The Seventh Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

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It’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest!

Most of us have been cooped up for more than a year, and circumstances have often been trying. But it’s given us a lot of time to play around and maybe learn some skills or tricks that we wouldn’t have otherwise. So at the risk of sounding uncreative, I’m going to repeat for yet a third time a contest question that I think is valuable and worth repeating, especially at a time like this:

What were two (three is optional) actions or ideas that you think were the most helpful in the improvement of your magic or mentalism in the last few years? What is it you did, thought, learned or realized that has changed how you approach your magic in matters large and/or small? Your explanations don’t have to be profound, although profound is fine, too. But if you just want to talk about how your little pinky sticking out this way instead of that way made everything a lot better, that’s okay, too.

You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well. And feel free to participate again, even if you were a past winner, as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year. If you contributed before, you’re still welcome to participate, but please don’t submit the same entry, let’s see how you’ve changed over the years.

No criteria for winning here other than what strikes me as interesting and useful.  Details and specifics are key. Extra points for humor and entertainment value. It would be especially helpful if you could analyze why the actions or ideas were important to you.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

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. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or tricks, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

All are welcome to participate. And even if you were a past winner before, feel free to participate again as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Tuesday,  November 2, 11:59 PM. In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Contest Correction

Well, I screwed up big time. Back in October I ran my annual blog magic contest and I received a lot of wonderful entries before the deadline. Normally, as I receive each entry, I acknowledge receipt and put it aside in a separate folder to read later. Much to my embarrassment, I neglected to put Alfred Dowaliby’s entry into the folder, and so I never got to read his entry.

And the loss was mine. It was an excellent entry, certainly up there with the other prize winners. I’ve since contacted Alfred and he was nice enough to allow me to print his entry here. Other amends shall be forthcoming!

Here is Alfred’s entry:

THE TWO MOST MEMORABLE MAGICAL EFFECTS I’VE EVER SEEN

By Alfred Dowaliby (a/k/a Magic by Alfred)

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten magic, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, at a door in my brain. Behind that portal resided my most cherished memories. It was then that I heard an eerie voice calling out to me: “Shalom, Alfred. The time is at hand for the Sixth Annual Blog Magic Contest, and you are among the chosen ones. You are being called upon to enter, and to share the two most memorable magical effects you’ve ever seen.”

There was something compelling in that voice – something that said, “This is not a request.” As the voice faded away into the night, as quickly as it had come, I could hear a shrill cackling. Then it grew faint, then fainter, until finally, it was no more. Nameless here forevermore. Thus, I was left alone in quiet contemplation and the solitude of my thoughts.

As I gazed dreamily through the window, I suddenly heard a ferocious roar of thunder and, like magic, there appeared two brilliant flashes of light in the night sky. One was in the shape of a giant magic wand with lightning shooting out of the tip. The second flash lingered. It was in the form of a rabbit peeking out from a top hat. Then quoth the rabbit, “Nevermore.” In haunting tones, the ethereal marsupial continued: “Nevermore shall you neglect your magical memories. You must share, and share you must, the two most magical effects you have ever seen.”

Just then, as my grandfather’s clock struck midnight, two long-forgotten episodes magically came to life. I knew, there and then, that I must honor those memories, and share them with the world. The first was of a trick I had seen many decades before, when I was barely a lad of six. In fact, it was the very first magic trick I had ever witnessed. The other most memorable magical effect was one that I, myself, unwittingly performed in the mid-1990’s in, of all places, a magic shop. I had never rehearsed, nor performed, nor even conceived of the trick before. Of course, this begs the question: Can a trick that I performed qualify as a magical effect that I have seen? It seems to present somewhat of a paradox. But in this particular and unique case, for reasons I hope will become clear, I believe the answer is “Yes.”.

So let me not keep you guessing, with no syllable expressing, but to tell you my tale of two tricks. I should note that while I have admittedly embarked upon certain flights of fancy in this preface, I have taken little in the way of poetic license in the yarn that now unfolds.

The First Most Memorable Magical Effect

The year, 1956, the place, Brooklyn New York, majestic City of my birth. It was my sixth birthday, and my parents announced that they had something really fun in mind for the occasion. They were going to take me to the magic store. I knew nothing of magic, as for most of the prior two years I had been hospitalized with a serious illness. There were no televisions in the hospital, and regrettably, no magicians floating around. My parents explained to me that magic was a really fun way to amaze people by doing things that seemed impossible. They told me that my dad’s brother (and my namesake), Alfred, made people happy by doing magic, and so, he was called a “magician.” I had not yet made the acquaintance of Uncle Alfred, who was later to become a major magical influence for me, as he was living in San Juan, Puerto  Rico at the time.

And so, we embarked upon our pilgrimage from Bay Ridge to the magic shop in downtown Brooklyn. We emerged from the subway on Third Avenue, and after walking a few blocks, we arrived at our destination, in all its splendor. It was called the “Third Avenue Bazaar.” As far as I can remember, there was an alluring red neon sign above the entrance that added to the shop’s mystique. In the window display, there were colorful, brightly painted boxes — some with dragons breathing fire, others adorned with rabbits, crossed swords, or oriental inscriptions. Jumbo cards peered out at us through the looking glass: Kings and Queens, holding court, and beckoning us to enter their mysterious world. There was a panoply of tricks and apparatus visible through the window. These items, I was later to learn, consisted of wrist choppers, Hippity Hop Rabbits, Chinese linking rings, Passe-Passe Bottles, die boxes, a Ouija Board, Zombie balls, and much more. I was drawn to these strange and mystical apparitions like moth to flame. And they were kindling for the flames of magical desire that were ignited and would burn brightly from that day forward.

We opened the door, and walked through the threshold. A bell chimed, heralding our arrival. As we entered the inner sanctum, I stepped into a world that was about to change mine. A very realistic rubber witch, with eyes that lit up green, was perched mockingly atop a broom in the corner. “Hello, my pretties, welcome to the Bazaar,” she shrieked in mocking tones. To my little 6-year old mind, this was, indeed, bazaar. I looked around, and my eyes drank in the endless array of tricks and silks and books, and posters bearing the images of magical heroes of yore. There was a long glass display case containing many different kinds of coins — silver, copper, brass, and gold. I was especially attracted to the Chinese coins with holes through the center. There was an entire display case entirely devoted to decks of cards. I was to learn that these were mainly “trick” decks, distributed by the House of Haines and Fox Lake.

