We know this to be true because we sat in the audience during Mr. Garrett’s lecture last week when he performed.

The magician’s hands are empty.  He or she brings them together to form a heart shape.  The hands are still empty.  Slowly, the hands are rotated and a bright red sponge heart magically appears.

Let us review.

Hands are empty.

Hands are brought together to form the shape of a heart and can still be seen to be empty.

The hands turn slightly and a red heart appears between the fingers.

We were fooled and we watched Mr. Garrett carefully – we were getting wise to his tricky ways by that point in the lecture – and were amazed when the red heart appeared.

He held a red pen behind the sponge heart to resemble Cupid’s arrow.   In one fluid movement, the heart was split into two separate hearts; setting up a nice sponge ball routine with love as its theme. Continue reading “Dan Garrett’s Heartz Is a Keeper”

Dan Garrett’s Lecture: A Quantitative & Qualitative Analysis

Dan Garrett presented his new magic lecture in Royal Oak, Michigan last night.  We tweeted during the breaks and gave our pithy, excited reviews as the evening developed and now 24 hours later, we have no regrets.

Some lectures are great just long enough to get you to the dealer’s table with cash wadded in your paws.  The buyer’s regret kicks in shortly thereafter: perhaps as one is driving home or later when one confronted by one’s significant other and required to justify the purchase of “more magic.”

Mr. Garrett’s lecture did not have a post-event emotional let-down.  Above is a scientific chart proving our point:

Comparing Mr. Garrett to a baseline (or “typical lecture”), a Cinnabon, an energy drink and a roller coaster ride proves his lecture succeeds where other stimuli fail.

The Cinnabon starts off more quickly than Mr. Garrett but peters-out by the 90 minute mark and actually falls below the baseline emotional level due to its crashing effect.

An energy drink has a similar peak pattern and while its crash is not nearly as dramatic as the one seen for the Cinnabon, it is still substantial and does go below the baseline after 90 minutes.

A roller coaster experience actually starts out with higher pre-event levels but falls to sub-baseline levels after 2.5 minutes on average.  There is often a residual feeling of nausea for the roller coaster rider that typically subsides within 24 hours.

It can be safely said Mr. Garrett’s lecture starts strongly, follows an upward sloping path that continues for at 24 hours after attending.

(Credit: Graph and Data from “Better Than a Cinnabon? An Analytical Study of Stimulus-Response Related to Foodstuffs, Recreation & Magic Lectures,” Am J Energy Studies, Jan. – Apr. 2012).

Mr. Garrett’s lecture succeeds even under qualitative analysis.

We walked away from the lecture hall with some great effects, a renewed sense of excitement about refining our presentation, and the sad understanding that syphoning gas is still considered “improper” or “criminal.”

Upon our return to our vehicle – easy to identify since it was the only car in the parking lot and had a metal boot attached to its right rear axle – we considered how we would describe Mr. Garrett’s lecture to a fellow magician, a non-magician, a non-fellow and the police booking officer.

His presentation is so smooth and so well-planned that it would likely entertain non-magicians with or without exposure of the effects.  So many lecturers seem to have happened into the situation and are merely killing time before taking orders at their hastily arranged dealer’s table.  They go from one trick to another with inside jokes and asides understood by one or two in the room and appreciated by none.  They justify their ad-hoc style by reminding the audience that they are in a teaching mode; they would do it differently for a real audience.

Mr. Garrett was accompanied by his own ingenious and inexpensive sound system, complete with musical cues and voice-overs.  He presented each effect as if performing for a real audience with such poise and polish that we stopped thinking about whether the trick would be sold later or was part of the lecture notes.  We found ourselves enjoying the magic for magic’s sake.

He began with a great visual gag for emcees and we would describe it but it would ruin the surprise for those who plan to see Mr. Garrett’s lecture soon.  Continue reading “Dan Garrett’s Lecture: A Quantitative & Qualitative Analysis”

Ronen Goldman: Magician of Light

We can pick out the word “Magician” from a thousand paces.  If there is a magic book or a book with the word “magic” in the title on a shelf along the Great Wall of China, we could see it from outer space.  Our brain is just like that.  It was trained as a “Li’l Brain” to find things that represented danger (knives, fire, flaming knives and out-of-date mayonnaise) and those things that brought pleasure (magic books or tricks, 9-volt batteries, fresh mayonnaise and the annual Sears catalog).

