Carlyle's Law

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.
HocoPoco
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Carlyle's Law

Postby HocoPoco » April 24th, 2017, 12:25 pm

YOUR THOUGHTS?

From Roberto Giobbi's comments (Genii August 2008) on Jay Marshall's notes from a Vernon lecture:

Al Goshman is good because he does direct effects.

Juan Tamariz always tells me that a trick must follow
Carlyle's Law. Francis Carlyle is supposed to have said that,
for an effect to be good, the spectator must be able to
summarize it in one sentence.

I'm afraid this thought is so simple, not many will understand it
and even fewer will act on it.

Novel and complex tricks are very tempting and it is
necessary to go through a phase of complication, believed
to be progression, before coming back to simplicity—this
takes many years.


From Kung Fu (TV series)

Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

performer
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » April 24th, 2017, 2:16 pm

I agree with this. Complication makes people tune out very quickly. Particularly mentalists. They get so complicated that by the time the end of the trick comes around you forget what the hell the beginning was. I can never follow the effect let alone work out how it is done. A trick should be direct with a simple plot.

Pete McCabe
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Pete McCabe » April 24th, 2017, 3:01 pm

You should watch a good mentalist. All their tricks are extremely direct.

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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » April 24th, 2017, 3:46 pm

Pete McCabe wrote:You should watch a good mentalist. All their tricks are extremely direct.


Yes, their tricks are often direct. However, they have a certain genius for making them complicated. A few less words on their part would help.

Doomo
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Doomo » April 24th, 2017, 4:34 pm

Pete McCabe wrote:You should watch a good mentalist. All their tricks are extremely direct.

I have watched many mentalists and DIRECT is not a word I would use to describe them.
RFA Productions yeah... It is cool stuff.

www.rfaproductions.com


Pete McCabe
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Pete McCabe » April 24th, 2017, 6:11 pm

You guys should watch some good mentalists.

Meanwhile, if you really want to see a magic trick that's complicated and hard to follow, try watching a card magician!

performer
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » April 24th, 2017, 9:01 pm

I have seen many mentalists even famous ones and they all bore me to tears. There have been however a tiny few I enjoyed, usually the less long winded ones. Come to think of it there was only one long winded one I ever liked and he wasn't really a mentalist. I have no idea what the hell he was come to think of it. He could almost have been a card magician since 90 percent of his "mentalism" was card tricks! That was Chan Canasta. He was riveting to watch and I suffered his long windedness since he had a very limited repertoire and had to somehow sustain that over several television series. However, he was the only long winded one I ever liked. Mind you I would have liked him better if he had been able to cut the yap down a trifle.

Al Koran was pretty good as he thankfully cut down all the unnecessary talking and had a running time of about two or three minutes a trick which is ideal. And his tricks were very direct. There are a few mentalism items where a decent length of time is necessary and I do one of them myself but in general you really don't want to do too much of it unless you happen to be doing some research for insomnia.

Maurice Fogel was the best mentalist I have ever seen and there has been nobody since that I have seen that has equalled him. I suspect Dunninger might have done but I never saw him work so I can't say one way or the other. I did hear an audiocassette of Dunninger giving a lecture though and it was one of the most motivational things I have ever heard. Some of the allegedly hot shot mentalists of today could do well to listen to it.

Yes. I agree that some card tricks can also be complicated and hard to follow but they are easy to avoid. Complicated, hard to follow mentalism is alas far more prevalent and harder to avoid.

Having said all this mentalism is the most powerful branch of magic when done properly. Alas it is also the worst branch of magic when done badly. And it is usually done badly.

Rick Franceschin
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Rick Franceschin » April 30th, 2017, 6:43 pm

Keeping an effect simple certainly helps you maintain clarity and leaves lots of room for theatrical requirements. It's also the safe route to take when your audiences vary in age and taste. The TV show Law and Order (mystery / drama) is still a popular TV show. You can watch it and play games on your phone, or whatever. Generally simple plots and satisfying endings. Some folks like more complex entertainments. Sherlock (Cumberbatch) is a show you need to pay rapt attention to. Lots of twist and important minute details you need to catch and remember (UK Mysteries are always so much better,) and people love it. I think it's the same with magic. Confusing effects and plots are not a good thing, but I think complexity has its time and place. "The rope was cut and fixed, the Ace kept coming to the top, the coin went into and out of the bottle." Sounds a bit sterile to me. "The balls appeared, they disappeared, moved from one cup to another, and then he had like ten of them, and suddenly there were fruits under the cup." Sounds a bit complex, but eventful. Ultimately, for me, a rounded magic performance will have a core of simple effects with some substantive pieces thrown in.