Then I spotted the centerpiece of this strange and mysterious haunt, an old man, stooped behind the counter. He had on a vest adorned with dancing images of playing cards, and black-framed glasses with super thick lenses. Between his lips was a half-smoked, unlit cigar. His voice, best as I can remember, was a cross between W.C. Fields and Groucho Marks, though I knew nothing of either gentleman at that embryonic stage. We sauntered over toward the counter where the old magician was demonstrating his wares for another little boy and the boy’s mother. As we got closer, he looked up at me penetratingly through the coke-bottle lenses, cigar firmly entrenched in mouth, and said, “Sonny, how would you like to see one of the greatest magic tricks in the world?” I shyly nodded, although I had no conception of what a magic trick was, other than I knew it was supposed to be amazing. The magician then pulled out a glass pitcher from behind the counter. The pitcher was filled practically to the brim with milk. He set the pitcher down for a moment, then reached down and brought part of a newspaper into view.

            I watched the old magician deftly roll the newspaper into a cone. Holding the cone in one hand, he picked up the pitcher of milk in the other. I never really cared for milk, but I was more conversant with it than I would have preferred, since I was forced to drink three glasses of it every day for my “own good.” Thank heaven for “Bosco,” the chocolate flavored syrup that was all the rage amongst youngsters back then. But I knew milk. And I knew (or thought I did) that what was about to happen with that milk could not happen. And yet it did. He tilted the pitcher and poured milk into the paper cone.  Or so it seemed. I could clearly see the volume of milk receding from the pitcher, and when he set it down, it was plainly only about half full. He balanced the cone precariously in his hand, with a suitably worried countenance upon his weathered face, as if at any moment the bovine flood gates could burst, and we would all have to have a good cry.

Then, the old man said, “We shall now say the magic words,” and he proceeded to mutter some sort of incantation — some mumbo-jumbo I had never heard before. I don’t remember the words.  It might well have been, “Abracadabra, Alakazam.”  Suddenly, and with a swiftness that defied his otherwise feeble demeanor, his hands came together, crushing the newspaper, and he threw the balled-up wad into the air. Like cats, our wide eyes followed its short flight and its swift descent down to the counter. He said, “Son, would you mind handing me the newspaper? I haven’t read it yet today.” Gingerly, I picked it up, desperately looking for even a drop of liquid. It was, of course, bone dry. I was shaking with a combination of excitement and disbelief over what I had just seen. It was magic!

This was the first and the most memorable magical effect I ever witnessed.

It was at that moment I knew, with absolute conviction, what I wanted to be. Casting aside former aspirations of fireman, cowboy, truck driver, and train engineer, I knew that I wanted to be a magician. I solemnly announced this newly-found vocation to my parents as we walked back to the subway, and it’s what I wished for when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake that night. Meanwhile, I had capitalized nicely on it being my birthday. A Magic Milk Pitcher made the trip home with us, along with a set of plastic Cups and Balls, a Magic Ball & Vase, a set of Nickels to Dimes, a stripper deck (that was also cleverly marked), a black magic wand with white tips, and Houdini on Magic. I immediately began learning some of the tricks from the book, and practicing the Magic Milk Pitcher, which, even after many return visits to the magic shop, remained my favorite trick. Sadly, that pitcher is long gone, but the memory sweetly lingers, and the trick is still one of my all-time favorites.

Soon after my maiden voyage to the magic shop, and practically before you could say “hocus pocus,” another fateful event transpired — one that would help shape my magical destiny. Uncle Alfred came to visit from Puerto Rico, and stayed with us in Brooklyn for several weeks. I could not believe my lucky stars! I was totally enchanted by him, and with the amazing the tricks he performed. He was so entertaining, and charming, and mysterious. I wanted to be just like him. During his visit, Uncle Alfred patiently taught me several tricks, a couple of which I still perform to this day. One of them was an effect he said he’d paid $100 to learn (a lot of money back then!) It was a clock trick with cards. There are quite a few iterations of the clock trick, but this one is the most mystifying I know of – by far — and it has fooled the pants off every magician I’ve ever done it for. He swore me to secrecy on it, and I’ve never broken my vow.

Within a few months of my “Bazaar” birthday adventure, I excitedly gave my first magic show. It was at a party thrown by my parents. I still remember at least most of the tricks I performed. My programme featured the complete vanish of a silk (using a pull), the Cups and Balls, a penetration trick in which I pulled my Uncle Larry’s white shirt off up and through his suit jacket and loosened tie, the location of a selected card behind my back (using my stripper deck), a beautiful effect using 3 Skrip Ink bottles (with tell-tale labels removed beforehand), in which each bottle was covered with a different colored silk, and when each silk was dramatically whisked away, the liquid was shown to have changed color to match the corresponding silk (a slight tilting of the bottles, which had food coloring in their wells, did the trick), a feat of mentalism in which I divined a selected number between 1 and 20 by holding my fingertips against my cousin Jerry’s temples, Uncle Alfred’s phenomenal clock trick, and, of course, the highlight of my show, the Magic Milk Pitcher.

The Other Most Memorable Magical Effect

In 1995, I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and doing magic tableside and at the bar four nights a week at Bill Malone’s Magic Bar. The bar was located in the Boca Raton Resort and Beach Club, and featured 3-4 close-up magicians every night. That gig, in turn, opened the door to making important contacts and a host of opportunities to perform at special events.  So, one would think that during the daytime and on days off, I would want to take a break from magic. But then, one would be mistaken. Magic was – and still is – an obsession for me. My favorite pastime was to hang out at the local magic shops, and there were three of them in the area: “Annie’s Costume and Magic” (I met a young Lee Asher there), “Magical Moments,” which was owned by a fabulous magician named Cory Allen (I worked with Cory at Malone’s), and “Merlin’s Magic,” which was about 5 minutes from my apartment, and thus, the one I frequented most.

