Category: Magic Stories

Perhaps Non-Fiction or Fiction

Gibtown Fest About to Start

Inside Magic Image of Embarrassed ClownWhile not strictly magic, the annual International Independent Showmen’s Association Trade Show in Gibsontown (herein after “Gibtown”) is something to which we look forward every year.

We’ve been to Gibtown many times but never during the trade show.

Oh, how we long to be there during the show.

Our problem, though, is that we geek-out (as the kids say) about geeky things.  You show us a hall full of rides for sale, equipment to repair those rides, or even cotton candy machines of varying price points and features; and we’re not right.

We search out carnivals and circuses to search out people who work in both with the hope of talking to them for hours.  We imagine they have better things to do but we don’t, so it is kind of a balance.  We could listen (and have) to ride operators talk about set-up and tear-down of their rides.  We talk to people working midway games far too long and circus logistics — don’t get us started.

Oddly, we could care less about the engineering that goes into the creation of the track upon which a ride must travel safely over and over.  But let us shadow the person who sets up that track on a marshy ground with little or no spacing between the ride and the ticket kiosk, powered by big thick cables emanating from a junction box, in turn powered by thicker cables from a generator behind the backdrop of a nearby ride and we are in heaven.

In our very much younger days, we worked for essentially free at Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers’ Circus during its stop in south central Florida.  We say essentially free because we got free food, a Coke, and tickets to the show.

But we were in the milieu (as the avantgarde kids would say).  Back in those days, the elephants were responsible for pulling the rope to in turn pull up the canvas of the big top.  We were responsible for setting chairs on risers.  The big top would then come down at the end of the night, get rolled up and loaded for the trip to the next town.

Gibtown is to carnival and amusement folks as Colon is to magicians.  A mecca with homes, trailers, rides and people taking their winter hiatus, preparing for their next stretch, fixing equipment, meeting others and sharing stories of the road or plans for the next trip out.

At night, in Gibtown, the air is humid, thick and still.  There is the faint whiff of cigar smoke as one walks down the dirt roads coming off the main highway.  People set up outside their homes, trailers or vehicles and talk.

We have walked and driven by on such occasions but never had the audacity to stop and introduce ourself — we don’t know how that would go.  What could we say?

So the idea of attending the big yearly show is far more intimidating than driving or walking by friendly people enjoying the evening.  That intimidation is entirely self-generated.  It has nothing to do with the people, the surroundings, the culture or any action on their part.

It is all on us.

One day we’ll make it to Gibtown for the show.  We hope.

 

 

Rainy Night and the Coat Check Girl

The Coat Check GirlIt doesn’t rain in southern California but it did that night.

I was late and it was raining as I drove the Black Beauty through the side streets to avoid the highways where people have never seen rain but aren’t deterred from driving like fools.

The club was just four miles away but it would likely take me another thirty minutes.  I turned on the AM radio and tried to find a channel playing peppy music for a rainy night.  I found nothing.  Just news, the latest loud music and preachers.

I turned off the radio and got a cigarette from my left overcoat pocket.

I learned to be careful about which pocket I stored my smokes in.  The right pocket had a tendency to flood with fluid with the slightest bump giving the unfiltered Camels a moist, cabernet taste.

I was resigned to being late for my first show of the evening.  Maybe the audience would be late too.

I drove along the Mulholland and down to the Top Hat Club just off of Hollywood Boulevard.

Being just off the boulevard of broken dreams, weirdos and prostitutes was the key to the Top Hat Club.  Only high class folks in the club.  The guest stars were the best in the business, the staff could not be topped and the audience came for one reason, to be amazed.

Victor parked and sheltered me from the unusual rain with his umbrella as I strolled from the Black Beauty to the club’s entrance.  Reggie was on duty and took the umbrella from me.

“How you doing, Sir?” Reggie asked.

I don’t know if he knew my name or was just being polite.  Probably the latter.

I took one last puff on my soggy cigarette and flicked the butt into the ashtray by the coat check booth.

