Book of the Month: Strong Magic

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 17th, 2003, 9:23 am

Hey Nathan, how you been? I think my only problem with your argument about Strong Magic is that Ricky Jay and Burger and Samelson were all average magicians at one time. What if there is a developing Ricky Jay among us who decides to stop doing story presentations because Darwin Ortiz says so. Oh well.

Noah Levine

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Nathan » May 18th, 2003, 11:03 pm

I'm doing well. Great to hear from you Noah!

I'm not too concerned that someone who is destined to be one of magic's next great artists will be held back by any short-sightedness on the part of Strong Magic. If anything I think it would allow such a person to develop more quickly than they otherwise would because it would help to solidify their classical presentation skills early in their career. A true artist is required to think beyond the current body of knowledge anyway. However, it will be interesting to see the state of magic in another 20 or 30 years when Strong Magic will have been around long enough to have an effect on this new generation (I guess that's our generation) of magicians.

By the way, perhaps we're all blowing this no allegorical story patter thing way out of proportion. I looked through the book again and the only reference I know of to this advice is on the last paragraph of page 138 spilling over to 139. I think Mr. Ortiz is only weakly critical of such presentation. He doesn't give an itemized argument of why it is awful. What he does do is explain why the type of story presentation discussed in the book is good. I think he sums it up quite well in one sentence. He says (referring to the type of story presentation discussed in Strong Magic), "I'm talking about effects where the perfomer relates a story in which something magical occurred and, as he does so, recreates the magic which took place in that story." What more logical reason could a magician have for telling a story?

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Rich Cowley
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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Rich Cowley » May 19th, 2003, 8:44 pm

Lisa Cousins and I seem to have had the same experience with Strong Magic. It opened my eyes wide, and sometimes the incoming light was *intense*!

For those that only read the commentary in this forum and have yet to read SM itself, I will tell you this: I took a *single sentence* out of the book (I won't tell you which one) and turned what used to be a minor trick in my Close-Up Set #1 into a show-stopper! The sentence suggested a simple change; instead of just trying the change as is, though, I spent some time understanding *why* the change would make the trick more effective to a lay audience, and emphasized that reasoning. Thank Goodness I read the book *before* I worked a week recently in the Magic Castle's Close-Up Gallery; in the 4 or 5 opportunities each night I had to test the strength of the change, it *killed* each and every time!

Thanks, Mr. Ortiz, for taking the time to share yourself with this book. I certainly don't agree with everything you *wrote* in there, but I truly believe I'm a stronger magish because I *read* it!

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 19th, 2003, 11:05 pm

Originally posted by Rich Cowley:
Thank Goodness I read the book *before* I worked a week recently in the Magic Castle's Close-Up Gallery; in the 4 or 5 opportunities each night I had to test the strength of the change, it *killed* each and every time!
It was a strong set, Rich! Even my girlfriend, who doesn't like to watch card tricks, enjoyed it.

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Jason England » May 19th, 2003, 11:36 pm

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Dustin Stinett:
[QB]

In the Meaning in Magic section he notes that a "Riverboat Gambler" character could not be taken seriously--that today's audiences will know it's "all just make-believe." Why is this a problem?

The way I see it, is that the problem, as Nowlin Craver has already pointed out, is that Darwin isn't talking about purely entertainment venues here. I haven't discussed it with Darwin, but I'm guessing he doesn't necessarily object to someone like Richard Turner performing at the Magic Castle in his riverboat gambler costume. (Turner performs with a garter on the sleeve, etc.) The Castle is obviously an entertainment venue.

But that very same act presented to a group of world-class bridge players in a legitimate attempt to demonstrate the techniques of modern card cheaters would NOT be taken seriously.

This second scenario would be akin to showing up to a lecture on modern airline piloting techniqes and having the lecturer wear a leather cap, goggles, and silk scarf the entire time. Even if the information is accurate you won't take the guy seriously.

Jason

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Dustin Stinett » May 20th, 2003, 2:34 am

Jason and Nowlin,

As I said, venue is a completely different argument. However, are you saying that Richard Turner cannot perform his act at a Bridge Tournament function? I know you are not, because of course he can, though he would be doing his act, not demonstrating modern cheating; that's not something his character does. I might agree with both of you on these issues except that Mr. Ortiz is not really all that specific. He makes statements about gambling routines in general. His only reference to "modern" is when he talks about the period costume and that the audience knows no one dresses that way "today." He never states that a period piece could work given the correct circumstances; he simply says that anyone thinking of doing a "gambling act" should not wear a period costume. Not a "modern gambling act," just a "gambling act."

The only anachronism he cites is between magic with a gambling theme (he cites Dingle's "Roll-Over Aces") and gambling demonstrations, not modern vs. historic gambling/cheating so it is quite simple to interpret this as him seeing them as one subject: gambling acts. He cites modern culture only to point out its fascination with gambling. Why can't that fascination go back to the 19th century? He writes about authenticity and he says that for a gambling routine to be authentic it must be "relevant to the audience's experience" and thus a period costume will prevent the audience from taking the performer (and thus, by correlation, the performance) seriously. Why? Because we didn't experience the 19th century personally? That because it's out of the realm of our personal experience what we witness in a "period-piece" performance could never be construed as authentic or serious? If that's the case, if a narrative art like magic (as termed by Mr. Ortiz) cannot support authenticity and seriousness in a period piece, then neither can other modern narrative arts like theater, film or fiction. The principles are identical as Ortiz pointed out early in the book. Audiences know that there were card sharps who lived and worked in the 19th century, just as they know there were Roman Gladiators, rum-running gangsters and World War II heroes. They need not have experienced them personally to appreciate and relate to their authenticity (the nature of the relationship being--since I knew you'd ask because this is, after all, about "meaning in magic"--that of what they already know--or believe--and what they may learn from the performance). Riverboat gamblers used real techniques for cheating, and those authentic techniques, or (as Ortiz says) those that appear authentic, can be demonstrated by a strong believable character who can be taken seriously.