This skill or instinctual survival mechanism has paid off handsomely.  We have avoided the scary bad things while we have lived a life full of great magic, cheap electric shocks to the tongue, a stable source of protein and an encyclopedic understanding how women’s hosiery and undergarments have changed in structure and style since the mid-1960s.

It made sense, then, that we noticed a blurb about surrealist photographer, Ronen Goldman’s work.  He does amazing things with the camera, mysterious and wondrous things.  One of his images is titled “The Magician” and features an unidentified performer throwing cards around one tree and behind another.  We do not want to infringe on his intellectual property and have included just a portion of the image to peak your interest.

We do not know much about photography other than it apparently involves “light” + “writing” if it is true to its Greek root words.  We do not know how to make trick photographs and so, to us, what Mr. Goldman does is magic.

Like a good magician, Mr. Goldman does not reveal his secrets.  We cannot identify the card throwing magician.

“I don’t love telling everything, just for the reason of the effect on people — like when a magician does something, you really don’t want to know — but if it helps an actual photographer to go out and do cool stuff, I’m for it,” he says. “It’s not like it’s a big secret about what I’m doing.”

He has an Etsy store where you can buy his images as well as a neat thread on Reddit where he does divulge some but not all of his very cool methods.
You should check out his web page at RonenGoldman.com. He has talent and we like the way he sees the world.

Check out his Facebook Page here: http://on.fb.me/g5kiOH

 

Timeless Magic of Ian Rowland

One of the downsides of being a well-respected news organization is the requirement that articles have some hook to current events. Fortunately, Inside Magic has never been confused with a well-respected news organization and, therefore, these rules do not apply. This is not the primary reason we are not well-respected or even considered a news organization, but it is a benefit.

Consequently, if The New York Times desired to publish an article gushing about the outstanding writing skills and style of Charles Dickens, it would need to find some way to associate the effusive tribute to the news of the day. Even then, The Times would feel obliged to find parallels to some event or person familiar to both readers of Dickens and today's newspapers. It could not just be a gush piece [1. Ironically, Gush Piece is also the name of our hard-boiled detective with an eye for the ladies, a finger for the trigger and salivary glands for a spit take. Gush Piece is not related or connected in any manner to the iconic Belgian comic strip of the same name featuring the beloved character Gush Piece (“Le Garçon Avec la Bouche Très Mouillé” – “The Boy with the Very Wet Mouth”). ] or homage to the incredibly relevant author for today's modern society.

But as we noted, we have no reputation to squander and we are not convinced we would worry about squandering even if we did. Irregardless and nonetheless [2. Please see our law review article, “Useless and Pedantic, a New Lawyer Guide to Language and Artificial Profundity”, Cosmopolitan Styling Academy Quarterly, June 1999.  The original article was 25,000 words but the editor slashed it to 250 words before adding an irrelevant, although very helpful,  paragraph about the need to avoid “generic acetone” as a nail polish remover.] we wanted to talk about Ian Rowland and how much we like his work today. We worried for hours how to work it into the current news from magic or non-magic sources. Yes, there was the big news that Folger's Instant Coffee intends to bring back its "Magic Morning Mud" contest awarding $1,000.00 to the worst cup of coffee available to commuters. That really had little or nothing to do with magic in its proper sense. It just used the word "magic" and that was good enough to trigger a Google News Alert.

Unfortunately, we don't know if Mr. Rowland even drinks coffee and we worried about stretching too far to make a story relevant.

Mr. Rowland is an Inside Magic Favorite from way back. His brain is a fertile medium for the weed-like growth of leafy, green magic. [3. See, “Up an Analogy without a Clue: Modern Statistical Study of Poor Analogies and the Devastation Wrought Upon Innocent Sentences,” Timothy Quinlan, Car Wash Attendant Journal, Winter 2009.]

We have purchased his writings with the drive of a man (although with a slightly effeminate laugh) possessed. His Real Work on Cold Reading is one of the most comprehensive and accessible books on this very arcane subject. We have stolen his spoon bending routine without shame to great success before US audiences. Plus, his writing style is gooder than almost anyone we know. He is pithy, funny and substantive. We shoot for any one of the three and often miss or clip one our own essential arteries.

