The Eighth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest: Holiday Giveaway

Well, we’re kind of late this year, but we’re trying something completely different: A holiday giveaway.

Look, frankly, the contest each year is mainly an excuse for me to giveaway some magic books from my bed in order to make some room so that I can sleep. So I thought this time I’d just cut out the middleman, skip the contest, and just give them away.

Well there is one hitch. These are very good books, believe me. It’s just that at this point something has to give. So here’s what I’ll do. I have generated a list of random whole numbers between 1 and 10,000. Email me a whole number between 1 and 10,000 at jshalom@worldshare.net Put the word “Contest” in the subject line. Make sure to include your shipping address. Do this before a week from now. Deadline is Saturday, December 3, 11:59 PM Pacific Time. That’s it. (Sorry, but due to shipping costs, this is only open to folks who live in the Continental US, but everyone else is welcome.) Please follow all the bolded directions, or I cannot accept your entry. Whoever is closest to the first number on my random list gets first prize; whoever is closest to the second number gets second prize, and so on. There will be 10 prizes given out.

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag, and so on, down to 10th prize gets 10th choice. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Ball In The Center Pocket

Here’s a magic routine we love. It didn’t fool Penn & Teller, but magician Jason Fields (known as Jafo) pulls it off so well that Penn & Teller have to acknowledge his skill and artistry. And by the way, if P&T were to examine the board with the hole, they’d find nothing out of the ordinary.

More at Magic of Jafo

“I Don’t Know How…”

As far as I’m concerned, the greatest–and most entertaining–close-up magician I’ve ever seen, Dani DaOrtiz. Penn & Teller are beaten so bad, they don’t even try to figure out Dani’s magic.

More at dani daortiz

The Most Difficult Close-Up Card Trick?

If you’re talking about raw sleight of hand, a lot of magicians will pick this card move invented by Ray Kosby called “Raise Rise,” as their choice for the most difficult card trick in the world. It looks like trick photography, but it’s pure sleight of hand, done with an ordinary ungaffed deck. My hat’s off to those who can do it–I sure can’t. The clip above is quite a good version with no cheating or editing. I wish I knew who the magician here was, but I only have the name of the guy’s YouTube channel.

Thanks to YouTuber jekku123

The Thief of Bad Gags

(Click to enlarge)

Magic fans will enjoy this parody film poster advertising the Golden Gate Gathering, a magic convention organized by Anthony Miller and Rosie Rings.

Magician Kent Gunn explains on the Genii forum that Rosie and Tony are both huge movie poster aficionados. and that they’ve come up with Rosie-fied old movie posters for the GGG for several years.

Thanks to Kent Gunn for the photo of the poster.

Mr. Electric

One of the most iconic acts in the history of magic–Marvyn Roy and Carol’s light bulb act. Reportedly it took hours upon hours just to set up the complicated props for a single performance. That finale!

Thanks to YouTuber Bob Carroll

Things Are Not What They Appear To Be

Wherein your correspondent talks of propaganda, faulty perception, the art of magic, Whit Haydn’s theory of conjuring, suspension of disbelief, deception, Buddhist philosophy, and the need to doubt.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the commentary as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program heard on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Street Games

Street busking is an ancient trade, going back at least to medieval and Renaissance times, with actors and entertainers displaced by enclosure and plague making their living on the streets, dependent on their spectators for their livelihood. Their descendants are still among us today, and modern-day busker Todd Various is one of the best I have ever seen. The cups and balls is the bread and butter of the traveling magician, illustrated in Renaissance woodcuts, but Todd’s execution of it is so sublime, and his manner with an audience is so thoroughly engaging and cunningly crafted, that one wants to reach into the video and put a couple of dollars into his hat.

More at todd various

How To Get A Seat

There’s no one quite like Todd Robbins, a trained Shakespearean actor who went wrong somewhere and made a career as a magician and carny sideshow performer. Here Todd helpfully illustrates how to guarantee a seat on the subway.