Even had Ortiz been specific regarding "modern" vs. "period" I think I still disagree (since I only said, "might agree" above). Ortiz warns us not to "do anything that distances the presentation from their [the audience's] experience." That audiences "know that they have never played cards with anyone dressed in a bowler hat, string tie and garters on his sleeves" and a period performance will have "nothing to do with their lives." How many people have actually encountered a real card cheat? And of those who have, how many even realize it? Talk about distancing oneself from the experiences of the audience! Of course, Ortiz is speaking only of perception: that the audience should perceive authenticity even if it is not authentic (and he feels a period piece cannot accomplish this--I think he's wrong, but I digress). The image of the modern card cheat is in the minds of the audience members and the vast majority has a flawed view. Martin A. Nash is a perfect example of taking advantage of this flawed view (and thus he's keeping in touch with the audience's experience, flawed as it may be). "The Charming Cheat" is 100% character and not at all authentic, but he is perceived so because his character is strong and believable. Strong characters is the key to these types of performances and whether or not they can be taken seriously, not the type of character or the period from whence the character comes.

Dustin

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 21st, 2003, 11:47 pm

A most excellent point, Dustin, which leads me to a question: Can strong magic exist only when combined with a strong character?

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Dustin Stinett » May 22nd, 2003, 1:54 am

In my opinion, no. For true "strong magic" to exist, all of the elements that make up performance magic must be present and well developed. How many times have you seen a great trick fall flat because of a weak performer? And, the opposite of that, how many great performers have you seen create miracles from apparently weak effects? What happens when a KILLER trick is performed by a weak character? The audience generally gives credit to the prop! "That's a great trick, where did you get it?"

This is not to say that the "character" has to be someone other than "yourself." But the performer still needs to understand what makes up "self" and make his or her choices based on that character.

Dustin

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 22nd, 2003, 11:27 am

In my opinion, Dustin, your reply is OUTSTANDING.

Thank-you.

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Dustin Stinett » May 22nd, 2003, 11:09 pm

That makes two of us, Steve! Thank you.

Dustin

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 23rd, 2003, 10:58 am

For those that only read the commentary in this forum and have yet to read SM itself, I will tell you this: I took a *single sentence* out of the book (I won't tell you which one) and turned what used to be a minor trick in my Close-Up Set #1 into a show-stopper!
Rich--please clue us in. It sounds so powerful.

:help:

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Nathan » May 26th, 2003, 10:55 pm

The illusion of impossibility:

I want to spark some discussion about this concept, which is discussed on page 23-24 of Strong Magic.

As a hobbyist I find myself being very careful not to squash the "illusion of impossiblility" for laypeople that was created by OTHER magicians. In my experience, when people find out I'm a magician they almost always ask one of two questions. One of these is "Have you seen _blank_ on TV? Do you know how he does _blank_?"

If I were to tell someone that I know how a famous magician's effect works, then I think that destroys that illusion of impossibility. You may feel that it's obvious to anyone with half a brain that a method must exist. However, I think there is an important mystique surrounding the famous magicians. At a gut level, most laypeople ought to believe that the real secrets of the pros aren't things that any amateur can buy in a magic shop. Judging by the second most common question that I always get when I tell people I'm a magician I think this mystique basically does exist in laypeople's minds. (That question is "How did you get started learning magic?")

I think it depends on each individual's persona, but I think the majority of hobbyists ought to avoid admitting that they know how everything works. Of course, laypeople will never believe that you know nothing. I usually try to emphasize the things that I honestly don't know how they work or sometimes I lie a little bit about some stuff if I think I can do it convicingly. Maybe I'm taking this whole illusion of impossibility a bit too seriously, but I have had many experiences where laypeople only wanted one piece of information out of me - do I know how such and such works.

Several months ago I took a group of my friends to the Magic Castle. We saw Bill Goodwin perform. I told my friends we were seeing one of the greatest "underground" magicians around (which I think many magicians would agree is true). A couple of days later, I was eating lunch with the group I took to the Castle and we started discussing the evening. The discussion quickly turned to a cards across effect that Bill performed. This group of laypeople has seen me perform other card effects and they know that I know something. But the one question that they insisted I answer is whether or not I know how that effect worked. They didn't care or even want me to tell them how it worked. They only cared if I knew how it worked.

It's very difficult to diffuse a situation like this and I'm not sure how I really should have dealt with it. I think of it as a rarely discussed aspect of "heckling" that really deserves some careful thought.

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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Guest » May 27th, 2003, 9:24 am

Nathan:

This is where you summon up all your misdirective powers, find the child within, and dredge every ounce of emotional recall as you deliver the following line: "I have no idea."

What else can be said at that point?

The "illusion of impossibility" should be maintained for the laity; indeed, I attempt to preserve it for myself by not pursuing methodology in the various types of magic I don't practice myself (large scale illusion in particular). And after a couple years of wrestling with the issue, "I dunno" seems the most elegant solution.

Great post!

--Randy Campbell

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Rich Cowley
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Re: Book of the Month: Strong Magic

Postby Rich Cowley » May 30th, 2003, 9:52 am

Originally posted by WarlockDrummer:
Rich--please clue us in. It sounds so powerful.

No chance, WD. You'll just have to read the book, and come up with the sentence(s) that work for *you*...!


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