I loved going to Merlin’s. They sponsored wonderful lectures by illustrious magicians, such as Roger Klause, Chad Long (another of my co-magi at Malones), Danny Tong (Mr. Egg Bag), Dan Garrett, and the Amazing Randi (who lived in Ft. Lauderdale — although he was highly skeptical that it really was Ft. Lauderdale). Merlin’s stocked the latest tricks, along with many of the classics, and they had a voluminous inventory of books. And it seemed like every gaffed card deck, coin set, and packet trick ever invented found its way into the shop. Most of all, I loved the sessions with the other magicians who frequented the joint – and there was a multitude of them in South Florida, both professional and amateur, back in those days.

Gosh, as I am writing this, I’m feeling quite nostalgic, and some tears have magically appeared in the corners of my eyes. There was real camaraderie among the magicians who hung out at Merlin’s. We would try to fool and impress one another, sometimes with success, sometimes not. But there was almost always a wonderful, playful atmosphere in the place, an abundance of joking and banter and good natured one-upmanship. We critiqued one another’s routines, and there was no shortage of serious philosophical discussions about magic.

One of the magicians I met at Merlin’s was a neophyte named Zoltan. “Zoli,” as his friends called him, was originally from Hungary. He grew up there at a time when Hungary was part of the Soviet Union and was a dictatorship run by the Communists. But Zoli (who also had the sometime-moniker “Goulash”) escaped from behind the “iron curtain” with his family to New York City when he was eighteen. When I met him at Merlin’s, he had (and still has) a very pronounced Hungarian accent, sort of a male version of Zsa Zsa Gabor. When people would ask Zoli where he was from, he liked to joke, “I am frrrom New Yorrrk, but I vent to Hungarrrian accent school.” I secretly wished that I had an accent like his, as I considered it to be an asset for a magician performing in the U.S.

The day I met Zoli, he was most intrigued to find out that I was a professional magician. At that time, he told me that the only branch of the art he cared about was card magic. And, he was passionate about card magic. So I did a 4-Ace trick for him with his deck. The routine entailed fanning the deck, placing each of the 4 aces in a different part of the fan, then “losing” the aces in the deck with a series of shuffles and cuts, and finally, producing each ace in a different, visually striking manner. As aces came popping out of the deck, I could see Zoli’s eyes popping out of his head. It wasn’t that I had extraordinary talent as a card handler. It was just a case of having practiced that routine thousands of times. It was something I almost always did when working for magicians, and it was always very well received. I still remember Zoli’s comment when I was about halfway through the routine: “Oh, you arrre wery advanced!”

Zoli and I became fast friends. We hooked up frequently, both in and out of the shop, wiling away countless hours practicing and talking card magic. We were both wild about a multi-volume video series that was released by L & L publishing around that time, “Michael Ammar’s Easy to Master Card Miracles.” We watched it over and over and over, dissected the routines, and worked out most all of them, often enjoying a snifter of Grand Marnier as an accoutrement. Eventually Zoli landed a job doing tableside magic on weekends at a local restaurant called “Manero’s.” It was like he had achieved magical Nirvana. But seriously, it was quite an accomplishment. After all, he had only been in magic for barely two years at that point. And, In addition to his respectable card work, he had branched out into some tricks with rope, coins, and paper money. Even back then,  Zoli could do a back-palm vanish of a card better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Much to my chagrin, I could never get my hand flat as a board like he could. I was proud of him, and I often told him, only half-joking, that he ought to adopt the name, “Zoltan the Magnificent,” as it would be the perfect name for a magician.

Anyway, one day a bunch of us were at Merlin’s. Zoli was there, as were several magicians from Malones, along with Lonnie, the manager (a real old pro), and Brian, the principal demonstrator, who was a fantastic magician. Also in attendance were about 4 or 5 magicians from the local IBM chapter, and a few customers. All told, there were probably about 15 people in the store. Zoli was in a particularly playful mood that day. I was carelessly perusing a magic book (the name of which, like Houdini, escapes me). I was about 20 feet away from where Zoli was standing. He was, as was his custom, endlessly shuffling a deck of red Bicycles, alternating between Faro and riffle shuffles, punctuated by an occasional Charlier cut.

Next thing I knew, I heard my name being called in a thick Hungarian accent. “Hey Alfredo.” He liked to call me Alfredo, as he felt it had more panache than “Alfred.” I looked up at his smiling face and said, “Yes, what can I do for you my friend.” Ignoring me, and speaking to the room, at large, he announced, “Alfredo like to theenk he’s a mageeshun.” I started wondering if maybe he’d brought a flask of the Grand Marnier with him. Then, with all eyes focused upon him, his countenance now all business, he furtively removed a card from his deck. Holding the card in his hand, back outwards, he proclaimed: “Vell, let me tell you somesink, eef Alfredo vas as good as he theenk he ees, zen he could tell us vat card these ees, no?”

Of course, I had no clue, as this had not been set up. But, for reasons that will likely never be known, or perhaps no reason at all, my response was immediate, without the slightest hesitation, and spoken with absolute confidence and conviction: “Six of diamonds.” Zoli’s eyes got big and wide, and he smiled broadly, his face lighting up like a jack-o-lantern on the darkest of Halloween nights in Budapest. He slowly turned the card around to reveal the… Need I even say it? And the reactions of the others? As Zoli later described it, as we sipped Grand Marnier at his apartment, “Zey vent codazy!”

Following my fortuitous revelation, as I stood there in Merlin’s, silently contemplating the religion that would be started around me, and envisioning the tee shirts bearing my likeness, Zoli spoke once more: “It vas never in doubt. I knew Alfredo vould know vich card it vas. You see, I teach heem all he know — but not all I know.” As the laughter rippled through Merlin’s Magic Shop, I realized that not only had I just blown everyone away, including a group of world-class magicians, but myself, as well — and with a trick I had never even conceived of, let alone performed. And that made for a very magical and memorable moment, indeed. What made the effect particularly magical was that I was, at once, both magician and spectator, as astonished, if not more so, than anyone else who was there. Of course, I could never have pulled it off without the help of my lovely assistant – Lady Luck!

Zoli still loves to tell people that story.

