Saturday, December 31, 2011

Congratulations Andrew

You made it. Writing daily about a topic that has limits is a task I can only honor with highest regards. I hope it was worth the effort and serves as an excellent portfolio and reference for future work. Having a journalist background myself I know the value of such an online resource. About your plans to go with a weekly schedule, well don't... Twice a weeks seems optimal. And it's easy. You got your main article done rather early in the week and additional notes, which will come up eventually to be added later that week. Also if you keep your articles a bit shorter, not only is it faster to do, you also leave yourself the chance to elaborate further on any given subject to "make your point more clear". Less text also is less shocking to a new reader.

Add more pictures. People love pictures. Also commenting on current news and debates could be a nice lead in to theory. Don't be afraid to have an opinion, you are not a obliged to objectivity.

I could write all of that as an email of course, but then I wouldn't have anything to fill my second post this week. (See what I did there?)

So Happy New Year to you and your 52 (at least) wonderful figments of your mind. 

PS: Fix your blogroll, still on default!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

WMF The Avant-gardist

Andrew over at Ye Olde Magick Blogge had such a nice run with the archetypes of magic. That inspired me (great term of ripping off an idea) to post my most disliked types of characters that magicians portray worthy of failure. Let's continue with the Avant-gardist:

A basic writing class will tell you, that when writing a fictional story the readers need a character that relates to them. Same goes for movies. An audience needs an "Everyman", an ordinary individual to identify with. A magic show is a bit like a movie. An audience is watching the magician. Usually magic shows are one man shows, ergo the magician needs to be the Everyman. He cannot be too far out. He still needs to be relatable. A bit weird is okay, but once the weirdness goes to a point where the general audience cannot follow anymore, I see a problem.

A typical example of this type of performer is Dan Sperry. He might be the nicest guy, but I cannot relate to his act. His motivation why he does magic remains unclear and way too much is left for the audience.

While it might be nice that the audience needs to make up their own damn mind, I still think that the main purpose of magic is entertainment. Making me think is not my idea of entertainment. Don't confuse that with stupefying the act. The movie "Inception" is a nice example on how to do it right. You have characters you can relate to. Their motifs are clear, yet the implications of the plot are far from being stupid or simple. (Besides, that is why the first Matrix movie was great and the other two failed aside from the pretty pictures)

Back to magic: I see why certain magicians want to be a character that is far out. Differentiating yourself from others is a way to be unique. But not at the cost of not being understood. If the magic show has no "Everyman" it better be so darn amazing that the audience can look past the fact that the "why" deprives itself from the show. Some manage that fine line. Most don't.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Rant

Starts at 3:10

A Zach Mueller you are young, therefore death is funny. But don't let it hang out that you simply don't care about people dying with grinning through the entire sales pitch you did. A little more maturity... it'll come with age. Right now you have to fake it.

Also, why a deck of card. If you want to spend money for a cause, do so. Don't buy a deck of cards. The cards cost 10 dollars the deck. 100% of proceeds derived from sale of this deck will go directly to charity: water operations. That means the 10 bucks minus the production costs. I have no clue how much these decks really cost. But I got told that in the magic business a sales margin of 900% is normal. I don't know if that applies to playing cards, but let's assume that of the 10 bucks you would spend 8 dollars got to charity water operations. The rest is for the cards and shipping and handling.

So if you wanna help and spend 10 bucks. Go directly to the source:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The B Magic Shop, an experience!

Wanna know how not to run a brick and mortar store? Then check out the B Magic Shop in Arlington Texas. They are open since the first of December and the shop itself in the not so nice part of town. When you drive there is is pretty much the first glimpse:

A magic friend called the store before going there.

On December 1st (Opening Day), I called the B Magic Shop. Here's how that conversation went:

Store: Hello?
Friend: Is this the B Magic Shop?
Store: Who is calling?
Friend: (I repeat) Is this the B Magic Shop?
Store: (He repeats) Who is calling?
Friend: A potential customer...did I reach the B Magic Shop?
Store: (awkward pause) Yes
Friend: What time do you close today?
Store: When you want to come?
Friend: I don't know...what are your hours?
Store: When you want to come?
Friend: I don't know...maybe today...when do you close?
Store: I'm probably leaving at 4pm today (10 minutes from then).
Friend: Oh, ok, thank you.
Store: WAIT! When you wanna come?
Friend: No idea, I'll swing out there sometime soon.
Store: WHEN?
Friend: I don't know? Maybe next week sometime.
Store: (CLICK) Hangs up.