“Hello, Mr. Quinlan,” the young lady purred as I handed her my overcoat.

“Be careful, it’s loaded,” I said.

She smiled as she patted the right pocket gently.

“Got another show tonight after here?”

I nodded, reached into the coat she held with well-manicured hands and a fixated stare on me.  I pulled out my pack of Camels and released my grip on the coat.

“Where’s the other show?  Maybe I could come see you perform.”

She turned her back to put up my coat and handed me the coat check tag.

“Private party in the Hills,” I said.

I lit another cig and turned to blow the smoke away from her.

“Sounds exotic,” she said.  “Need an assistant?  Don’t all magicians need an assistant to distract the eye from the magic?”

I nodded and took in the scene.

The coat check booth was the darkest part of the club.  There was velvet stretched across the counter, velvet along the columns that made up the sides and even velvet along the top.  I figured the velvet absorbed all the light in the space.  Might be a good thing to remember when making an illusion, I thought.  For some reason, though, she was clearly visible.  Like a spotlight was on her.

“Do you need an assistant?” she asked again as if my nod was not sufficient.

“Sure, do you know any that might fit the costume.  It’s pretty tight.”

She smiled but didn’t blush or even turn away.

“I am sure I could fit it.  I’ve been on a strict diet.  Gin and cigarettes.”  She smiled again but didn’t avert her gaze.

“I’ve got in the car,” I said.

“You drive around with an assistant’s costume?  Just driving up and down Hollywood looking for a gal with the right body to fit . . .”

“Nah, I just happened to pick it up at the cleaners this afternoon.  It had been there for a while and they were threatening to sell it if I didn’t.”

“What happened to the other gal?  She get fat or something?”

Another customer came by, handed in his coat, she hung it and handed him his token.

“So what happened,” she persisted.

“She blew the show.”

“Couldn’t take it? Did you cut her in that box of yours?”

I smiled, drew heavily and deeply on the Camel.

“Nope, she got pregnant.  Couldn’t fit in the box.”

“That’s a shame but now you need someone who can fit, right?”

She turned to the side as if she was a model on a runway showing her wares.

“I can fit,” she said with a smile that should have told me there was danger.  But it was the kind of smile that a guy sees and forgets everything else.

“How about this,” I started and she looked deeply into my eyes, “after my show tonight, I’ll get the costume, you can try it on and we’ll talk.”

“We’ll talk while I am wearing your costume? What kind of girl do you think I am?” She smiled as she asked what I took to be a rhetorical question.

“Sounds good to you?” I asked as I dropped my butt into the ashtray.

“Sounds real good,” she said with a radiant smile and deep blue eyes.

She had great teeth; I noticed that.

Really great teeth like she had work done on them.  Half of the women in Hollywood are waiting for their break into the world of movies and of that half, 90 percent have had work done.

I couldn’t tell if they were real or not but they looked great.  I felt like I was back at Santa Anita, evaluating horses.

I took my token and walked away.  I didn’t look back for fear she would be looking at me and that could mean something or nothing.  Maybe she just wanted a job.  Maybe something more.

I was distracted, to say the least, during my shows.  She wasn’t in the audience for any of them.  That made sense, she needed to mind the coats.  Still I had been hoping.

As I walked back toward the coat check booth to get my overcoat, I paused.  I took a puff and looked at the ceiling and then at my shoes.

What was I getting myself into?  I didn’t even know her name.  She knew mine.  That meant something.  Just what, I didn’t know.

The Puzzle Box

Inside Magic Image of Couple Learning Magic's True SecretsWe had a chance to chance upon a puzzle the other day.  We love puzzles and seek them out, so maybe it wasn’t a chance situation.

We found a box at an antique shop here in Los Angeles.  It was plain on the outside, looked like it was made of oak or some sturdy wood.  We don’t know our woods well but what we do know is the difference between what we would call “Oak” and “Pine.”  It wasn’t Pine so, in our book, it had to be Oak.

It was exactly square and had a small hasp with a small lock but the lock had no keyhole.  It apparently was keeping the box shut but there were no lines in the wood indicating that the box opened at the location of the hasp and lock.