Leonard Hevia
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Leonard Hevia » April 30th, 2017, 8:55 pm

The attention span of Millennials is an abysmal short amount of time. Any magician presenting effects to this age range needs to cut the magic down to the bone. Carlyle's Law is more relevant now than it ever was before. Forget ace assemblies and Cards Across. Anything longer than 2 minutes runs the risk of losing their attention.

That is--if their noses are pointed at you and not their Smartphones.

performer
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » April 30th, 2017, 9:17 pm

I do agree about millennials but I don't think it matters a damn what age you are. Direct and uncomplicated plots are ALWAYS the way to go. What happens if you are working to drunks or inattentive audiences? Or you are a street performer? Or a trade show magician? Or working anywhere where you have to HOLD an audience! It is all very well in a theatre with all sorts of lah-di-dah posh people all sitting politely deluding themselves that they are terribly elite watching highbrow entertainment. Try that boring convoluted stuff under regular conditions that most professionals work in and see how long you keep the attention.

I wouldn't necessarily agree with the two minute rule. You can do longer, even far longer providing you are a superb showman. But superb showmen are nearly as rare as vagrants being invited to tea at Buckingham Palace. There are certain strong routines such as the Giant Memory trick and Pseudo Psychometry that do necessitated a longer performing time.

The key is not so much the length but the complicated plots. I do appreciate and agree with the spirit of Mr Hevia's views although I may differ on the details as such. For example I do not think three cards across should be abandoned. Or at least I hope not since it is one of my signature items and it takes me a full 5 minutes to perform rather than the suggested two minutes. However the plot is direct and uncomplicated. Someone counts some cards and he has more than he started with! You can't get more direct than that.

I completely disagree that complexity has its time and place. Perhaps in politics and law it does. However, not in magic in bloody doesn't! You do want people to keep awake, don't you? As for the cups and balls the complexity is the worst thing about it.

As for the coin in bottle it is (or at least was before You Tube was invented) one of the greatest tricks of all time. When I was silly enough in my youth to frequent London casinos and night clubs I would keep hearing stories of how David Berglas had been seen putting coins in bottles and the witnesses were in great awe over the matter. And the cut and restored rope is a terrific trick proving you keep it simple. The Ambitious card is a classic for a reason. The ironic thing is that when both this trick and the rope trick become complex is when the trick diminishes in usefulness.

I am surprised this is even being discussed. I learned this when I was a beginner in magic. It is Magic instruction 101.

HocoPoco
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby HocoPoco » April 30th, 2017, 9:57 pm

From the late, great Daryl--Genii, September 2005

Question: As a respected full-time, professional magician
what would be the one piece of advice you would give to
any magician new to the art form if they wished to further
their career.
Answer: Learn simple, sure-fire, angle-proof commercial
effects that you can perform under any conditions. Master
them and perform them flawlessly then add an interesting
presentation! Don’t use time at this stage learning complicated
methods for effects that you can only perform under
very restricted conditions.

performer
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » April 30th, 2017, 10:15 pm

Indeed. Darryl did perform a very convoluted rope trick and ambitious card routine but I am sure he had the sense never to do such nonsense for an audience of laymen. I am quite sure he kept that silliness for an audience of magicians for whom such complication and lack of understanding of the human mind is well suited.

I did see him work for laymen once and thanks be to the Gods he did not indulge in such over elaboration.

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jkeyes1000
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby jkeyes1000 » May 1st, 2017, 9:37 pm

I don’t especially like lengthy routines, but in some cases, it is necessary to execute a good number of manoeuvers in order to achieve the effect, and to justify them in the minds of the spectators. I mean, the simpler the move, the more one ought to embellish it in order to thoroughly deceive anyone and everyone that might catch on.