But still being curious about this mysterious new shop he went there.

I decided that TODAY was the day and I would head out to visit the B Magic Shop for myself. GPS starts to lead me thru Arlington and I begin to get that "not so great feeling" in the pit of my stomach as I'm leaving the nice part of town, and I begin to drive thru the "not so great part" of town. Very depressed area, buildings falling apart and in some need of some repair. But I venture forward and arrived at the shop at 12pm (noon). They were closed. I found it mildly humorous they were closed because they had a larger banner on the window that read "WE ARE OPEN!"

I peaked inside the windows and the showroom was a mess. It was dirty, the industrial carpet was old and coming up from the floor in places. The back wall was lined with shelves of DVDs. They appeared to be very old and worn and not in "new/pristine" condition. Since I couldn't get my hands on them, I couldn't tell if they were pirated copies or not, but the appearance of them leads me to believe so. There was a long display case that had B Magic Shop spray painted on the front with some small gadget stuff inside (cards, ball vases, etc.). Couldn't make out much of what was in there. The props I saw on the other shelving all looked to be either "home made" props with poor paint jobs, or old dirty and broken things in major need of repair. Not the kinds of stuff you would expect to see in a NEW Magic Shop Showroom. Pretty bad secondimpression since they've been open now for 19 days. If I didn't know better, I would assume that the tenants in the space got evicted and just abandoned their product in the store.

If you check out their website you will find obvious rip offs of Losander's Tables as low as $70, Neilson Bottles for $8 and the Dean's Box for $69.00.

The shop was suggested as a WMF but I cannot do that. I got this strict rule: If they don't ridicule themselves on the internet I leave them alone. But because of the obvious sale of rip offs via their website they get an honorable mention from me. So if you wanna buy stuff from them, I suggest not to.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to create new effects!

I was thinking about methods, structure, effects and value... Yes, every effect has some sort of value. And value can measured. Here are the points by which magic value is measured... (the list is far from being complete yet an indicator for my thinking)
  • having a practical use outside of the "entertainment/mystery/magic"-realm
  • being extremly impossible or dangerous
  • looks (sounds) beautiful
Let's look at those points: If something makes sense it does have a value. Meaning there is much more reason to perform it. A candy production in the end, for all the kids really has a lot of value. There is a reason to do it.
If something is extremely impossible it also has value. Pushing coins through a table feels more impossible than having them go from hand to hand (aka coins across) Because the more impossible or dangerous something is the more people feel drawn towards this stuff.
Also, if something looks good it has value. What else is the purpose of dance and music? That is why a slow linking rings routine is not that bad.

I think of these as some sort of options. An effect can have 3 points in each of those three categories, adding up to 9 points. Here is an example: Coins Through Table

It really has no purpose outside the magic realm (just one point) unless the patter justifies it somehow (which is rarely done.) But it is really impossible? Well some sneaky business seems possible but is not seen. (so I give it 2 points) Does it look good? Well it can! (adding 2 points)

That gives the effect a value of 5 points out of 9, which is not that bad.

Now... what can be done to make the score even higher?

Substituting the coins for something that we wish we could push through a table... or substituting the table for something we wish we could push coins through for example.
How many times did we wish to take out the coins for a piggy bank without breaking the piggy. That would give the effect a solid 3 points in the practical use category and another point in the impossible category, because it feels even harder to accomplish than the table version. (So it would be 8 out of 9 points.... which is much more valuable)

From that thinking here is the new effect:

Effect: An empty piggy bank is shown and examined.  Three or more coins are put into the piggy bank via the slit on the top. The pig gets shaked and the audience hears the rattling inside. One coin at a time gets removed from the piggy bank.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

WMF The Clown

Andrew over at Ye Olde Magick Blogge has such a nice run with the archetypes of magic. That inspired me (great term of ripping off an idea) to post my most disliked types of characters that magicians portray worthy of failure. Let's continue with the Clown:

We all have met them. Performers who wear silly costumes in bright colors and a huge bow tie. Sometimes they openly say they are clowns, but most often they just behave like clowns. It doesn't mean that they are bad magicians, but most often that is the case. Somehow they seem to miss that it is not the clown's outfit that makes him funny or tragic. There is nothing wrong with a clown doing magic tricks, but I think that a magician should not be a clown. Or if he chooses to look like one at least not to call yourself a magician. The following performer fits that category. Again I am making no judgement about his personality, his skill or his likability. It's just the character that he chose to be while performing that I cannot stand. It's personal I know, but it's my blog:

How can an adult man dress like that? And expect to be taken seriously? Have you ever been to a magic convention. Some of these guys even dare to wear that stuff there. Do ventriloquists bring their puppets? I think not. Sometimes they wear nice attire, but something almost always shows through. Like the tie with card symbols and the little golden rabbit pin. Where do they get that stuff? Where do you get a purple suit, a black shit and a yellow tie? Wait... hold on. Not far from where I live... shit.

The ususal response is: "Come on, it's for kids!" Do Kids deserve this?

Edit: The prototype for this is Ali Bongo. As much as I like the guy, the act was horrific. So hard to bear.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Look at my toy!

I just love it, when a toy is sold as magic trick. This flow toy doesn't hide the fact, but magicians will still buy it. That's why it has an add banner over at the Green Monster. That reminds me of Jeff McBride's techno attempt.

Friday, December 16, 2011


I rarely look at the stats page of my little blog. But this made me smile a bit. One of the more frequent Google search terms that brings people here is "Modesty". Interesting.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Angry Man of Magic - Magicians are Stupid

I, like several people, receive the Learned Pig ezine. Also, like several people, I forgot there was a Learned Pig ezine. I must have subscribed to it when I originally signed up for the site but, since there's been so little traffic, I forgot about it.

That is, until someone posted a junk email to the whole list.

And someone hit "reply to all".

And the server was configured to allow posts from subscribers.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

If this is intended to be an announcement list - i.e. we write, you read - then don't allow posts from subscribers. Simples.

If this is intended to be an email list, then go die in a fire! Email lists are the most intrusive form of communication of the digital age. Heck people - it's 2011 - use a broadcast medium (Twitter/Facebook/Bebo), use a web forum (Cafe/Bunny/Talk), use a personal blog with comments turned on, but don't use personal email for mass human-to-human messages.

But this is only a minor problem, caused by the failure of a single person. We all make mistakes, and I can forgive most. The biggest problem is the 92 emails I got spamming my account this morning, each saying "Please quit sending these messages". Followed by the other 91 saying "I agree". And the next 90 saying, "Stop it now". And so on. And so on.

I can not forgive stupid people. Especially those who, after 92 emails, are still thinking that "reply-to-all" is a good idea.

On the plus side, I now have the email addresses of 92 stupid learned pig users who can't use email.

Now - what porn sites shall I sign them up to..?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Piracy

There is this piracy debate that involving myself in I can only lose. Here is what I personally used to do. I didn't actively look for illegal material. But once in a while a magician buddy offered me stuff on a hard drive. I usually said: "Sure I'll make a copy."

Then I took a look. And here is what what I did. If I really liked the material... I bought it. If it was not that great, but still okay, I would stop reading. (Usually after the first chapter you can make that decision.) If it was downright awful, as most is... I did some more research. If the rest of this stuff was as bad (*cough* Devin Knight *cough*) I was glad I never even considered buying it.
And then I deleted the stuff. And that thing had something good too. I learned to appreciate many really cool magicians. (David Williamson's book for example. I would have never bought the book, if I had not had the chance reading it first.)

Now is not much different. Only difference I decline illegal magic offerings. Don't wanna be part of that anymore. But any magic product goes through the same process. First I ask my magic friends and I even contact the dealer how an item works. I have been disappointed many, many times. I wanna know exactly how stuff works before I buy it. And when I dealer refuses to tell me "how practical" an item is, or if it needs sleeves then I can be pretty sure that it's not going on my list because it's crap.

I got a question. If I see a trick and I really like it, and without knowing about any of the moves, gimmicks and such... and I make up my own method, that works. Is that already piracy? If it turns out along the way that the method is identical (happens more often than you think) is that piracy? If my method is actually more practical, is that piracy? Is doing the same effect piracy already?

Is taking an idea piracy? I always thought booty is real stuff. Loot has weight and matter. And idea lacks that. If a book is out of print, yet I got the illegal copy, and I wish I could buy it with the money I have, yet I can't get it would that be piracy?