There were seams and lines on the bottom of the box and on one side.  The rest appeared to be carved or derived from one piece of wood, Oak-type wood.

We asked the dealer about it and he said he was told  it was from a salvage done at some place in the Arizona desert.  We asked what was in it and he said he didn’t know because he had never played with it enough to try to open it. We asked how much he wanted for it and that’s when it got interesting.

He said $250 for the box sounded about right.

We said we were thinking more about $10 bucks.  We asked how he could justify $250?

He said that because it could be holding gold coins from the Old West or at least silver coins.

We shook the box but heard no rattles and certainly no clings or clangs indicating coins were within.

The box was relatively heavy, about five pounds.  We figured that Oak — if it was really Oak and not just our binary classification of all woods — would not weigh five pounds by itself.  That caused us to think there must be something inside with the weight of at least a pound.

Gold could weigh at least a pound, silver was less likely and lead could weigh more than a pound.

We mentioned to the bespectacled antique store owner that because neither one of us knew what was in the box — if anything — we should probably try to figure a price that includes the risk that it would contain nothing of value.

He countered that we should figure a price that includes the risk that it probably had something of tremendous value.

We asked that if he thought it had tremendous value, why would he price it at only $250?  Why not $2,000?

He said he didn’t think he could sell it at $2,000 but at $250, it was priced right to match the risk.

How could we be sure that he hadn’t already opened the box and thus knew its contents.

He said he didn’t have time to do something like that, he wasn’t good at puzzles, and his store dealt mostly in furniture and artwork.  This was a strange item he picked up but hadn’t “messed with.”

His store was filled with chairs of different eras, quality, fabric and evidence of use.  He had beautifully framed paintings hung on the walls of his small but maneuverable space.

We offered $15.00 and hoped he would come down.  He didn’t budge.  He did, however, lift his glasses and wiped them with the tail of his shirt, conveniently not tucked into his jeans.  He replaced his glasses and gestured to take the box back for an inspection.  Still saying nothing.

“I could let it go for $200, I suppose,” he said without looking at us.

He handed the box back to us and kept his eyes down.  We thought he might wipe his glasses again.  But he didn’t.  He was just waiting for our response.

“$200 is way out of what we would call a ballpark,” we said.  “How about $30?”

He shook his head and said $200 was the best he could do.  He reminded us again that it might contain gold and that he had never opened it.

“If it could contain gold, why not open it and see?” we asked.

“It would ruin it,” he said.

We were amazed he had this much time to dedicate to this philosophical negotiation.  He had other customers in the shop and while they didn’t look like they needed his help, we imagined that part of being a shopkeeper was helping people find items they didn’t know they needed to buy.

“How would it ruin it?” we asked.  “Right now it is just a box that could contain gold or could contain sand and rocks.  But when we shake it, there are no sounds.”

“Well,” he said, finally looking at us, “it’s your choice.  $200 is my last and best offer.”

We had $200 on us — we just returned from the Poker Room at the Bicycle Club and had a good day.  But we didn’t want to waste it on something that could be nothing.  We didn’t think there was gold in it and we couldn’t see a way to open it without destroying it.  We figured we should just pass on it.  It would make for an interesting story one day; maybe today.

So those were our thoughts and deeply held beliefs.  We were going to pass.  But what we heard us say was, “How about $100.00?”

He extended his hand, we shook it, he gave us the box and we gave him a freshly minted $100 bill.  We looked at the image of Benjamin Franklin as we handed it to the antique store owner.  Mr. Franklin seemed to shaking his head in disapproval or maybe it was just our hands shaking the bill.

We walked out of the store into the bright southern California sunshine and squinted.  The store was apparently much darker than we thought.  We looked at the box in the light, hoping to find the secret to opening it without destroying it.

Then we started thinking crazy things.  Maybe there was gold in it.  Opening it would answer the question but not knowing for sure had value as well.

We got on the Santa Monica bus with the box in our lap.  A woman next to us asked about it.