Duet: A Magic Contest Winner

Ken Muller of Tennessee was the winner of the Sixth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. The contest asked participants to talk about two of the most memorable magic moments they had ever experienced. With his permission, I am re-printing one of his stories:

Fifty-two years later I observed an effect where “situation” was more important to the magic than the simple effect and fumbled performance.  My daily walks with my 93- year-old Dad were magical enough, and the interaction with neighbors and strangers always a bit astonishing.  This event was “more than” in several ways. Here it is also offered in story form:

DUET

            Two strange ladies live down the road–sisters, they say, but you couldn’t tell by looking at them.  Katie is petite, always impeccably dressed with hair, makeup, and nails to match.  Lynn is large, clumsy, prefers sweats and cut-offs, and might have combed her hair in another life.  She always lumbers out to the sidewalk when Dad and I happen past.  She haltingly guides Dad back to sit with Katie, using gestures more than speech as her words never come out right.  Then she has me help with some ‘fix-it’ project around the place.  Lynn is afraid of ladders and paint and lots of things.  The modern term is “developmentally delayed,” but I’ll bet she has been called a lot worse names.  She could never live alone and is lucky to have Katie.

            Now, this Ms. Katie speaks a couple of languages and chats with Dad about world travels and treats his advancing senility with respect.  She gives him time to answer questions and doesn’t care if they are for a different question.  He flirts a bit and she dimples and hands him another cookie.   You might think that chatting with Lynn all day isn’t very eventful and Dad, even past ninety, is just an improvement.  That’s what I thought at first.

            Truth is that Lynn won’t leave Katie alone with someone she doesn’t trust and stared into Dad’s eyes real hard when we first met.   Mine too.  Somehow she knows that even in his younger days Dad would not have been bothered by the wheelchair and missing hand and facial scars.  Katie would be in a nursing home without Lynn to bathe and dress and feed and clean.  One sister is so physically disabled from a car crash she cannot live alone despite being so bright and aware.  The other sister is too mentally disabled to pay the phone bill, but can work all day without resting.  Alone each is helpless.  Together they make one hell of a fine woman.

            Then one day Lynn had me come inside too.  Katy asked Dad if he would like to see a magic trick the two of them had been practicing.   Lynn was obviously excited with eyes brighter than usual.  She clenched her hands in front, but her feet wanted to dance.  They knew I was a magician as I had performed an effect for them in the past, but this was a special treat for Dad.   I moved his chair back from the table to give the girls some performance room and stood well back in the shadows.  Lynn gave Dad a wooden cup to hold and reached for Katie’s almost useless right hand.  This she cradled on her own right palm that was almost twice the size.  Then Katie closed her hand into a fist using Lynn’s palm for support.  Lynn reached into Dad’s cup and pulled out a yellow handkerchief, waved it in the air and began stuffing it into the top of Katie’s hand.  None of this was graceful or flowing, but she got the job done.  Katie made little cooing sounds as the silk went in.  Next a red handkerchief was pulled from the cup and the process repeated.  With both silks now hidden in Katie’s hand, Lynn began some slow but erratic swirls with her free left hand accompanied by strange sounds that may have been a chant.  Katie’s hand gradually turned upwards to allow the compressed silks to unfold and grow upwards.  But, it was one large silk with red and yellow stripes!   It eventually hung down from all around Katie’s hand as Lynn removed her supporting hand and stood proudly with her arms folded.  Katie indicated that Dad should take the silk from her empty hand now resting on the table.  It was a magic duet that neither could have done alone.

          Dad laughed and pushed the silk partially back into the cup and placed it on the table. Then he, in turn, kissed Katie’s hand and then Lynn’s, bowing to each like a courtier. As we left Dad whispered to me, “Better’n you on that one.  I’ll call them Katilynn from now on.”  

Sixth Annual Magic Contest Results!*

Oh, man, you really put me in a tough position. The contest challenge as you may remember was this:

What are the two (three is optional) most memorable magical effects you’ve ever seen? Tell us the circumstances, and why you were so impressed by those effects. That’s it. In your entry, see if you can put the reader in your place, and see if you can transmit some of that feeling that you experienced.

Well, you truly wow’ed me this time. I had a terrible time making this decision. I had to choose three winners. It was really, really difficult. Frankly, among the entries I received there were four that particularly stood out, and each of those was deserving of a first-place win. They were each great in their own special way. I was facing a four-way tie, so I really didn’t know what to do. But I remembered what the rules said: in case of a tie, the decision goes to the earliest entry among them. And I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that this would be the fairest way to decide among them. I would decide by looking at when I received each of those four top entries. Based on that, I made my decision.

There was still one problem–the rules provided for only three prizes, yet as I said, there were four entries that were essentially equally excellent. So I decided to award four prizes instead of three.

So with that out of the way, let’s announce the winners!

First prize goes to Ken Muller. He picked The Compleat Magic Vol. IV. edited by Bascomb Jones. Ken told of two heartwarming magical experiences that were particularly memorable for him–one when he was a youth performing magic and Santa Claus ended up surprising him, and another, as an adult, when a pair of sisters down the street, one developmentally delayed, and the other unable to walk, joined forces and together performed a magic trick for Ken and his Dad.

Second Prize goes to Sean-Dylan Riedweg, who wrote about two baffling magic performances he witnessed, the memory of which stayed with him many years. The first was a Times Square street performance of cigarette through jacket–with his own jacket, which hooked him on magic as a a teen. The second was later in life working behind the counter at Tannen’s when he was badly fooled by a visiting David Roth, who performed an unfathomable card trick. Sean-Dylan chose Gerald Deutsch’s Perverse Magic: The First Sixteen Years.

Third prize goes to Danny Doyle. As a young boy, he was amazed by Doug Henning on TV, and then later as a brash young teen who thought he knew everything about magic, gets seriously schooled at Schulien’s by Heba Haba Al. He chose Harry Lorayne’s Classic Collection, Volume 4

And, finally, fourth prize goes to Steven Paul Carlson who tells of two times when he seriously fooled himself! He chose Reputation Makers.

Thanks very much to all of you who participated. Sometime next week, I’ll be sending out the pdf of all the entries to anyone who sent in an entry.See the correction here: https://jackshalom.net/2021/01/17/contest-correction/

*See the correction here: https://jackshalom.net/2021/01/17/contest-correction/

The Sixth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

It’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest!