Thanks to YouTuber travsd

The Five-Foot-Shelf of Magic: Foot Four

It’s been quite a while since the three prior installments of this series (which you can see here, here and here) but perhaps the time off has been a good thing. In the previous installment, I limited myself to books that were generally in print–this time I went a bit more afield, though most of these books below are still pretty obtainable, though not necessarily in print anymore. I’ve also included books that I had either overlooked, or had already written about in other contexts, or simply had not owned or read before.

Switch by John Lovick: This is the last word in what has come to be known as the Hundred Dollar Bill Switch. There are dozens of variations and techniques taught in close detail, both tip and tipless, worth getting under your belt.

Act Two by Barrie Richardson: Richardson is one of my favorite magic writers and his books are overflowing with excellent mental magic plots, scripts, and methods. This book contains my favorite—and possibly easiest–parlor ACAAN effect.

Before We Begin by Asi Wind: This is a brilliant book that fills a neglected but important technique of mentalism. After reading this book with its very detailed scripts you might change your mind as I did, and consider the usefulness and effectiveness of this technique.

The Devil’s Staircase by Greg Chapman and Details of Deception by Greg Chapman: I’ve written about these two books on this blog before, so see those essays for more details, but in brief, these two books of Greg’s are filled with unique gambling type card routines, sleights and tools that will leave audiences with no possible explanation.

Approaching Magic by David Regal: all of Regal’s material is great, and in this big book there is a wealth of card, coin and parlor effects. Regal’s magic always has a strong premise and script, and his methods are often ingenious. This book also has some wonderful essays and will keep you busy for a long time. A desert island kind of book.

Smoke and Mirrors by John Bannon: Like David Regal, Bannon’s close-up card and coin effects are fun and ingenious, and any of his books are worth picking up. I like this early book best as I think it has some of his strongest magic in it for casual tabletop performance.

Magic For Young Lovers by Andy of the Jerx: this book is probably the hardest book on the list to find now–it was offered a few years ago to subscribers to Andy’s blog. When I read it, I thought it was one of the best magic books I’d ever read, outlining an approach to magic that really resonated with me. It conveyed what a true magic experience should encompass. This may sound strange, but I’ve never opened it since my first reading of it, because I’ve been reluctant to disturb the memory of what a great experience it was to read it that first time.

Outs, Precautions and Challenges by Charles H. Hopkins: I’ve written about this before on my blog, and it’s a fun little booklet to read. It’s kind of old-fashioned and maybe promises more than it delivers, but it presents a good outline of the problems a performer can face and some possible solutions.

In Order To Amaze by Pit Hartling: This is a must for memdeck workers. As powerful a tool that a memdeck is, the most difficult part of devising magic for it in my opinion has always been in creating entertaining plots and presentations for those effects. Pit Hartling’s ideas and scripts are superb and set this book apart from many others using the same tool.

The Magic of Alan Wakeling by Jim Steinmeyer: I don’t do much stage magic so I can’t say this is a book that I go back to many times, but it is a fascinating look at the mind of an incredibly ingenious designer and performer of stage illusions. The section alone on the Think-a-Drink plot and apparatus is inspiring.

The Annotated Erdnase by S. W. Erdnase and Darwin Ortiz: Eventually if you’re into cards you know one day you are going to have to eat your spinach, and Ortiz’s annotated version of Erdnase is a delightful way to do it. In this large hard bound book, Erdnase’s text is on the inside portion of the double page, while Ortiz’s commentary is in the outer margins. The commentary covers much historical and technical information that makes the journey even more tasty.

Routined Manipulation Finale by Lewis Ganson: I included this book because I think poor Lewis Ganson generally gets a raw deal as a magic writer. He tends to be dismissed because he is generally describing the work of other great magicians such as Dai Vernon, but his books are generally full of wonderful material. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this book, available in paperback, is not referenced more often. I think the contents rival the material in the Stars of Magic book. There are effects in here from Fred Kaps, Pat Page, Ali Bongo, Al Koran, Alex Elmsley, and more.

