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

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

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 Great Bombo Dump

Here in NYC we were blessed in the 1960s with at least three incredibly talented daytime television hosts. They masqueraded as children’s program hosts, but they produced thousands of hours of hilarious comedy with no budget to speak of, and whose studio audience was usually only an appreciative camera crew. There was Soupy Sales, Sandy Becker, and perhaps the most talented of them, Chuck McCann. Here’s Chuck as the failed escape artist, The Great Bombo. I believe his sidekick here, Sid Slick, is played by Jim MacGeorge.

Thanks to YouTuber sandysoup

David Blaine: Hitting the Heights, Plumbing The Depths

Some say magician David Blaine is just regurgitating old material, but he didn’t have to take it so literally. Anyway, come for the announcement of his newest hair-raising stunt, but stay for the cuisses de grenouilles.

More at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

It’s The Thought That Counts: Simon Aronson, An Appreciation

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I read the news today, oh boy.

Simon Aronson died this past week.

He was one of the most brilliant and clever creator of card magic effects of the past 50 years. His methods were… shall we say?…memorable. The house of magic is large, as Eugene Burger was fond of saying, and Simon’s creations fit a particular room. His magic was brainy, intellectual, and absolutely fooling. There are magicians who are great at fooling laypeople; there are magicians who are devious enough to fool other magicians; but the amazing thing about Simon’s card magic is that if you were doing it, it would fool even yourself. To this day, there are probably legions of magicians who perform his “Shuffle-Bored” or “Prior Commitment” who still have absolutely no idea why they work. What they know is that they do work, and they blow the minds of people who see them. If the performers themselves can’t figure them out, you can imagine, then, that the spectators have got zero chance. (If you like, we can discuss in the comments about your personal favorite effects of his.)

But make no mistake, Simon’s tricks impressed non-magicians as well. There’s a funny story that magician John Bannon tells in his introduction to one of Aronson’s books. He shows the secretary of Simon’s law firm a card trick, hoping to impress her, and she only smiles pleasantly. Then she says with wide open eyes, “But have you seen Simon’s card magic?”

Speaking of Aronson’s books, I doubt there has ever been a more meticulous, detailed magic writer than he was.  His books—Bound To Please, The Aronson Approach, Simply Simon, Try The Impossible, and Art Decko—are masterpieces of explanation of intricate methods. While Simon was not above using sleights and gaffs in his magic (and he delighted in upsetting fellow magicians’ expectations of what his bag of methods might include) his claim to fame really rests on thinking very hard about a few tools which required mostly sleight of mind. As he would say, just as you have to plan things so that your sleight of hand doesn’t show, you also have to plan effects so that your sleight of mind doesn’t show either. In Simon’s books, he takes you through all his thinking point by point, thoroughly exploring variations and improvements, telling you what versions he threw out as weak or too revealing, giving you his scripting, and moreover, unlocking the reasons why his methods work. Simon’s training as a lawyer shows—his books are not just explanations, but  thorough briefs with points and subpoints. In magic circles people like to debate, with near religious ferocity, whether it’s better to learn magic from books or DVDs. Of course both sides have valid views, but for the book-lovers, their strongest argument is two words: Simon Aronson.

No one would call Simon an extraordinary performer, but on occasion he would step away from the card table to do another kind of magic: his mentalism act that he created with his college sweetheart and wife of many years, Ginny. (There’s a great photo of college-aged Simon and Ginny on the Jerx website that speaks volumes about them. And Bill Mullins on the Genii Forum posted a wonderful remembrance from Simon about his father who was very active in the 60s Civil Rights movement). They did a classic two-person mindreading act, and fortunately it was captured on video as an extra on one of his videos. It’s something that neither he nor Ginny have ever revealed, and while clearly there must be some code going on, I have resigned myself to the fact that if Simon created it, I’m never going to be able to figure it out. You can see their act for yourself in the L&L video I posted above.

At the first run of mentalist Derren Brown’s Secret here in NYC, Derren pointed to a man in the audience to volunteer for the next effect. It was dark in the theater so I couldn’t see that well, but I thought the man looked familiar; when he said his name was Simon and the woman sitting next to him was Ginny…

I made sure to “accidentally” bump into him as the theater was emptying, and nervously introduced myself to him. He was so nice—he said he knew my name from this blog, and then proceeded to describe the photo I have on the title page of it! I got to talk with him a little longer as we walked together in the rainy weather, and found them a cab back to their hotel. Really couldn’t be nicer people. I treasured that comment from him, as one of the very first essays I wrote on this blog was inspired by an essay of his.

Simon Aronson was a full-out, full-deck memorable mensch, and I’m sorry to hear about his passing. From the Jack of Spades to the Nine of Diamonds, he will not be forgotten.

 

“But Wait, That’s Not All…There’s More!”

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Magician Shin Lim makes like a Veg-O-Matic pitchman, slices and dices you, uses the julienne blade, piles on effect after effect, then throws in smoke at no extra cost. Just no one like him.

Thanks to YouTuber TheEllenShow

The Sword Of Vengeance

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The world lost a wonderful magician this week. The above video is by no means Ricky Jay’s most baffling trick, but in some sense it is one of his most quintessential. Who else but Ricky Jay  would think of pulling this off this way.

Thanks to YouTuber PrestyGomez

“King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance”

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In what is probably Steve Martin’s greatest magic performance, Steve performs for Johnny Carson the inexplicable unpublished Vernon/Marlo card miracle, “King of Hearts, Come Down and Dance.”

Thanks to YouTuber Jeff Dresback

Magician In Trouble: Steve Martin

 

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In a pre-cursor to his great Flydini routine, Steve Martin performs this humorous sketch, a spoof of a Channing Pollock-like magician, on a Johnny Carson Comedians Special.

Thanks to YouTuber  Jeff Dresback