So here is the challenge this year:

What are the two (three is optional) most memorable magical effects you’ve ever seen? Tell us the circumstances, and why you were so impressed by those effects. That’s it. In your entry, see if you can put the reader in your place, and see if you can transmit some of that feeling that you experienced.

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. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

All are welcome to participate. And even if you were a past winner before, feel free to participate again as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Monday,  November 2, 11:59 PM. In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Fifth Annual Contest Results!

standing man figurine

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

And drumroll, please. Here are the names of the winners of the Fifth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. The contest this time was a repeat of the very first one: describe three actions or ideas that have most improved your magic.

The first-place winner was Dennis Mayne. Dennis’s entertaining entry described a trio of intriguing, uncommonly referenced mindsets and preparations that help him get ready  as a working street performer. Dennis chose The Vernon Touch as his prize.

David Kaplan was the second-place winner. David spoke of the wisdom he acquired along the way to becoming a part-time professional, and what it took him to get to the next level. He chose Blomberg Laboratories as his prize.

Third place went to John Allen. John talked about some of the realizations he came to when trying to integrate his magic interests with the rest of his life, and what helped to make that transition less bumpy. He chose Maximum Entertainment as his prize.

And finally Honorable Mention to Rick Benstock for his iconoclastic advice for amateurs.

Thanks again to all who entered. It’s always a treat for me to read what you have to say.  Sometime next week, everyone who participated will receive a pdf compilation of all the entries that were sent in.

 

 

Contest Update

bookcase bookshelves chairs empty

Photo by Ingo Joseph on Pexels.com

 

I came home after four days of being away and The Horror, The Horror!

Whole shelves of my magic items were completely empty.

“Stop, thief!” I cried. “Someone’s stolen my very best magic books, DVDs and tricks.”

Just then my wife appeared. “Jack, stop having a cow. Everything’s all right. You’re having a magic contest, right?”

“Uh, yes,” I said confused.

“Well, I know how much you respect the readers of your blog, so I put the best stuff aside for your contest.”

“But, but, but…” I stuttered. “That’s my favorite…best…”

“No complaining. I’ve got your prize grab bag set up for you. And who knows there may be even more to come. Now tell everyone to enter soon, timeliness counts and the contest is ending soon. And make sure you tell them that they can find out all the details here:

https://jackshalom.net/2019/09/29/the-fifth-annual-shalom-blog-magic-contest/

Anyone can enter. See, I’ve done you a great favor.”

I nodded half giddy, as I went through the list. Bye, bye, favorite magic items, it’s been good to know ye.

The contest magic prize grab bag includes:

Books

Milo & Roger
The Vernon Touch
Blomberg Laboratories
The Collected Almanac

John Luka’s L.I.N.T
Korem Without Limits

Tricks and DVDs

Charlie Justice’s Prohibition
Sanders’ Tagged
Jon Allen’s The Vanishing
Duvivier’s Magic Vol 3
Striving’s Sight Unseen Case
Scott Alexander’s The Needles
Peter Eggink’s Phantom

with more to come!

Enter now at https://jackshalom.net/2019/09/29/the-fifth-annual-shalom-blog-magic-contest/

***The Fifth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest***

gold coloured human statue

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

It’s a magic contest.

Yes, it’s that time of the year again, and I have to admit I never thought I’d be seeing yet another year of this. But it’s always been a lot of fun for all involved, and it gives me a chance to connect with magic fans directly.

I thought since this is now the fifth year, I’m going to repeat the theme of the very first contest. Here it is:

Explain three actions or ideas that you think were the most helpful in the improvement of your magic or mentalism. Your explanations don’t have to be profound, although profound is fine, too. But if you just want to talk about how your little pinky sticking out this way instead of that way made everything a lot better, that’s okay, too.

You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well. And feel free to participate again, even if you were a past winner, as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year. And if you contributed to that very first contest, you’re still welcome to participate, but please don’t submit the same entry, let’s see how you’ve changed over the years.

No criteria for winning here other than what strikes me as interesting and useful.  Details and specifics are key. Extra points for humor and entertainment value. It would be especially helpful if you could analyze why the actions or ideas were important to you.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

First prize is first choice from the grab bag of magic books and DVDs I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag, and third prize, in a pleasingly parallel harmonic consecutive manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be happy to have.

And, as always, in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be distributed to everyone who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Sunday, November 3, 11:59 PM.  In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Fourth Annual Contest Results!

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Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

 

A big thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. It was really enjoyable reading the entries. The assignment was to elucidate what you considered the three greatest tricks in Our Magic.

At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what my criteria was going to be in judging the entries, but as I was reading them, it soon became clear that the best ones were the ones whose descriptions were so compelling that they made me say to myself, “Hey, that’s a trick that I want to go out and perform right now.”

The first-prize winner was Sean-Dylan Riedweg whose entry described exactly why he thought each of the three tricks he nominated were winners, and he also provided meticulous citations for each effect. Sean-Dylan chose Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Vol III by Steve Beam as his prize.

The second-prize winner was Abe Carnow. Abe made a very strong case for a trick which most of us have in our drawers, but disdain to use during performance. Sometimes we forget how good some of the most common ideas in magic are. He  chose Stewart James: The First Fifty Years as his prize. We advise Mr. Carnow to get into good physical shape with a few bench presses before attempting to lift that weighty tome.

Third Prize went to Steven Go. Steven also advocated for a trick that most would consider very commonplace, but Steven provided a very wonderful description of the effect of the trick on his young daughter. He really brought to life what a special moment was created between the two of them because of that trick. He chose the DVD Time is Money by Asi Wind as his prize.

And finally Honorable Mention to Steven Bryant for his incredible poetic entry, which was part of an even larger Magic Castle New Year’s magical poetic ode.

Thanks again to all who entered. Sometime next week, everyone who participated will receive a pdf compilation of all the entries that were sent in.

Okay, rest up and if there’s enough demand, we’ll do this again next year.

 

***The Fourth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest***

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***

Yes, it’s time once again for this blog’s annual World Famous Magic Contest (“World Famous,” as in my local restaurant’s “Sam’s World-Famous pastrami-on-rye sandwich, one trip to the salad bar only, please”).