Arrrrr! There are so many questions that come out of this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WMF The Janitor

Andrew over at Ye Olde Magick Blogge has such a nice run with the archetypes of magic. That inspired me (great term of ripping off an idea) to post my most disliked types of characters that magicians portray worthy of failure. Let's start with the Janitor:

It might be a typical German thing, but very often a performer needs to think up a character that he performs at. And every once in a while "the Janitor" comes up. So that magician decides to pretend he is a Janitor, often openly preparing the act of the magician that is coming any second. Then he starts toying around with the stuff that is already on stage. Usually he wears a grey work coat, a hat and thick glasses. Sometimes he even interrupts the show by needing to clean the stage loudly complaining about the state of things. It's not the act that I don't like it's the character the magician chose to be. The following video is German and I think that the performer is decent, yet I feel that the act is something I can hardly bear to endure because of the choice of character.

What makes me groan is the transparency of the "lie". It is clear from the very first second that this is an act. So if that is clear from the second it started, why keep up the lie? And this is not just for magicians. Even jugglers fall into the "janitor hole" seemingly in lack of better ideas. There is this act a a comedy waiter. Basically the audience is unaware that one of the waiters in the restaurant is not a real waiter. He behaves like a real waiter and slowly transforms into the performer he is. That process is done slowly over a long time period. There is a punchline to this. Realizing that the waiter is not real.

The Janitor is like a joke with no punchline that needs to go away.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Angry Man of Magic - What I want for Christmas

No magic.

End of.

Christmas is a time for having the family to stay. But other than that, it's quite nice! I don't want to ruin it with the regular disappointment of opening a new trick and getting yet another piece of IT, shoddy instructions, and an ill-fitting thumb tip. I certainly don't want to fake my disappointment in front of you, my gift-buying famdamily, as you try and work out why you spent $30 on me to get a kids novelty.

Nor, do I want to be a performing monkey for the family. Or have the "we've bought you a trick - now show it to us, then tell us how it's done" look thrust in my direction.

Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

Do you think I have such little respect for my art that:

1. I can learn, practice, routine, a perfect a trick while we're all sat together in the living room on Christmas day, stoked on cheap brandy, and gas station end-of-line chocolates?
2. I want to spend Christmas working on such a routine?
3. I would tell you the method, anyway?

Seriously - those that ask for tricks at Christmas have a 30 second attention span, lasting from the time the shining paper is witness, and ending around the realization that the box is, in fact, socks. Again. Plus, I know your grabbing hands will tear the instructions from my hands before I can devour them.

Anyway, who's the present for? Is it for me to consume at my leisure, at a time of my choosing? Of course not. You bought it for your selfish self, to get a little cheap (!?!) entertainment before the James Bond film comes on the telly. The only time it's accepted to buy someone else a present, that you get enjoyment from, is when it's a sexy nurse outfit, and I'm buying it. For your girlfriend!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Act #3

Premise: What if methods don't matter, because you can do real magic, yet you do have to make it look like a magic trick. The first act broke laws of moral, ethics and spiritualism. The second act broke the laws of physics. Now the third act is all about obeying the rules. Save one!

3. The Kill
The curtain is down, the magician stands before it and says, that tonight a murder will take place. One person will be the murderer, one will be the victim. As for the method of murder... that has been taken care of. The curtain rises.

A big guillotine is revealed. The magician pulls the blade up and in usual fashion let's it drop on a melon. Then he pulls up the blade again. "I will be the murderer" the magician says "but because I can expect nobody to take the place down there, I will also be the victim." The magician lifts the wooden board that secures the neck. Then kneels down. "This will be my last trick". The magician bends down. his left hand secures the neck and after a short while he releases the rope with his right hand. The blade falls, the beheading finds it's bloody end by the head dropping into the bucket.

Seemingly an eternity seem to pass... but then movement is seen. The headless body rises. As if there is still a head attached controlling the body it moves around, the hand reaching into the bucket grabbing the head. The head is raised towards the audience and then placed on the shoulders. Some adjusting, applause pose and the curtain falls.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Act #2

Same premise: what if methods don't matter, because you can do real magic, yet you do have to make it look like a magic trick. This second act would fill almost the entire time of the whole show.

