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

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.

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

Mario The Maker Magician!

I saw Mario the Maker Magician by accident some years ago; he was giving a full outdoor performance in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, and it became apparent to me that he was the best children’s magician I had ever seen. His inventiveness, love of children, and inspirational aura put him into a class by himself. Watch this clip to see how he gets the children’s attention and then switches over into a wonderful positive message about artistic experimentation.

BTW, he makes all of his own robots and teaches children how to do the same.

See the rest of the act at oldchurchpdx and more of Mario at Mario the Maker Magician

Impossible Card Through Table

Magician Jeki Yoo with an astounding blend of sleight of hand and apparent witchcraft seems to do the impossible. And what a great down to earth personality he has.

More amazing magic at JEKI YOO

Perception Deception

Magician Ben Seidman with a great effect and one of the most consistently entertaining and funny acts on Fool Us. It doesn’t seem to fool Penn & Teller, but I had no idea what Penn’s clues were there. Seidman claims on his YouTube channel that there were no camera effects involved, and that it could be reproduced live, in which case I’m totally stumped.

More at Ben Seidman

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!

The Legendary Arturo Brachetti

There are not too many living performers I would call geniuses. Brachetti is one of them.

Here’s a small clip extolling “The Great Magicians” but it’s just a small snippet from his 2016 full-length theatrical show, “SOLO”.

Brachetti makes me gasp with amazement.

More at Arturo Brachetti – The legend of quick change

Lefty

The great Jay Marshall, in the prime of his career. Jay, who also ran a famous Chicago magic shop, had an encyclopedic knowledge of magic history and lore. But he was most famous as the owner of Lefty.

Thanks to YouTuber The Ed Sullivan Show