Today, Mr. Rowland is offering two very unique and free items for visitors. The first is an instant download about persuasion entitled Mind Twists. It asks, "How can you persuade anyone to do anything? How can you be happy? And what very strange thing did I do in 1997?" The download is free in the most basic sense of the word. You are not required to give up your email address, join a mailing list, post a badge on your site, or even foreswear some habit others claim could harm you and your offspring. You simply go to the page and download the PDF.

A second freebie does come with a string attached but it is a nice string or at least not a string that one would mind. [4. Speaking of which, look for our premier episode on Mystic Hollow, Michigan Comcast Community Access Channel 81, “The Magic and Deviant Behavior Hour.”  Our first show will feature a psychologist from the University of Michigan, a Gaucho (an Argentinian Cowboy), an alpaca and a magician working together as a team to place an effective classified ad to meet the group members’ divergent needs.]

   Mr. Rowland will give you access to a stunning group of effects in exchange for proof that you have helped a charity.

From the great one's website:

Five simple steps.

1. You have to be a magician or mentalist. Amateur or pro, doesn't matter, but you must have a serious interest.

2. Make a donation to some recognised charity or good cause.

3. Email me: ian@ianrowland.com. Subject = 'Free Lecture Notes'.

4. Put your full 'normal' name (e.g. John Smith) at the top of the email, whatever else you write.

5. Tell me in a few words about your chosen charity and what they do. Don't cut and paste from official blurb. Don't tell me how much you donated.

 

Mr. Rowland promises he will not put you on a mailing list or give your details to anyone else. Like all good things, the offer ends soon. You need to get your submission to him by March 31, 2012.

We thought about this for a very long time but cannot figure his angle unless it is just his way of encouraging charity. If it was our offer, you know we'd have some way of making it pay but not so for Mr. Rowland. His interest is sincere and his goals noble.

 

True, we don't have a timely hook for this story but then again, relevance and professionalism are merely words here at Inside Magic. What Mr. Rowland offers is substance and good tidings – and that has to be sufficient for ample news coverage, right?

Hank Lee on Pre-Order Madness

Hank Lee's Magic Factory is a great place on the web for magicians and magic lovers. It is, to us, the virtual equivalent of a real magic store. Hank Lee is always friendly, topical, and filled with enthusiasm for our art.

Yes, some of his enthusiasm could be an outgrowth of his desire to sell magic, stay in business, eat and sleep somewhere other than under a bridge. Still, with his writing talent and business skills, he would likely make the same if not more plying his talents selling something other than magic. We suspect he likes this world of magic and magicians and finds a nice synergy of his passion and profession.

Each week, Hank Lee sends out emails to those who subscribe. The Hot List usually contains a short, well-considered essay or reflection he believes may be of interest to customers and subscribers.

This week's Hot List begins with a very interesting take on the "Pre-Order" game played by magic shops and wholesalers. We have pre-ordered many items in the last few years. It can be frustrating to pay in advance for an effect that fails to materialize on the promised date, or even within a month of the promised date.

We have accepted this scenario as a fact of life in the internet magic age. We assumed the pre-order funds helped to fund the production of the effect or provided some cash-flow for those in the supply chain. We realize our pre-ordering is enabling poor money management and perhaps even bringing poor quality magic to the market. No one would pre-order an effect described as ordinary or anything less than spectacular. Most magicians are happy to wait for the newest trick's arrival at their favorite magic outlet.

But the pre-order scenario works because the effect is described as something so wonderful, unique, novel, and new that the demand is likely to outstrip supply. Magicians cannot wait to purchase the effect on the day it debuts on store shelves – it may not be there.

We have a policy of not criticizing magicians or magic tricks. There are plenty of places on the web for snark and haters (or "snaters" or "harks"). Post a message to any one of the major magic forums asking for help or offering an opinion. Within seconds, a fire-fight of nastiness and sarcasm (complete with bad spelling and not good grammar) will appear in the post position immediately below your earnest comment.

We resist the urge to join the poorly thought out screeds because it is ultimately exhausting. We have a very limited ability to hate or question another magician's integrity or intelligence. Soon, we are disgusted with our own words and intemperate actions and need a shower or at least a good wet wiping (if that is the proper verb form for use of the moist towelettes we have collected from Kentucky Fried Chicken locations across this great land).

