Tag: magic

Magic, Mystery and Mentalism – a Moral Lesson

Mentalism, Magic and Mystery are three very different things – at least in our tattered book.  We have never gotten into trouble with Magic and Mystery but on a couple of occasions have experienced harsh but understandable reactions from Mentalism.

First of all, we are out of the Mentalism biz.  It used to be the cool thing around the time of people bending things and using specially patterned cards to read minds.  There was a time in our business when everyone claimed they could read minds.  Why they did that was always a mystery (little “m” mystery) to us.  It gained them some notoriety but it would seem to invite constant challenges.

Slowly the world of Mentalism evolved to not claiming to be capable of reading minds.  There were some who continued to make the claims but they were now considered psychics and not Mentalists.  We were always in the Mentalism camp – back during our Mentalism days.  We would, contrary to psychics, affirmatively tell audiences we cannot read minds.  We could influence choices and perhaps pick up tells given by volunteers but never, ever could we read minds.

Except one time.

The following story is an amalgam of two events to protect the innocent and make our point.

We performed what Magicians would call a one-in-a-million shot.  Our hole card is the Four of Hearts.  We don’t know why but it seems like a good even number and has pretty hearts that can be read from the back of the audience.  We were performing for some Boy Scouts and held an over-sized card before us and asked a woman in the far back to name a card.  Our intention was to fail to have predicted the card and then go about our act explaining why we do not claim Mentalism power.

She called out in a loud and clear voice, “The Four of Hearts!”

We were far less mature then.

We should have joked it off, not shown the card, and said that was why we did not claim to have special powers.  But we couldn’t resist.  We milked the moment and when we finally turned the card to face the audience, there was true amazement.  Unfortunately, there was also deep concern in the heart of the woman – the mother of one of a young scout.

She asked us almost immediately after finishing our routine, how we could possibly know the card.  She had told no one and didn’t even know she was going to be a volunteer.  Again, we were immature and in need of validation; even at the cost of someone else’s emotional toil.

“I don’t know for sure, we have a talent to read minds sometimes,” we said proudly.

It wasn’t true and still isn’t.  We can’t read minds.  We can’t even read fortune cookies without bifocals.  We do have a very special talent in reading The Racing Form but our mounting losses over the years have proven that talent does not lead to accurate predictions of horse races.

The scout mom became upset.  She asked if we could read her mind at that very moment.  We paused as if trying to gather psychic messages and had to admit that we could not.  But now she did not believe us.  We were lying and reading minds.  A very bad combination at a scout meeting.

“The Bible is against false prophets,” she told us as she took her boy behind her back and walked away from us.

We felt terrible.  Horrible.  We had offended – unnecessarily but for our own self-aggrandizement – a seemingly innocent, concerned mother and likely her son.

That is where the Mystery comes into the equation.  Magic, to us, is clean.  Things vanish, appear, and change shape or quality.  Birds come from places you would least expect and disappear into places far too small for them.  Magic is the kind of thing you would do (or we would do) for children, teens, adults and even people our age.  Mentalism requires some advanced thinking on the part of the audience and if introduced as a real power can cause real concern.

We don’t want to concern anyone with our act.  We do our double-lifts, false shuffles, second deals and what passes for a bottom deal and no one is emotionally concerned.  We do a short card divination but never describe it as Mentalism.  It is merely a demonstration of influence and picking up “tells.”

There are performers with more experience and ability than us.  They would handle the troop mother incident in a far better manner.  Perhaps they could even devise a method of proclaiming psychic powers that would cause no concern.  We lack those abilities.  But we can drink whole milk without having stomach or intestinal upset so we are all blessed in different ways.  (We are not saying and would never say all self-proclaimed psychics are lactose intolerant; only that most are and we are not).

The Mystery is why we would do such a thing?  Why would we concern a troop mom by persisting in the “gag” and asserting an ability we do not have and have never possessed?  We learned our lesson years ago but pass it along for those starting out in our wonderful Art.  There are very real consequences to what we do and how we choose to entertain.

PhD Thesis Defense on the New Magic Shop

Hardware stores substitute for Magic Shops.

It is a tough thesis to defend but it is one we hope to convince a group of professors at our on-line PhD Thesis Oral Examination this Thursday.