“It is a box from an archaeological dig.  I was told there might be gold in it.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” she said and reached out to feel the wood.  “Is that maple?”

“Could be,” we said.  “Maybe oak.”

“We’ll its very pretty.  Where did you get it?”

“Right over there at that store,” we said as we turned to point out the shop but as we did we couldn’t find it.  There were so many stores in the strip mall, it could have been that we lost track of it.

Thanksgivings Past: Grandfather Hardy and Tasha

Astounded.jpgLong-time readers of Inside Magic are already familiar with this story.  Almost all of it nearly true.

It was Thanksgiving dinner years ago.  The family was gathered around the table.  We have a large family both in girth and number.  Our now departed grandfather and the magician scion of the Hardy clan (our family’s stage name) was seated at the head of the elongated table created by pushing three wooden tables and one card table into a long row.

Grandfather Hardy (his real last name from which we took our stage name) clutched the family bible in his liver-spotted hands and gazed over his progeny with pride.  Assembled were five magicians and their families as well as non-magicians and their families.  He was waiting for all to cease their conversations, the passing of plates and the taking of places.

Once all were quiet, Grandfather Hardy turned to his favorite passage from the holy book on Thanksgiving day, John 10:10 “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He spoke for a few minutes about the abundant life God had provided and a tear formed in his right eye, his voice cracked and he looked down at his amply filled plate.  “We have much abundance and for that we should always be thankful.”

He crossed himself and we all followed – even those around the table who did not customarily cross themselves in their faith.

We began to eat.

There was clanging of forks and knives on Grandmother Hardy’s prized china and the occasional sounds of chomping from those in our family who had no manners and could not close their mouths whilst eating.  We thought nothing of it, though.  This was a time of family dedicated to giving thanks.

Then Grandfather Hardy brought out a deck of cards.

The mood around the table changed.

Some of us were excited.  Some showed signs of ennui and others just averted their glance from the old man and his preparation to show a card trick.

There are people who eat with their mouths open and people who don’t like card tricks.  If you were to draw a Ven Diagram describing those two groups, they would not only connect, they would likely match  up exactly in one circle with no evidence of outliers.

Grandfather Hardy asked the youngest of the families to select a card from the deck.

Young Natasha was just four but knew how to select a card and was excited about the attention she was now receiving from not only her Great Grandfather but also the entire crowded table.  She pondered the perfect fan of cards before her and made a selection.

“Show it to everyone but not me,” Grandfather Hardy said.

Natasha did as she was told.  Our memory may be fading but we think it was the two of clubs.

“Now, Tasha, Grandfather Hardy said with a smile, “sign the card so we’ll know it is yours if we see it again.”

She joined in the smile and looked to her mother, our aunt, as she took the pen she was handed and slowly, very slowly wrote her name on the card.  It said, “Tasha.”

Without urging from Grandfather Hardy, she placed the card back in the deck, still spread in a perfect fan.  She knew the elements of such a trick.

Grandfather Hardy handed the deck to Tasha’s mother and asked her to help her daughter shuffle it thoroughly.  The two shuffled for quite a while – or so it seemed to the magicians around the table.  It is difficult to say what the non-magicians thought.

Tasha’s mother returned the deck to her father and he held it fairly in his left hand.

“Tasha,” he said. “Do you remember what your card looked like?”

Tasha turned to her mother with a smile.  Her mother whispered something in her ear and Tasha turned back to greet the gaze of her Great Grandfather.  “Two of cubs,” she said.

“Indeed?” asked Grandfather Hardy.  “And it has your signature on it too.”

Tasha nodded and looked back at her mother for approval.  Her mother again whispered something in her ear and she turned again towards the table and nodded with a smile.

“Take a look at the cards and tell me if you see yours,” Grandfather Hardy instructed with a kind smile.

As he turned the deck face up and began to spread them across the tablecloth – one of four covering the assembly of tables – everyone could see that all of the cards were blank.  Tasha’s card was gone but so were the faces of all others.