So here is the challenge this year:

Last year at a magic Convention I overheard the tail end of a conversation where a well-respected famous magician was saying to his companions, “Well, that’s because that’s the Greatest Trick in Magic…” I kept on eavesdropping, but I never heard just what that earth-shaking Greatest Trick in Magic was.

So your mission, Jim and Cinnamon, if you should choose to accept it, is to tell us what the three greatest tricks are in magic. But please don’t just list them. You must explain why you consider each trick a great one. Extra points for coherence, unexpectedness, humor, and persuasiveness.

And wonderful prizes, as always, will be awarded:

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of wonderful magic books, tricks, and DVDs 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. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books, tricks, or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to own.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll also ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will not be sold, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who enter.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Wednesday, Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

All are eligible except those who have won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize in the previous two years.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Third Annual Contest Results!

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Thanks to everybody who participated in the contest. I had an enjoyable time reading the entries. There were some really great stories told. Here are the three winners:

First Prize goes to Daniel Doyle for his hilarious story about a chimp gone ape, complete with the requisite bite in the ass. It’s a classic. Maybe if you see him in person someday he’ll tell you about it. He chose as his prize a copy of Marlo Without Tears by Jon Racherbaumer.

Second Prize goes to Alfred Dowaliby who told a wonderful magician-in-trouble story. While Alfred was working aboard a cruise ship, fortune played a dirty trick—but instinct took over, and he emerged a hero. Extra points for a side portrait of his boss, Bill Malone. He chose as his prize Volume 5 of Richard Osterlind’s Mind Mysteries DVD.

Third Prize goes to Gallagher Hayes who told a touching and philosophical story of a misunderstanding that led him to the wrong place at the wrong time; but he still had the unstinting support of his beloved wife. He chose as his prize a copy of The Magic of Milt Kort by Stephen Minch.

Thanks again to all who entered. Sometime next week, everyone who participated will receive a pdf compilation of all the stories that were sent in

See you next year?

The Funnel: David Roth

***

Though David Roth first introduced his coin magic showpieces some forty years ago, they are still fresher, more original, and more creative than just about anything seen since in coin magic. Here he performs one of my favorites, the inexplicable Funnel effect.

And…we’re nearing last call for my third annual Contest. It’s a fun contest, with lots of prizes, and should not take you much time to complete. You can’t win it if you’re not in it, and everybody who enters gets a free prize.  Click on the link for details.

Thanks to YouTuber SpaghettiMagic

Back To The Future: Pit Hartling

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Pit Hartling has amusing presentations for card magic, along with some of the most clever methods. His book In Order to Amaze should delight most card workers. Here is a fairly recent performance from The Magic Castle.

More Pit Hartling at Pit Hartling

And…time is running out to enter a dead easy contest. Magicians and hobbyists, spend a little time today to get in your entries. Read the details here.

The Third Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

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Yes, it’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest.

So here is the challenge this year:

Tell your favorite true story about performing magic. It can be about you or someone else. That’s it. If it’s about someone else, it should not be a well-known story, but inside gossip is always welcome.  It can be profound, funny, embarrassing, but it must be entertaining and well told. You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well. And you’re on your honor to tell only true stories.

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books and DVDs 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. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Monday,  Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Magic Contest #2 Results!

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Thanks very much to all who entered the contest. The challenge was to provide a script for a magic effect old or new which would be entertaining, original, and usable. It was a pleasure going through the entries, and picking the winners:

Here they are:

FIRST PRIZE: John Macnab for his script for a simple Coins Across and Vanish routine. It is a quiet, intimate routine, perfect for a closing coda in an act. He chose Joshua Quinn’s book Paralies for his prize.

SECOND PRIZE: Jon Shaw for his absolutely wild take on “Out of This World.” It involves lacy pink underwear…and that’s just Jon’s costume (seriously!). He chose the two DVD volumes of John Bannon’s Move Zero as his prize.

THIRD PRIZE: Ed Rhodes for his humorous script for a three rope routine. The routine is a great example of what Gerry Deutsch calls “Perverse Magic,” and it has lots of opportunities for comedy. He chose Jim Steinmeyer’s Further Impuzzibilities.

HONORABLE MENTION to Brian Douglas for his “Vintage Travel Agency” script, a multiple prediction effect. Brian’s routine takes some warhorses of magic and weaves them into a thematically consistent and entertaining “Confabulation”-like routine. Moreover, Brian submitted his script in the form of a 15-page illustrated comic book, storyboard-ing the entire routine. Amazing, Brian!

I admired many of the other routines as well, and all participants will receive a pdf compilation of all the routines submitted.

By the way, I was looking at the pdf from last year’s contest again, and wow, I have to say—it is really worth re-reading if you haven’t done so lately.

Thanks again, all, and rest up now for next year’s contest.

The Second Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

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***

I had so much fun last year running a magic contest, and got such a nice response, that I thought I’d run another one this year.

So here is the challenge this year: provide an original script for your favorite magic presentation. The script should not include method, unless it’s your method to reveal. Let’s assume that we know the method if the trick is a classic; if the method is yours, however, then you should include the method; if the effect is someone else’s commercial effect, please do not include the method, but provide a link to a video or description of the effect, so that we can see how your presentation has improved the standard presentation.

You don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well.

Your entry will be judged on the effectiveness, originality, and usability of the presentation. Feel free to provide a video if that helps your explanation, but your entry will be judged ultimately on your presentation script. While your entry should not reveal method unless it’s your method to reveal, you should have all the beats to account for method Details and specifics are key.

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books and DVDs 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. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Monday,  Oct 31, 11:59 PM.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Magic Contest Results!

A few weeks ago I proposed a contest (you can read about it here), and to my surprise people actually entered it, just like in the old cereal box-top days. Anyway, the contest was really just an excuse to hear people’s thoughts and drum up a little interest, but actually, it was quite a pleasant (if exhausting) experience. The premise of the contest was this: write about three things that changed or improved your magic…

The entries covered an eclectic and diverse range of ideas, and it was ridiculously hard to choose the winners. After much cogitation, I reached a decision and here are the names of the winners:

First Prize: Joe McKay of Durham City, England. He chose Worlds Beyond by Paul Curry from the magic grab bag for his prize.