2. The Box
The magician enters the stage and tells the audience of the strange way he has acquired "the box" It has been passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately you were not part of the family that it originally belonged to. And all of that wouldn't have mattered if the magician hadn't learned what the box can do. But once he did, it became an odyssey to get it. There are consequences if you mess around with the laws of nature. But no more stalling. The magician leaves and reenters with a box. Its a big box, with a lid on top and decorative patterns. The magicians addresses the spectator in the first row to the very left as he begins to speak.

"I can take out any object from the box. Anyone you think of. And I will if it fits within the five conditions. First: I can only take out objects that would naturally fit inside the box. So no real submarine, yet a toy model would be fine. Second: I can only take out objects that don't exist. I can reach in and take out a wallet, but it won't be your wallet. Third: No things that are alive. Fourth: No body parts. And finally: Whatever comes out, must go back in. So what do you want me to take out?"
The spectator is given some time to make up his mind. Finally he says "a glass of tea". The magician opens the lid, reaches inside and a glass of tea is produced. Then it is placed back.
The spectator next to the first one is asked to think of an object and then to name it. In fact, everyone in the audience is think of an object. As everyone will get a shot. The second spectator names an object, it is taken from the box, shown and then placed back inside.
That is continued until every one in the room, save one had a chance. Each time the magician is able to take out the object, as long as it fits within the five conditions.
In the end the magician wants to demonstrate what will happen if you break all of the rules at once. The last spectator is asked to join the magician on stage. She may sit down on a chair. A curtain is placed on her. Then the magicians goes to the box, opens the lid, reaches in and pulls out an arm, pulls some more and attached to the arm is the rest of a person. The spectator. At the same time the spectator is pulled out from the box the cloth falls, revealing just the outline of the chair. The spectator is finally out of the box, completely puzzled by what has happened. "There are consequences if you mess around with the laws of nature." the magician says. Attention is brought back to the box. Which just started falling apart, ending the second act.

The last act will follow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Act #1

I don't even know why I'm writing this now... but once in while a thought occurs. What if I had real magic powers. Just me... Nobody else. Would I make that know? I assume there would be limits to the magic powers. So my life wouldn't be save if I openly announced that. I know how crazy power hungry human being are. So I guess I would keep that a secret.

But still I wouldn't wanna be totally quite about that. After all I have this gift, I need to show the people. So I assume the best way to deal with such a dilemma would be to pretend to be a magician using tricks to achieve the wonders. Little work, lot's of money.

So what would my act be like? I can't be too extreme, or people might think I got real magic powers. But I couldn't be too dull either, as I would get no shows. My thought was: How about just three tricks for the whole show. Three really good ones. Tricks that might be achieved via trickery (but would be very hard to pull off) yet are unique enough to gain me "fame and fortune and everything that goes with it." Here is the first one:

1. The Homunculus
On stage there is a table. On the table there is a big glass jar. But that is covered with a cloth. The magicians enters. Talks about the how the alchemists tried to make gold. But also tried to create life. You managed such a feat. The spotlight is moved to the cloth which is dragged away revealing the jar. In the jar there is a small harlequin with a tiny little mask. It's not moving. The magician opens the jar, puts on some gloves and takes out the small human shaped doll and sets it on the table in front of the jar.
Then the magician starts reciting some incantation and after that the arm of the little man starts moving. Then the other arm. Finally it does some steps, jumps down the table and takes a bow.
Then in typical fashion of a magician rings are used to prove there are no threads nor wires. The humunculus is then placed back on the table and does some dancing. Following that mindreading is demonstrated. A spectator is asked to think of a number between 5 and 15. The little man claps his hands 9 times. The spectator verifies that he was thinking of the number 9.
And to finish this act the magician announces to explain the feat and how this little man is moving. It's a deal you have to make with unknown entities, that are vaguely mentioned in some fairy tales. Most often this back fires. But you have it all under control. Then the harlequin turns towards the audience and takes off it's little mask. Underneath there is an imp face with evil eyes. The magician then quickly grabs it by the neck and tosses the creature back into the jar. Just as he closes the lid the creature starts to burst into flames. Smoke fills the jar a strange noises arise. Whispers that fade out. Finally the lid is opened and the jar is tipped over. Heavy smoke rolls out over the table. But the jar is empty.

The other two acts will follow.