Tasha’s eyes grew wide.  She had never seen this trick before.  She had been the volunteer for many of the old man’s tricks but this was a new one.  She turned to her mother again as if to verify that what she was seeing was not only amazing to her but to others.  She saw her mother’s proud smile and her smile increased accordingly.

“Where did it go?” Grandfather Hardy asked.

Tasha shook her head, still smiling.

“Look under your plate, Tasha,” Grandfather Hardy said softly.

Tasha lifted her plate and taking the instructions very literally looked at the bottom of the plate, not the table beneath.  Her mother pointed down to the table and drew her daughter’s attention to a single face down card.

Tasha seemed to accept that the trick was over.  She was impressed, delighted, amused, and very, very happy.  She had no need to turn over the card, she knew it had to be the one she selected and signed.

“Turn it over,” said several of the non-magician family members almost in unison.

Tasha did as she was urged and indeed the card was the same one she had selected and signed.

Her smile grew wider, she looked to her mother and now back to Grandfather Hardy and then her mother again.

She leapt from her chair to give the old man a hug and a kiss.  He accepted both and hugged her tightly.

His eyes were filled with tears now.

“Abundantly,” he said with cracking voice.  “We have been blessed with abundance.”

“Psychic” Reveals Tricks of Trade

Inside Magic Image of Psychic SignThe Guardian newspaper had a great article this weekend about what it is like to be a psychic and astrologer.

The author of this fascinating piece quit the practice but leaves the reader – us in this case – wondering if she still believed she possessed some power to read the future or the inner-struggles of her customers.

“The range of problems faced by people who can afford $50 for fortune telling turned out to be limited: troubles with romance, troubles at work, trouble mustering the courage for a much-needed change. I heard these stories so often I could often guess what the problem was the moment someone walked in. Heartbroken young men, for example, talk about it to psychics, because it’s less risky than telling their friends. Sometimes I’d mischievously say, ‘Let her go. She’s not worth it,’ as soon as one arrived. Once I heard, ‘Oh my God, oh my GOD!’ as an amazed guy fell backwards down the stairs.”

She explains her start in the practice beginning with studying astrology and the tarot.  She signed up for a year-long course at the Sydney Astrology Centre, where she learned how the planets and their alignments vis-a-vis the birthdate of individuals could reveal much.

Her conclusion after studying the mystical methods of the astrologer? “Astrology is one big word association game.”

Her appreciation for the life of a fortune teller waned with the realization that no matter what she foretold and no matter how vague her readings, customers readily made all of the mental associations to give truth to her predictions.

“What broke the spell for me was, oddly, people swearing by my gift. Some repeat customers claimed I’d made very specific predictions, of a kind I never made.”

It is a fascinating article, in part, because she does not conclude the ability to read people is bunk.  She found a talent for evaluating what and how people asked questions that gave away what they wanted to hear.  In essence, she discovered cold reading but without an intention to defraud.

We couldn’t help but be reminded of a great book by Ian Rowland, The Full Facts of Cold Reading.  While the author of The Guardian article apparently stumbled upon the tricks of honest and dishonest practitioners of Cold Reading, Mr. Rowland provides a crash course chocked-full of secrets and methods.

Check it out in The Guardian here.

A New Magic Niche: Oldsters

Inside Magic Image of Houdini and DoyleThere are a lot of innovative magicians out there.  They invent magic tricks we could never conceive.  But as we were told at a bus stop in West Hollywood, “Invent what you know.”

We have no idea what its real purpose was but it inspired us.  We should create tricks that are based on the things we handle every day.  Then we should find an audience of similarly minded (and aged) people to whom we can perform and sell the tricks.

The CPAP of Mystery:

This is a trick involving a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine.  It is a staple of those afflicted with sleep apnea – one of the few disorders that affect the entire family except for the person with the disorder.  It stops obnoxious and annoying snoring.