Faro Fundamentals by Greg Chapman: I’ve written about this book on the blog before so see that essay for more detail. This 52-page booklet would be my go-to recommendation to learn not only how to faro but some excellent uses of it. Even if you already do a faro, you’ll find information in here that you may not have seen before that will help you get the most out of it.

Magic Round-up

It’s been a while since I did any magic write-ups, so here, in lieu of full reviews, are some brief comments on some magic related items I’ve encountered recently that I really appreciated.

First off, is Steve Spill’s new book. How is it possible that Steve Spill’s books keep complementing and topping each other? You’d think given how much Steve has tipped already, the well would have run dry. But not at all! His newest book, ASSASSIN, continues in the vein of his previous two books: real world advice for magicians who want to create in the real world. If you ever want to step on stage as a magician, this is the book you need: along with bullet-proof advice, every one of the newly published routines is a killer. Steve shows, both explicitly and by example, how to take a commonplace effect and turn it into a magical, fun-filled experience for your audiences. Highly recommended.

Next is Dan Harlan’s e-book, “Excellent Choice: The Art of Equivocation with Dan Harlan.” Dan Harlan is a master of a technique that’s so often done badly, that some magicians may think that it’s not worth it. And how wrong they would be. If you want to check out the best thread, bar none, in the Big Green Place, do a search on Harlan and equivoque, where Harlan does a mind-blowing online effect totally through his verbal posts. In this 60 page pdf, Harlan gives you four complete scripts, complete with all the branches and dialogue to enable you to cover a multitude of situations. You can use these scripts as stand-alone effects or as pieces of a larger routine. Learn it properly and you have one of the most powerful impromptu tools in magic.

Recently, I’ve been reading copies of The Hermit, a new monthly digital conjuring magazine in pdf form put out by Scott Baird. Each issue is about 50 pages, so the space devoted to each effect can be substantial. It’s very reasonably priced and if you like close-up magic you’re bound to find something in each issue that appeals to you. While most of the effects are from Scott, he has begun to attract other magician/writers: Jay Sankey has a regular column, and in the latest issue, Josh Jay contributes a variation of a Guy Hollingworth plot. Nicely illustrated, too.

And finally, there’s the Vanishing Inc Master Class series. It’s a monthly online lecture series that you subscribe to, and while not cheap, if you’re wondering, it’s totally worth it. The lectures by the likes of Dani DaOrtiz, Jamy Ian Swiss, Woody Aragon are at a level beyond the usual lectures that you may have seen before. This is truly one-on-one lecturing with magicians tipping moves, ideas and routines that they haven’t tipped before, with the opportunity of tuning in to a Zoom video call where you can ask questions of the lecturer. In addition, Vanishing Inc gives free access to some excellent videos, including items from Giobbi and Tamariz. And as if that weren’t enough, you get free shipping on anything ordered from Vanishing Inc. I would say try it out for a month or two, and see if you don’t look forward to it every month as I do.


All Hands on Deck

Magician Alana with a unique act. I’ve often said that the hardest thing in professional magic is to come up with a new magic plot–and Alana has done that. There has been some grousing in the YouTube comments that they thought that her methods were too transparent; I didn’t think so–though it’s clear that what she is doing requires some very precise sleight of hand and very careful timing, which I think she pulls off quite well. What do you think?

More at AlanaMagic

Lance Burton

Lance Burton, just 21 years old at the time, made his mark on the world in this wonderful first appearance on the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson, the host, himself an amateur magician, allowed Burton to perform what was up to then the longest segment on the show. You can hear Lance Burton talk about that experience in the interview that I conducted with him some years ago, here.

Thanks to YouTuber darksidedeceptions

Physically Impossible

Sixteen-year old magician Stanley Zhou, originally from China, has audience members, including Penn & Teller, scratching their heads. He does a card effect, the plotline of which is well-known, but which contains elements–especially the finale–which will have even well-posted magic fans “fasten-ated.”

More at Stanley Zhou