When in the course of human events (magic related), it becomes necessary by regulation or law to respond to readers and or correct mistakes in content, Inside Magic will provide its Letters to the Editor service to our dear reader.
To The Editor:
Do you call it a “silk” or a “handkerchief” or something else?
Magician’s often display a piece of cloth made of silk or some synthetic blend. The wave it before the audience and sometimes need to identify it for some reason. This is whence the “silk” versus “handkerchief” debate arises. We have performed exhaustive research into the topic and some of our long-time readers will no doubt recall our six-volume set on the topic, Silks, Hanks or Cloth: A Complete History published through Magic Text, our failed (we are not afraid to admit it) hard-bound publishing division in 1998.
We didn’t see this whole internet thing taking off and never thought a book could be made available in electronic format. We were confused at the time by the onrush of so many alternatives for information distribution so we figured we’d take the safe path and publish our books the old-fashioned way; in leather-bound, handmade tomes illustrated in the same style as the Book of Kells. The shipping cost was very high – the set weighed some weight in British “stones” or metric or something.
The other thing that hurt sales was the threatened injunction from Tom Hanks – who is a nice guy but has aggressive lawyers – to stop the publication for fear that folks would assume erroneously that we were using his name to indicate some kind of connection to or endorsement by the then Academy Award® winning actor. That was not our purpose – of course.
In fact the first book of the six-book set specifically pointed out how “Hanks” should not be used as a term because it could be confused with a person or even an actor.
For our other books, Magic Wand Handling: Safety and Security (a three-volume set with illustration set by a comic book writer from Tokyo) did very well but couldn’t make up for the losses we suffered with the first set. Magic Text went out of business in 1990 and we were despondent – the two are not related. We tend to be despondent and so this was just more of the normal but now with a reason to be despondent.
We had to lay-off twelve Irish illustrators and one Japanese comic book illustrator.
They all took it well – or so we thought – until they all filed wrongful termination claims against us. While we were despondent to be sued, we were so impressed by the beautiful way they illustrated their claims, that our souls were lifted as we settled for a confidential amount.
Paw Lawton has been associated with Inside Magic since we started. A former assistant to our father and advance man for circuses, carnivals and a few magic shows, he knows his stuff. His take on the stuff he knows is often jaundiced and embittered by years of seeing the shady side of our magical arts. Ironically (or fittingly) he actually recorded the song “Shady Side of Our Magical Arts” and was involved in lengthy litigation with the songwriter of “Sunny Side of the Street.” He ultimately lost but as he noted, “you can’t win if you don’t play.” Such is the philosophy of Paw. We asked him to pen a short essay on the current state of our art. That essay, edited to remove libelous and offensive sections, follows.
There is no magic now that is not the best ever. The Internet has demolished the traditional magic store and replaced it with email touting (like a real tout would do) “The Best Trick” or “The Most Amazing Illusion Ever!” If the ads don’t come with those titles, we get testimonials from people we don’t know (or know too well) saying, “I was fooled so badly, I bought three of _____!” “This trick had me from the start. I had to buy it just to learn how it works!” “This is the illusion I carry with me at all times!”
I haven’t seen a trick I had to carry at all times since my Color Changing Knives. That’s it. I can use the knives as knives so that makes them something I would want to carry. I don’t even carry cards with me. Does my impromptu audience care? No, not one of them has asked me to show something else with props I should be carrying. It makes sense that I would have a knife with me and because I am a magician, it makes sense I could do something magical with the knife. I can make it change color and then change back and hand it to my spectator to see if he can open it. He can’t. I can, end of story.
I have been in the business long enough to know that advertising is a different animal than talking or writing or drawing. You have to create the need. Fill the need. Move on. You move on because 8 out of 10 times, the need you created wasn’t there to begin with, didn’t need filling and the thing you sold couldn’t fill it – or would break the second it was used.
Their newest iteration is the Alex 3.0 and allows users to search and browse for free.
Visit the Ask Alexander page, type in your question or terms, and presto, Alexander delivers the images of the journals or sources containing your terms.
It is fast and very helpful. You will need to login if you want to see the responsive pages — assuming the sources are available at your subscription level.
The Ask Alexander team inform Inside Magic that users can “test drive” the system for free. “Though this subscription level is smaller than our Bronze, Silver, and Gold subscriptions (Gold now has over 1,000,000 pages!), it still contains a lot of great material. This free account even supports all of Alex’s features like collection building, instant translation and adding notes, just to name a few.”
Inside Magic intends to release its long-anticipated Ask Paw Lawton page in the coming weeks. It has been in beta testing since 1997 but is almost ready for launch. Unlike Ask Alexander, the Ask Paw Lawton service provides the instant recollections of our sainted father, Li’l Tom Hardy’s Road Chief on almost any topic you can name. The answers are not nearly as accurate or complete as Ask Alexander and currently many of the responses are not truly safe for work or polite audiences (we’re working on that) but it should be a major step forward.
Until Ask Paw Lawton launches, though, we suggest you take advantage of Ask Alexander. As Paw Lawton once said, “You can’t beat free, but you can beat cheap.”