Second Prize: Danny Doyle of Missouri and parts South. From the magic grab bag he chose The Lost Works of Bro. John Hamman DVDs

Third Prize: David Jelinek of Ye Olde Upper East Side in New York City. He chose Harry Lorayne’s Deck-Sterity.

And really, Honorable Mention to everyone else who entered! My choices were necessarily the ideas that, selfishly, would improve my own magic. But there were lots of great ideas that could benefit many. Everyone who entered will be sent today a pdf compilation of all the entries. I think this is the best prize of all.

Some readers expressed profound sorrow, regret, mental anguish, and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over not getting their entries in on time; so in the spirit of something or other, I have the following proposition: Go back and check the contest rules, submit an entry, and I’ll put you in the next edition of the pdf. You’ll be on the email list to get a copy of the new compilation whenever I bring it out again. You won’t be eligible this time for the other prizes, but you’ll enjoy the pdf. You’re on your honor to submit something that you’ve spent some time thinking about, and that you think could be valuable for others, not just something dashed off. Of course, those who already entered will get a copy of the new edition as well.

Here’s a bonus for readers of this blog: The following is just the first part of Joe McKay’s winning entry:

MAKE ROOM IN YOUR REPERTOIRE FOR AT LEAST ONE TRUE MIRACLE

Most magicians perform tricks and not miracles.

What is the difference? Well, the real miracles in magic often taken quite a bit more preparation.

For example you may have to plan the miracle a few days in advance.

Or perhaps the miracle doesn’t even take much preparation. But in these cases, it may not work every time. So some other effect will need to be ready as an “out”.

Or perhaps the miracle cannot be performed all the time, but only when the conditions are just right.

Attempting miracles does have drawbacks. But they are not drawbacks that should bother the 99% of magicians who do not perform professionally. Since you have total control over your performing conditions.

And even for those who do perform professionally—it is worth it for that special occasion. I remember reading about Ricky Jay making a named card appear inside a wine bottle at a dinner party when asked to do “something special” for an unimpressed guest. He also once made a giant block of ice appear when discussing his obsession with the magic of Malini with a newspaper journalist who was equally fascinated by the work of Malini. That trick reduced the woman to tears.

‪I often wonder why magicians are so lazy? For some reason, most magicians are just too lazy to tear up a dollar bill and post it to a friend abroad in order to do attempt a miracle. (See The Jerx).

‪Magicians are often more concerned with the practicalities of the method than with the effect that will be created in the spectator’s mind. As such, whenever a trick requires a bit too much “work” they shy away from it in order to find a trick which is easier, simpler or more fun to perform, even if it means performing a trick that is not as strong.

‪This is a trap many magicians fall into. I will mention some more “miracles” so as to give some pointers to those rare effects scattered through the magic literature that attempt something truly miraculous.

Some examples of effects I like would be an impossibly clean bill divination that Oliver Meech published. It is an adaptation of the legendary “bill in cash register” scam. When the stars are aligned, you can walk up to somebody, ask them to pull out a five-dollar bill, and tell them the serial number without ever coming close to the bill.

Or take a trick like “Angel Cake” by Paul Harris. You take a five-dollar bill off a spectator and turn it into a twenty dollar bill. And you let them keep the money. Plus, the magician is none the poorer thanks to the sneaky method involved.

Then again why should this matter?

Personally, I think it is worth giving away nineteen bucks in order to create the impression of real magic when performing for somebody special. Take a one-dollar bill—turn it into a twenty-dollar bill. Hand it back. And then walk off. An investment of nineteen dollars to create a memory that will last a lifetime.

John Kennedy has a wonderful floating matchbox routine in which a match lights itself on the box as they float in mid-air. The match then floats up to light the cigarette. Yeah, you say, but I don’t smoke and the method is awkward and rather annoying.

So what? Why should you let irrelevant concerns get in the way of a miracle?

David Harkey has an incredible close-up effect involving a torn up dollar bill reappearing inside a light bulb inside a lamp. The light bulb is then smashed open to reveal the dollar bill. Remarkably the light bulb is then restored and placed back inside the lamp—and the lamp is switched back on and shining light again. A true miracle. Yet most magicians looking at the method will have sighed and then turned the page in search of something simpler.

Or take an effect like “Freak Out” which was published a couple of years ago in MAGIC Magazine. You lay a card face down on the table, and have the spectator name any card.

You then show that the card on the table is the freely chosen card. It really is that clean.

However the method is so bizarre (and shocking and offensive) that most magicians will shy away from ever performing the trick, even though it will bring them closer to a genuine miracle than just about any other trick in magic.

Or take “Murder By Mail” by Kenton Knepper. You predict the death of somebody. It is that simple. This effect is so strong you run a fair chance of being questioned by the police.

TA Waters has a wonderful effect where the image of a spectator vanishes from a Polaroid photograph that she herself posts to her own house.

Lubor Fiedler has an effect where a spectator disappears whilst looking in a mirror. Paul Harris has a trick where you convince somebody he is now invisible. Strange effects with methods that just might not work. But what if they do? Isn’t it worth having at least one ‘moon shot’ in your repertoire?

If you have a miracle that may only come off one time in ten, isn’t it worth having that on hand? Since if you perform a hundred times—that means ten miracles! And you can be sure that the story of such miracles will spread to many of those who never saw it.

Most magicians would rather work on the next trick involving that sleight they just mastered, rather than try and capture some of the inspiration that made them want to be a magician in the first place, back when they thought anything could be possible with magic.

And so, if I had a piece of advice for you to take away, it would be for you to find a strong piece of magic that has a method which is so inconvenient or so “location dependent” that you may never get a chance to perform it. But in doing so, you will give yourself a chance of one day pulling off a miracle. And having that possibility in your repertoire will act as a constant reminder as to why it is you fell in love with magic in the first place.

Joe McKay

Thanks again to all who participated! Again, for those who would like to be part of the next edition, and get a copy of the pdf in the process, here are the contest rules.

The Millionaires’ Magician: Steve Cohen . . . and A Contest Update

steve cohen***

Steve Cohen bills himself as the Millionaires’ Magician, and while this spectator and his wife fall more into the category of the 99%, Steve did manage to make us feel like a million bucks.