So, we won't name the names of those fortunate magicians and magic stores who have taken our pre-order money months in advance of the closest thing to real magic only to deliver a poorly edited PDF document teaching either something we already knew or something we would never use.

The fault, dear Caesar, lies not in the stars but in ourselves. We continue to fall for the promises of nearly miraculous results through use of a hitherto undiscovered magic principle as used by the inventor for the last thirty years, in thousands of shows.

Logic is lost when we are caught up in the moment. How could it be a tried and true effect honed by decades of real-world performances and yet be "hitherto unknown?" Perhaps the inventor lacks publicity skills and no one attended the shows held over the last quarter century? Maybe the inventor or distributor is puffing? Maybe we should think before we drop good cash on a promise of something we know does not exist?

Hank Lee's thoughts on the pre-order issue are refreshing. He provides a take from the perspective of a magic dealer.

I have been in this business of magic for 36 years. I remember when dinosaur magicians roamed the earth. Back in the olden days, we somehow managed without pre-orders. We sold items that had actually come into stock before they were advertised; or, within a few days of being advertised. It seems intrinsically sound business practice.

So why do magic dealers buck the sound business practice to offer promises in exchange for real money combined with a high likelihood of customer frustration and disappointment?

Continue reading “Hank Lee on Pre-Order Madness”

Magic Roadshow Back on Track

Rick Carruth’s The Magic Roadshow is must reading for anyone interested in magic. Collectors, performers, groupies, hangers-on and recent converts will all find satisfaction in the virtual pages of this well-edited magic journal.

You will understand our panic, therefore, when we did not receive the latest issue when we expected.

The latest edition arrived on Tuesday and we were embarrassed to read that Mr. Carruth had a very good reason for the delayed distribution.

He suffered a heart attack and while The Magic Roadshow is important, it is less important than personal health and safety. We are prepared to give Mr. Carruth a pass on this interruption in our ridiculously anal-retentive routine.

Mr. Carruth writes:

I spent all of last week in the hospital. Seems I had a heart attack and some totally clogged arteries. Bummer. I’ll get over it and back on track. My public service message of the month is this… If you have a little heartburn, and even if Tums helps, go to the hospital if there are any other occurrences outside the ordinary. My heartburn lasted about 30 minutes, but I had a rapid heart rate for two more days. Doc says he wished I had come earlier…  (I told him I was convinced it was the Baha salad, pico de gallo, spicy jalapeno dressing, and cup of chili I had before going to bed the night before…)

The latest edition is chocked-full of great effects and links to download some of the classics of magic. You will find a great math magic trick that will surely please even those snobs or cowards who normally fear math magic,  amazing self-working effects, and links to videos teaching important sleight of hand moves.
Continue reading “Magic Roadshow Back on Track”

Magician Jan Rouven Takes Place in ‘Justice League’

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Mike Weatherford suggests only the the discriminating magic show consumer can decide whether the town really needs a half-dozen big-box illusion shows.  He asks, “So many magicians, but who has the real magic?”

Magician Jan Rouven is the sixth “big-box” illusionist on the town this summer.  Steve Wyrick boosted the big-boxers total to an even seven with his new Ultra Magician show at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Mr. Weatherford points out that there may be six or seven shows but there is some overlap.  “Each show pretends to ignore the others, which is one reason you see a lot of the material duplicated. Another is that none of the contenders has been humble enough to propose some type of Justice League of magic team-up; they all hope the others will go away.”

The review is good for the new name on the scene.

“He’s a young, likable German with charisma and only minimally goofy stage attire (sparkly yes, but no epaulets or animal prints),” says Mr. Weatherford.

Rouven presents one of the oldest of the “big-box” effects, Metamorphosis with a dangerous update.  The magician and beautiful, but stealthy assistant Johanna Grajales perform the classic in “lighting fast” fashion.  The speedy exchange is even more incredible considering Rouven begins the transposition securely locked in tank of water.

“It’s refreshing,” Mr. Weatherford observes, “to have an illusionist young and physically spry enough to play the danger card convincingly, not just jamming younger assistants into boxes.”
Continue reading “Magician Jan Rouven Takes Place in ‘Justice League’”