(Ironically, Obnoxious and Annoying was the name of our first duo act.  We played the mischievous character Annoying (despite being underweight for the part) and a current star of stage and screen played Mr. Obnoxious.  We were true to the script as written by Shakespeare and even wore period costumes.  Few playgoers have read the original text and, to be honest, it is a play often over-looked by Shakespearean scholars.  Additionally it is four hours long.  And we performed it without scenery or props.  And we could not afford stage lights so we used flashlights to shine on each other. And our make-up was overdone due to a product placement deal we had with L’Oréal.  Nonetheless, it was up for a Tony® award but it was a tough year and we lost to A Chorus Line.  Our agent’s protests that we should be in the category for dramatic performance fell on deaf ears and we were pitted against one of the most popular Broadway musicals of all time.  As most English majors can recall, Obnoxious and Annoying does have some singing and dancing in the seventh act when Annoying pretends to be dancing with the love of his life, Spiteful.  The New York Times gave it a middling review, “There is a good reason this play is overlooked when one considers the full range of Shakespearean plays, it is terrible.  But here we have two men willing to perform a play that should have been burned or used as scrap-paper acting without any accoutrements on a stage too small in a room too large for its pitiful audience size.”  The New Yorker was not as kind, “Obnoxious and Annoying and Too Long” should have been the title for this forgettable foray into a play the Great Bard himself said was “not worthy of his cheapest ink.”)

But back to the illusion of the CPAP machine.  An audience member selects a card from a freely shuffled deck, signs it, returns it to the deck.  And then she throws the deck directly at the performer wearing a CPAP mask.  The card instantly appears in the mask and when turned around (with either the performer’s fingers or tongue), it is shown to be the signed card.  With a CPAP machine, we could sell it for $1,700.  Without the CPAP machine – in case the performer already has one – it would cost $3.00.  We think it would be a big hit. Continue reading “A New Magic Niche: Oldsters”

Another Magic Podcast?

Inside Magic Library Cover Page for Happy Hollisters and the Perfect FarosWe are considering launching a magic podcast with an emphasis on some of the older magicians who can provide a narrative history of our wonderful art.  From our review of the current world of magic podcasts, it appears the topic of young and innovative magicians is covered.

We find great joy in hearing stories of those that worked the same roads and rooms (and roads and rooms no longer in existence) and imagine podcast audiences will feel the same way.

When we say older magicians, we don’t mean old in age but in experience.  If you are aware of or are a magician with a great story, we’d love to talk to you.  No need to come to our posh studio apartment on top of the dog food store in West Hollywood.  We can set up a Skype session or even use the telephone to talk.

Send your nominations to podcast@insidemagic.com and let’s set it up.  It would be helpful to give us a little of your background and then our research staff will dig to create questions designed to let you tell your story.

The podcast will not just be for magicians, but everyone in the variety arts — including agents and managers.

Send us your suggestions to podcast@insidemagic.com and we’ll get right back to you.

 

Trying to Like Magic Card Decks

Image of Really Poorly Marked CardsWe are warming to tattoos and body piercing (other than earrings) but we are having a hard time with deck collectors. 

Admittedly we have no place from which to speak on this topic.

People like different things.

We love The Ball and Vase and have bought maybe a hundred in this short shuffle up on the mortal coil from which we will all be called up one day to justify our choices, decisions and purchases.  We figure we can defend the first 20 Ball and Vase tricks.  We were young, we didn’t know, others were doing it, we were raised by doting parents that would indulge our every whim as long as it had to do with schoolwork or applications to go to another school to do school work.  We had thousands of pencils (mechanical and wood), pens a plenty (the name of our first writing instrument internet shoppe.

It failed due to a horrible spate of product liability suits brought allegedly due to springs that were too tight.  When you would open the container to refill the pen, the old refill would shoot from the pen body with the force of Titan rocket (first stage).  The good news, we sold very few of them and the even better news, we sold even fewer refills.  The bad news, enough people bought the pens to narrowly miss horrific physical injuries.  No one was injured or claimed to be.  We took the pen off the market and went broke.  Ironically, we wrote the bankruptcy papers with one of the killer pens.

But let us return to the subject at hand.  Card decks.