Steve has very cleverly carved his niche by marketing himself as the heir to such conjurors as Malini, Hofzinser, and David Abbott; they were magicians who entertained in posh salon venues performing for select, intimate-sized audiences. In this case, our posh salon is a suite in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, a suite that seats about fifty people. The magic happens before our eyes, no more than a few feet away. In Steve’s introductory remarks, he tells us that our suite is just down the hall from the Presidential suite, the suite where US Presidents going back to Herbert Hoover have stayed. He also tells a true story about what happened when the Clintons came to spend the night, a story that gets one of the biggest laughs of the evening.

The show starts off with a few entertaining card effects, then a coin effect with a Malini-esque twist, but the bulk of the show is weighted heavily towards mental effects. Part of the pleasure of the show is the inherent surprise of the effects themselves, so I don’t want to describe too much, but rest assured that you will be very mystified and delighted. These are all classic effects, and Steve’s methods are devious enough that even if you are familiar with these tricks, the odds are that you will be scratching your head over them. Steve has an obvious joy of performing. His skill in anticipating audience reaction and improvising when the needs arises is part of the fun. His audience management skills are superb too—he reminds me of that teacher in high school who you knew could make the noisiest, most chaotic classroom snap to attention with just a look. You never doubt for a moment that he is in complete control of the situation.

One effect that I will mention is the famous Think-a-Drink effect. First popularized by a vaudeville performer called Charles “Think-a Drink” Hoffman, the effect is simply this: people call out drinks, and those drinks are immediately poured out from one magic tea kettle. At the performance I saw this evening, the drinks called out included an Apple Martini, Rum and Pineapple, a Banana-Strawberry Smoothie, a Rob Roy, and Pomegranate VitaminWater. Lo, all those drinks were poured out from the tea kettle on command! All the drinks were then handed out to different audience members who verified each drink’s identity by downing each potion. Really a great effect, and one that Steve has now made his own.

Several other strong mental effects followed, but the one that shook my wife the most was Mr. Cohen’s Q and A, where people wrote down facts about themselves and Steve seemed to know all, apparently reading minds. Again, very well done, Steve does a lot of quick thinking on his feet, and the illusion of real mindreading is very strong.

Ninety minutes of powerful magic, not a moment is wasted. In my opinion, if you’re visiting New York City, and you only have the time and money for one show, skip Broadway and catch Steve Cohen’s show. Thanks, Steve Cohen!

In other news, I was thinking maybe we could expand this idea of the Millionaires’ Magician into other areas. The Millionaires’_____________ —fill in the blank! How about The Millionaires’ Poet, who only reads poems in the salons of the wealthy? Or the Millionaires’ Delicatessen Worker, who only makes pastrami-on-rye sandwiches for a select few in posh venues.

And so on.

Update on The Contest for Magicians: Entries have been coming in, but there’s still time to get your entry in, and to win a great prize. See here for details. I’ll be taking entries until midnight this Tuesday night, October 27th; then I’ll take a few days to read them all, put together the pdf, and award the prizes. I’ll announce the winners formally here on November 1st. So don’t delay, get in your entry today!

And Then…And Then…And Then…

update

A little update on a few things:

  1. Novel #1, which used to be called The Longest Winter of Holly Walker, has a shiny new name. At least for the moment. The spine of the novel keeps eluding me, but it’s become clear the character who I thought was the protagonist cannot carry the story herself. Will it be a problem that the thrust of the story is told through several pairs of eyes? Maybe. But I think the way I’m telling this story is integral to the novel, and I can’t force it into being what it isn’t. It’s an ensemble piece with several strong characters. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.  I’ve gotten some excellent advice from recent readers, and I’m working to incorporate their feedback into the latest revisions.
  2. Novel #2 is really a mess. I understand why it’s a mess, but it’s a mess nevertheless. I started #2 as a way to keep myself distracted while I awaited feedback from revisions of #1. Now I fully expect a first draft to be awful, but I’m only halfway through the first draft, and its already 100,000 words. That’s 100,000 words of awfulness—which I could accept, if I knew that I could start revising now, but, as I say, I have another 100,000 words to go before I can even begin to re-write. So I’m stuck in this awful place for a long time more, and I don’t know how long my patience is going to hold out. The novel moves around in time and depends on an important historical event, and my lack of knowledge about the period is really a problem. I did do some research before I started, but clearly not enough. I figured that I would go back later and fill in the context, but now I see that without the proper context it’s an empty shell. Of course, I could stop writing and do more research, but I’m afraid that if I get wrapped up in research, it will be too tempting and I’ll get lost in it. So I’ve decided that what I have to do is just grin and bear it, know that this is bad, and hope that in revision, I can fill in and re-write what needs to be taken care of.
  3. I wrote last week about Steve Brundage’s Rubik’s Cube effects. I’ve been going through his material and I can now reliably solve any mixed Rubik’s Cube in under six minutes. So having achieved that, I have moved on to Steve’s second DVD where he talks about his magic effects. The key sleights involved are one-handed, and while not difficult, they do need careful placement and analysis initially, and then a lot of repetition to get it into muscle memory. To me, it’s a lot like learning a coin sleight such as a Tenkai pinch or a coin roll. You have to train the muscles of your hand and your fingers to do things which they have not done before. So I’m at the repetition/muscle memory stage now.
  4. Sunday I posted the rules to my first ever CONTEST! Win cool prizes! I’m keeping the contest open for the next week or two, so don’t be shy, send in an entry!

A Contest for Magicians

trophy oprah***

I thought it might be fun to run a contest about things magical.

So here it is: explain three actions or ideas that you think were the most helpful in the improvement of your magic or mentalism. Your explanations don’t have to be profound, although profound is fine, too. But if you just want to talk about how your little pinky sticking out this way instead of that way made everything a lot better, that’s okay, too. And you don’t need to be a professional or anything like that, hobbyists are welcome to participate as well.

No criteria here other than what strikes me as interesting and useful.  Details and specifics are key. Extra points for humor and entertainment value. It would be especially helpful if you could analyze why the actions or ideas were important to you.

First prize is first choice from the little grab bag of magic books and DVDs I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag, and third prize, in a pleasingly parallel harmonic consecutive manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books or DVDs, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be happy to have.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download on this website to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to jshalom@worldshare.net

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

I’ll keep this open for a week or two, based on the number of responses I get.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!