Yes of course it can be boring. And a magic act should be frequently punctuated with surprises. But in the case of mentalism, the performer often takes on the role of lecturer, pretending not to astonish but to demonstrate some sort of phenomenon. I think it pays in these instances to adopt a pseudo scientific posture even at the risk of trying the audience’s patience.

Naturally one must have a really amazing climax at the end, leaving everyone dumbfounded. And of course it always helps to be funny along the way. Keep them entertained certainly. But going to great lengths to eradicate their skepticism, satisfying their doubts, can be an effective way to blow their minds. Fail to address such concerns and you must rely on pixie dust to make them gullible. I personally don’t like tricks that are too flashy. I prefer to offer reasonable sounding explanations for what I am doing. Then the “kicker” is more amazing.

HocoPoco
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby HocoPoco » May 2nd, 2017, 12:50 pm

Thoughtful post, jkeyes1000.

While I can not concur on all your points, I'm still interested in where to procure high-grade, low flash-point pixie dust.

webbmaster
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby webbmaster » May 3rd, 2017, 10:52 am

A number of old-timers told me that Francis felt that in copper and silver, that he felt the spectator just FORGOT where each coin was so when he himself did it he would emphasize very strongly where each one was so they wouldn't just conclude that they really didn't remember where they were to begin with..maybe it is about the effect being clear-cut but the number of words to present it doesn't necessarily have to be small.

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erdnasephile
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby erdnasephile » May 3rd, 2017, 11:02 am

webbmaster wrote:A number of old-timers told me that Francis felt that in copper and silver, that he felt the spectator just FORGOT where each coin was so when he himself did it he would emphasize very strongly where each one was so they wouldn't just conclude that they really didn't remember where they were to begin with..maybe it is about the effect being clear-cut but the number of words to present it doesn't necessarily have to be small.


The best solution I've seen for this issue is Curtis Kam's Inferential routine. It's a very organic, natural solution that really points up the effect and makes things crystal clear.

webbmaster
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby webbmaster » September 27th, 2017, 1:49 pm

Back fresh from summer vacation, I'm reminded that my grandfather used to tell me that when someone forgot someone's name that the truth was that they never got it straight to begin with. To be honest, when a magician shows me a card trick (after card trick...etc.) I have been known to have forgotten the name of my selection...thereby ruining the ending of that card trick.

I just realized that telling the person that the trick will be totally ruined (and everyone will blame them) if they forget the name of the card...this might help them remember. So whatever reviewing you have to go through so that everyone knows what the situation is (or is supposed to be) before the magic words, I think is o.k. This doesn't make the plot (card disappears here and appears over HERE) any more complex...it is just doing whatever is required so they don't think they just remembered wrong and that is what happened.

In closing I'll tell the story of the best delivery I ever did for a card trick at a paid show and the woman who selected the card couldn't really tell one card from another (but didn't tell anyone) so when asked just said "puppy feet". Thank you.

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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » September 27th, 2017, 2:01 pm

The standard way of helping spectators to remember the selected card is to show it to other people present. Of course if there are no other people present you had better hope your volunteer is compos mentis.

Tom Gilbert
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Tom Gilbert » September 28th, 2017, 8:30 am

Years ago (mid-70's) I got to speak to Walter Gibson. He was telling a few tales of Houdini. At that point he mentioned "in today's world Houdini wouldn't be popular." Citing that no audience could sit still for 25 minutes waiting for someone to get out of a safe. It appears attention span has hexed magicians for a while now.

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 28th, 2017, 11:46 am

But an audience WILL sit still for over 10 minutes watching David Blaine hold his breath in a tank of water. I've seen it, so have many others. Laymen are spellbound by it.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

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Re: Carlyle's Law

Postby performer » September 28th, 2017, 12:24 pm

Yes. They probably will as an outside stunt. I can quite see that. However, on a theatre stage it may well be more problematic. In fact, even in Houdini's day I can't quite see how he got away with it. I have often thought there must have been something missing in the descriptions somewhere. There MUST have been something to hold the attention of the people while nothing was happening even in those supposedly more leisurely times. Maybe some music or something I know not what.

And I am not so sure those times WERE leisurely anyway! I think most acts were no longer than 8 minutes long! I bet they got just as bored in earlier days as they do now!

Incidentally I did read a description by George Anderson who saw Houdini's show in his younger days. He said "it dragged a bit"!


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