Tag: kellar

What Goes Into Inventing a New Magic Trick?

What goes into inventing a magic trick?

That’s a question we are trying to answer as we develop, possibly for sale, an effect that could be popular with close-up magicians.  Because that’s what we do, close-up magic, it seemed natural to make commercial offerings of the tricks we do for audiences in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle.

So we have this trick that audiences seem to enjoy and it really just depends on sleight of hand invented by our forbears.  We don’t know who invented the classic force – perhaps Johann Hofzinser back in the 1800s or someone more recent.  We want to credit the right person and so we search.  We can tell you one thing for sure, do not look up “Classic Force” on Google from your work computer.  Wow.  There is something not right with this world.

The second part of the trick involves a false pass of an object.  Who invented that?  Maybe one of Hofzinser’s friends or students or maybe it was T. Nelson Downs (“The King of Koins”).  We want to credit this move to its rightful owner as well.

But inventing a trick means more than giving credit to the right person.  We found we needed to write instructions for magicians wishing to practice the effect and performing it to maximum effect.  We are not big on giving a link to the magician and letting him or her find the instruction video on-line.  It seems impersonal and an easy way out.  We’re more of a UF Grant kind of organization with illustrated instructions covering each move and describing how to perform said move.

Let’s assume we get past the crediting and the instruction writing, the next step will be to come up with a name that grabs users’ attention.  We never had a name for this trick.  It was always just the effect we working on.  We’ll have to work on that as well.

Finally, we have to write ad copy that doesn’t mislead potential buyers.  We want to be honest about the effect to be presented from the audience’s point of view, the skills necessary to perform the effect, any angle issues, and whether the performer will need to practice to perform.

Let’s assume we get the ad copy correct and have no blatant lies in our listing, we will have to get friends and associates to write one sentence, objective recommendations for the effect.  We know some influential people and maybe they would be kind enough to write such praise.  We’d like some of the praise to follow the current trend of “fooled me badly,” “the kind of trick you will carry always” “I was floored” “Not since biblical times has such a miracle been seen,” “I rank the inventions as Sliced Bread, [the yet to be named trick] and the cotton gin,” “if I could buy only one trick that I would use constantly it would be …” “the finest trick of its kind anywhere” or the ever popular “I wish this wasn’t being sold so I could be the only one who had it.”

Then comes the pricing.  We don’t know how to price an ordinary deck of cards (with which one can perform second deals) and the special gimmicks that make the trick possible.  We’re thinking the cards could be supplied by the performer so we would only need to send the gimmicks.  They don’t weight too much – maybe a couple of ounces but they are specially made and cost us about $14 each.  So we’re looking at a total cost of $30 or so.  By checking mark-up of similar effects, we figure that means we should charge anywhere from $45 to $75.

Of course the second we launch the effect, we’ll learn from the various forums that the trick was actually invented by someone either a year ago or back in the 1920s.  We’ll feel terrible, apologize and take it off the market.

That’s just how we work.  We believe in not stealing effects, even if it is done without actual knowledge.  We don’t steal jokes either.  In fact, we have a non-stealing philosophy about most things – we’ll steal a kiss from our sweetie or steal fake fruit from a movie set if the script calls for it – but otherwise we’re this side of taking things we don’t own outright.

We wonder how so many magicians can invent new tricks, take the criticism of theft that comes from the magic public; or worse, failure to properly credit the innovators who invented parts of the trick.  They must have iron constitutions.  It would send us into a shame spiral – and not a good kind where you’re ashamed that you won a beauty contest over someone who came in second only because she couldn’t remember a good answer to one of those questions asked by celebrity judges.  A bad kind of shame spiral where you doubt everything you have ever done and assume no one like you.