In our limited and noisy world (tinnitus is a pain and real.  We know, we sit next to someone who has it and they complain all day – they never shut up (© Run DMC)) we have two choices of decks with which we will perform – a red Bee deck and a blue Bee deck – both Jumbo Index.  That’s it.  No others make the cut.

“Hey, Tim,” you ask.  “How about that new deck made on USPC stock that has the clown from IT?

Nope.

“What about the ones that have the wacky numbering?

No can do.

“What about your conviction in 1969 on your way to Woodstock?”

Wasn’t me.  Wasn’t a conviction.  My judgment was practically expunged.  Plus I wasn’t born or I was too old at the time. Continue reading “Trying to Like Magic Card Decks”

Our Magic Confession

Inside Magic Image of Avid Readers of Panther PrideMagicians, as a whole, are prideful.  We worry about our image, practice sleights to perfect them before presenting, write and rehearse patter, and of course comb our little remaining hair and clip or appropriately decorate our nails.

So our admission is hard to make.  We are shaking at the keyboard as we type – likely attributable to the unsteady shocks in the Los Angeles Metro Bus – but still we’re shaking so that means something.

The person reading this post next to us on the bus – and that is very nosey and they should be looking forward and not correcting our prose – says we should just get to it and stop being so dramatic.  Further, he says it doesn’t look like we remembered to take pains to improve our image before leaving for work today and why would a famous magician be riding a bus along Santa Monica Boulevard instead of traveling by limo or at least Uber?

We hope he gets off soon.

Okay, here’s the admission: we cannot do a perfect pressure fan.  We can do all sorts of fans but not a proper pressure fan.  There, it is out in the open now.  You can judge us.  Our fellow rider said if he knew what a “pressure fan” was he would judge us.  He is laughing now.  Probably at his own joke or maybe he is laughing at us.

We have been trying to do a proper pressure fan since we were twelve-years-old.  We can do a one-handed shuffle with either hand and lifts that would impress anyone except they’re so good they can’t be detected.  The fellow rider has stopped reading and is now eating Fritos very loudly.

We’ve read the technique, we’ve watched young children do perfect pressure fans with cards bigger than their cherubic faces.  We fail.

He is now drinking something from what looks to be an adult sippy cup but because he hasn’t opened to top properly, it is making a thunk-pop noise with every suck of liquid.  We wish he would go back to the Fritos but fear this will be a constant part of the ride for a while.  He’ll eat the Fritos, loudly, get thirsty, drink from the sippy cup and then back to the Fritos.

At The Magic Castle we watch with envy as magicians perform their wonderfully practiced routines but become irrationally jealous, insecure and diminished when they perform a pressure fan with such a smooth handling that it appears the cards perfectly align about their fingers with ease.  If only, we say silently, we had such skills.

We have thought of asking the more talented members at The Magic Castle, to teach us how to do a perfect pressure fan but we feel so much shame for not knowing at this point in our career.  We feel we are an impostor, a fraud; in an art that relishes impostors and frauds — so there is that philosophical, logic puzzle to work through.

He is back reading and corrected our characterization of his chocolate milk container as a “sippy cup” and does not think it should be our concern about his eating and drinking habits.

Perhaps that is the key.  Maybe we should not jealously covet the skills of other magicians, accept that we are at this time, unable to do a pressure fan and even though we haven’t for the last 90-years, we may one day develop the skill.  Just as we should not be concerned about others’ drinking and eating routines, we should be focused on what we can do and not what others are doing.

Our fellow rider has pulled the stop cord and is gathering his full meal and drink to depart.  He read the last part of this post and disagrees.  “You shouldn’t care what other folks are eating and drinking but you should at least know how to do a pressure fan if you’re going to call yourself a magician.”

We are pierced.

Our seatmate has left the bus now and we have a vacant seat next to us.  It is time to close the computer before we encounter another critic/editor for our long ride.

Magnetic Magic is Marvelous.

Inside Magic Image of Magnetic AttractionThis article is about magic and magnets.  If you are offended by either, you can skip to the website listed at the bottom to see the best array of magnets but we don’t know why you would, if you are truly offended unless you are only offended by the combination of magic and magnetics and like each individually just fine.