There are those who would suggest spending good money for four and a half years of on-line instruction for a doctoral title in Common Things and Thoughts at one of the lesser on-line schools would be a waste of money but we stuck it out.

First, because we cannot understand the language they speak – it is not a U.S. school.  So really we’re getting a free language class at the same time and if we ever visit the native island from which the education has been provided, we will sound like a well-educated native.

Second, the cost was surprisingly small. We pay in the native island’s currency and yes there was a decided increase with the Hawaii volcanoes and thoughts of the utter destruction of their own island from flying bricks of lava, but that never happened and a “vang” (their equivalent to a “dollar”) is still roughly 86 cents.  They believe education is essential and so they have many programs through which folks like us can learn at the rate of about one-hundred vang per year.

If we were on-campus, it could be slightly cheaper but more expensive for dorm living plus we too would worry about flying bricks of lava even though they would be about 800 miles from our island.

But back to our thesis.

Magic stores were once prevalent brick-n-mortar places where folks of magic backgrounds congregated and exchanged stories, sleight of hand methods, taught and encouraged youngsters, drank soda and smoked cigarettes.

Those stores are gone pretty much.

According to a statistic we just made up, there are 2/3 fewer magic stores of the brick-n-mortar type than there were in 1972.  In 1972, we learned magic by demonstrating Cups and Balls and Hyrum the Hank 14 hours a day for 50 cents an hour credit towards goods at the store.  It was a wonderful training ground and we were under the best of the best when it came to tutors.  They were patient, kind and knowing.  Our guests were the best in magic as well.  We had stars from New York come to visit our Palm Beach area store and we could listen to their stories and still have it count towards our 50 cents an hour credit.

But those days are gone.  We’re not sure how the young’uns learn magic now but assume it is through ad-hoc clubs at school or on YouTube.  We wish they could have met the folks we met and worked hard to perfect a Color Changing Knife move.  Maybe they do and we just don’t see it because we are looking in the wrong places.

And that, our good and kind friends, is where hardware stores come in.  Yes, they too face blight and some are being lost to deconstruction or remodeling but in our area here in West Hollywood and the island nation on which our esteemed professors reside, hardware stores are alive.

One can go into a hardware store and walk the aisles for hours without being harassed or questioned.  During that stroll, one can find things that will easily fit into the average magician’s imaginary construction of the perfect act.

An example from our thesis, the harness ring is a ring ostensibly for a harness.  A harness is a device to fit over a horse.  We have not seen many horses with loose or broken harness rings since we were a replacement for a rodeo clown in a strange mix-up that led to a court case and our first double-wide trailer we could call home free and clear.

And yet, most any hardware store sells harness rings of various sizes and polishes.  We buy them whenever we can afford the $1.75 to $3.25 they charge depending on the diameter or circumference –  we wish there was a way to figure out the circumference from a number representing a diameter because they usually list either circumference or diameter but not both and our needs are always circumference-based.  It seems like there should be some relationship between the two sizes.

We then mosey (keeping with the western theme) over to the rope section, purchase a yard of their softest rope with a core; and Bob’s your close relation.  We remove the core and we have the perfect Ring on Rope with a shiny, durable ring and a non-fraying rope ready to break-in.  It is not as smooth and soft as they type one could buy from a magic store on the web but it is cheaper, novel and a perfect example of how magic props can be bought and assembled from items purchased in a Hardware Store.

This is just a taste of ourthesis.  The paper version is now just under 900 pages with diagrams.  It covers PVC pipe, copper pipe, steel pipe, clear garden hose, kitchen drain equipment (including a chapter on the under-sink pipe system alone), screws, nuts, bolts, hack saws, canvas, coasters, ball bearings (another full chapter), cloth bags and various forms of lighting that attach to metal.

Our session is, as we mentioned, this Thursday.  We are nervous but excited.  Like a mouse who sees cheese but cannot determine if it is in a trap and if it is not a trap, why his friend isn’t moving so much anymore.

It is a shame that the magic store in its original form no longer exists in as many places as it once did but as long as there are shops that sell things that can be used for other things, magicians will seek them out and make their own de facto magic shops – and maybe talk to each other over harness rings.

P.S. we forgot to mention Plungers.  There is a chapter with wonderful illustrations by a former animator for a major motion picture company that makes our thesis something to cherish.  Plungers do everything.