We thought about copyrighting, patenting or trademarking the trick to prevent theft – assuming we are the inventor of the trick but our research shows that none of these intellectual property laws would help.  Copyright goes to the expression of an idea on paper or in action.  We could copyright our instructions but someone could come along with a new set of instructions and avoid a copyright claim.  A trademark only protects indications of origin of the effect.  As long as the thief differentiated the source with a new trademark or name for the trick – which right now would be easy because it doesn’t have a name – he or she would be scott-free.  A patent would not help because we would have to expose the secret to the patent office and to the world.  There would be nothing to sell, the secret would be out.  There are plenty of examples of patented magic tricks.  We would normally link such things but do not want to give away secrets — even very old ones.

Maybe we’ll keep the trick in our act, teach magicians we know if they ask, and watch as they improve upon it in their performances.  No shame spiral is likely and pride is almost certain to come.

If you see us and want to know the trick (assuming you are a bona fide magician) we’ll share it with you if it isn’t already obvious from our performance.  Sharing is caring and we care deeply about our wonderful art and the friends we have met.  The same friends we would have imposed upon to write glowing reviews such as “I literally lost control of my bodily functions upon seeing the effect,” or “this is the kind of trick with which you can start a cult.”

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Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

You can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.

Magic and Anesthesiology in the News

So we were perusing Anesthesiology: The Journal of the American Association of Anesthesiologists whilst waiting for our HOT POCKETS® brand Breakfast – Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich to cook and came across two articles with magical applications.

The first is by Dr. Amr Abouleish titled “Try and hold your breath while reading this!

The second is “A Mixed (Long- and Medium-chain) Triglyceride Lipid Emulsion Extracts Local Anesthetic from Human Serum In Vitro More Effectively than a Long-chain Emulsion,” by Weiming Ruan and Deborah French.

The first piece gives an anesthesiologist’s take on magician David Blaine’s world record setting attempts at holding his breath (as opposed to holding someone elses?) for more than 17 minutes. You can watch the TED Talk in which Mr. Blaine instructs audience members in the special preparation needed to hold their breath for more than three minutes after breathing “normal” or upwards of 17 minutes after huffing pure oxygen.

Dr. Abouleish poses the following question to his new anesthesiologist residents when discussing the relationship of end-tidal CO2 and respiration. “If your oxygen saturation is 100% and you hold your breath, what would your oxygen saturation be when you have to breathe?”

Of course all magicians know the answer to this but non-magic oriented medical residents need to be reminded of the relatively slow decline in oxygen saturation experienced by pre-oxygenated patients under general anesthesia.

We agree with Dr. Abouleish’s praise of Blaine’s talk. Those in the audience were able to hold their breath for as long as three minutes or more. Check it out for yourself and abide the constant warnings that this is not a skill easily acquired and one should never try this under water. The chance of passing out is high and because the risk of drowning whilst underwater is directly proportional to being conscious, you could, in the medical parlance, “konk out and die.”

The comments to Dr. Abouleish’s article are also instructive. There is general agreement that Mr. Blaine should have sought advice from an anesthesiologist rather than neurologists.

Instructive is a comment from Dr. Gerald Zeitlin. His capitalization and grammar is taken verbatim from his post:

As you all know Dr. Abouleish is discussing apneic oxygenation.

Watching David Blaine do his 17 minutes was fantastic – but what an incredibly wasted opportunity for science.

As we all know, HE SHOULD HAVE CONSULTED AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST!

Neurosurgeons “Don’t know nuffin’ ” about respiratory physiology. Why did Blaine not have an arterial line for his record attempt – then we’d have known what his arterial pCO2 was after 17 minutes.

Of course we all know that, at rest, during apnea the pCO2 rises between 3 and 5 mm. Hg per minute.

I failed math in Kindergarten but I think 17 times, let’s say 4 mm. Hg = 68. So, approximately he was at 108 mm.Hg pCO2.

As WE (anesthesiologists) know that level has mild to moderate anesthetic properties. I bet if you Emailed Dr. Eger he would know what the MAC of CO2 is.

We would love to meet Dr. Zeitlin. He is our kind of guy.

The second article of magic merit in the February 2012 edition of Anesthesiology, attempts to the answer the age old question, which extracts local anesthesia better, a “mixed” triglyceride lipid emulsion or a long-chain version?

Houdini’s correspondence with Kellar on this issue springs to mind.

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