Just like we don’t know why we read from the back of the magazine first or try to invent new methods of throwing our used paper towels into the trash, we love magnets.  Maybe it’s just the way we were raised.  We recall, fondly, spending summers out at our uncle’s magnet farm and watch as he harvested them – each  year hoping for a good planting season and each year being a bit, just a bit disappointed but hopeful for next year.

The freshness dates on magnets are close to forever but our family was never one for storing things, so we’d rush the magnets to market and offer them to those who waited the entire spring season for new magnets.  Some had plenty of magnets already but they wanted the latest model or one with more strength.  We didn’t blame them.  Magnets are magic in their own right.

It was years after those blissful days at our uncle’s farm that we learned that magnets can be used for things.  One can use a magnet to hold a note to a steel refrigerator door to show off artwork or attach a “to do” list – named “to do” after the Earl of Sandwich youngest daughter, Toodles.  She would bring him sandwiches during his all day card games and make a list of ingredients for the household staff to purchase.

In the past year, we have learned that one can even use magnets in magic tricks.  We don’t know if this has been considered before but we found a way to use magnets with different polarities to hold things together or even (with one of the magnets reversed) to repel.

We are currently working on a levitation where our assistant (and applications to be that assistant are still available because of the alleged “danger”) wears a special costume composed of magnets set to repel magnets in a specially designed, high-power electrically wired base.  This would cause – to the best of our estimation – the assistant to appear to float.  We have tried it with store manikins (our other true love) and the effect is a bit clumsy still. For instance, if the assistant rotates even a little, he or she will slam to the base with a horrible, fracturing thump.  We have also abandoned the steel ring we were using to show there were no wires.  We nearly broke our shoulder when we were pulled to the base because we wouldn’t let go of the ring – again with a horrible thump – and then struck by the manikin constrained by the ring and now attracted to the base.

Edison said invention is 99 percent something and 1 percent something dealing with sweat.  We know some work lies ahead of us to perfect the effect but that won’t stop us from advertising it for sale very soon.

We are trying to come up with a name for the effect that won’t give away the use of magnets.  “Floating Person” and “Floating Lady” are the two we have hit on so far.  We are thinking the pricing will be some amount more than what it costs to make – that is currently $32,000.00.

A downside – or maybe a feature – is that when the base magnet is turned on and electricity is flowing, the platform emits the attractive strength to snatch from their owners: watches, pens, 1943 U.S. pennies (they were made of steel during the war), pacemakers, some orthodontia, steel plates in heads, animal collars (with or without animals), hip replacement parts, car parts and manikin stands.  It could be a feature if we could hide the fact that it was the magnetic base that was attracting these steel parts and if we didn’t kill anyone by having parts ripped from their bodies or injure animals – all of our magic is animal friendly.

Our uncle’s farm went the way of many magnetic fields.  The land was mined with specialized tools and sold off to rich people with a need for magnets and large freshly mined fields.  The 42 acre spread is now an empty field just off the highway in Southern Illinois.  It used to be in Michigan but was moved because it was attracting fish out of the Great (ha!) Lakes.  Now it is just a safe piece of land with an occasional magnetic just below its grassy surface.

In fact, if the farm hadn’t been moved and mined, we could have brought the price down for our illusion to free plus 10 percent of free for profit.  But now we need to buy magnets on the open market.

Fortunately, we found just the spot.  K&J Magnetics have every kind of magnet you could want.  Want a ring shaped magnet?  Want a square magnet? Want a round magnet? K&J Magnets has them all.

You can check out the K&J Magnetics site here.

By the way, we are receiving no compensation from K&J Magnetics.  We just love their site.  It is like a wishbook for magic and magnet lovers.

Read a full history on our uncle’s farm and the magnet price war of 1972 that led to the mining and sale of the farm in our upcoming book, Magnetic Money Maker: The True Story of a Man and His Magnets and the Forces that Sought to Repel Him.