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Postby Guest » 03/10/07 09:35 AM

Gerald Edmundson just sent me this link:
Wanna learn the real secrets of magic for free?

http://www.lpbk.net/misc/fitzkee/index.html

Who owns the Fitzkee trilogy now? Was the copyright renewed? Was it extended?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/10/07 09:50 AM

If it was Lloyd Jones, it went to Lee Jacobs, who is now deceased. So, it's floating around out there. Might be public domain, might not.

Fitzkee would probably be happy that millions more people will have access to his books, which will make zero sense to laymen.
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Postby Jim Martin » 03/10/07 12:19 PM

Apparently the rights were acquired. I did a little Google and the following web site states:
"Magic Box Productions is the new home of the Fitzkee Trilogy

All the rights and stock pertaining to it have been acquired from Lee Jacobs Productions and are now in our possession.

Dealer pricing is available; e-mail us for details." http://www.magicboxproductions.com/MBP/ ... tzkee.html

Contact info:
Curtis Hickman
1438 S 990 W
Provo, Utah 84601

801-318-4172

curtis@magicboxproductions.com
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Postby Guest » 03/10/07 01:15 PM

I spoke to Byron Walker about this just a few minutes ago. Lee Jacobs may not have acquired a clear title to the books. He had the right to publish them, but was paying a royalty to Fitzkee's widow. Lloyd Jones had the same kind of arrangement.

I'm curious about this one.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 03/10/07 04:23 PM

I'm with Bill on this one (and for additional reasons.) That Curtis may have purchased something from Lee's widow isn't something I'd question. It remains to be proven, however, that the Library of Congress has documents supporting the notion that the copyright on the books was properly renewed.

John
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Postby Guest » 03/10/07 07:59 PM

It may be a parallel to the sale of the rights to produce the Paul Fox material to Jeff Busby by Danny Dew.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 01:31 PM

If Jacobs had reprint rights from the widow, there may have been nothing for the Jacobs estate to sell except the remaining stock of books. It depends on what the contract says.

When I bought reprint rights from Dutton the first paragraph guaranteed the fact that Dutton had the right to license the property and indemnified me from any problems arising from their actions.

Before we accuse or imply anything untoward, the current seller of the Fitzkee Trilogy should be invited to clarify matters.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 03/11/07 01:54 PM

Strictly from a legal standpoint, books published in 1923 through 1963 were required to have their copyright renewed for another term with the Library of Congress. (For books published after 1964 renewal was automatic.) Without that renewal, a book would enter into public domain.

Checking the bi-annual U.S. Copyright Renewals published between January 1950 and June 1977, I can find none of the trilogy listed.

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Postby Tom Stone » 03/11/07 04:30 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:
Fitzkee would probably be happy that millions more people will have access to his books, which will make zero sense to laymen.
...nor magicians.

"Showmanship for magicians" is so dated that it is close to impossible to know whether it contains anything useful at all.
"Magic by misdirection" contains just one single brilliant idea - that's all.
And "Trick Brain" should be burnt and the ashes buried, as I consider it to be directly harmful for magic as an art.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 04:49 PM

Tom:

Either you're prone to hyperbole or you've given some thought to the Trilogy. I assume the latter and would be interested to hear some substance behind your criticisms. I have no axe to grind here - your comments intrigued me.

Clay
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 05:03 PM

John makes a good point, qualified by the phrase, "strictly from a legal standpoint." Paying the widow a small percentage would keep her from suing. While she wouldn't necessarily have any legal underpinnings to her argument had she sued, it may have been a lot cheaper to give her some small token when balanced against the cost of defending a lawsuit, even one without merit.

Jacobs probably only sold a few thousand copies of all three books in total (if that), a token to the widow was doubtless a cheap way to avoid an expensive problem.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/11/07 05:49 PM

Magicam wrote:
Either you're prone to hyperbole or you've given some thought to the Trilogy.
Perhaps both ;)

The comment on "Showmanship for magicians" might be unfair, since it is quite a while since I last read it. I've spent more time on the other two though.

Ask anyone who has read Magic by Misdirection to name something good out of that book, and they all will name the ring and the ball of thread. Try to ask for a second example...

Trick Brain - I spent a long time on this one in my early 20's, but noticed that I became less and less creative, the more of the book I applied, until I felt that it was pointless to try to be creative, because it all resulted in crap.
That is what prop-oriented instead of plot-oriented thinking will result in: Crap.
As soon as you see someone link barbercue grills instead of metal rings, you know that Trick Brain has been involved.

And the whole thing of making lists of "basic effects" is just limiting. Over-simplification without any good reason at all, which is of no help at all to anyone. I mean - "teleportation" can be simplified to "vanish" and "appearance". Why stop there? Fitzkee's whole list can be simplified further into just one "basic effect": "Something impossible happens" - Now, try to create an act out of that.

Let's say you know a few techniques with a coin, and want to create an entertaining and varied act. Alright.. Let's follow the advice and change props. Use a small cookie instead of the coin.
Then the list of basic effects. You "vanish" the cookie - then what? Well, the only thing that makes sense is to make it "appear" again. Then what? Now it's just 14 (or whatever) basic effects left.. so you.. levitate the cookie? 13 effects left.. perhaps you should use "pentetration" next?

...and what you'll get is something that no audience in the world should be subjected to.

That kind of thinking doesn't help anyone or anything. A one-way road into a granite wall. But the ideas are so seductive, because it is almost alone to even discuss the creative process, and it takes a long while before you understand that the book is the reason that your creativity went away.

Prop-oriented thinking say that the vanish of a coin can be just one effect: a "vanish". Compare that to plot-oriented thinking. The coin isn't there any more because:
-Your skin absorbs metals..
-Things gets invisible in your shadow
-It turned into a ball of energy that flew out into outer space.
-You folded it into the 4'th dimention
-It turned into a small (invisible) butterfly that is now hovering over the heads of the audience.
-You are cursed with bad luck, and lose all money you get your hands on - even when holding it tightly in your fist.
-It crumbled into dust because...
-You threw it away with superhuman speed.
-A magic dwarf named "Glod" stole it.
-The coin is still there, but you've compressed it so much that you need a magnifying glass to even see it.
-You shape the world with your mind. The coin isn't there because you simply forgot it.
...
...

Suddenly you have an unlimited supply of effects to play with, where Fitzkee just has one. And to build further is just a simple matter of asking "What happens next?", and the plot will give you answers. If coin turned into a butterfly, you'll get a net to catch it again... and so on.

So, "Trick Brain" is too damn dangerous to keep around.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/11/07 06:12 PM

Just for comparison, I picked a random passage from Trick Brain (chapter 27). This is a typical example of the kind of act Trick Brain promotes:
---
The performer enters and a bouquet of flowers springs up into his hands from a vase. He smells it, places it down. He picks up a rubber balloon that he inflates and puts in a stand. Then he picks up a toy automobile and apparently shoves it right through the side of the balloon. It goes through the inflated area and emerges on the other side without allowing the air to escape. An egg is taken from the table and placed against the outside of a mixing glass, just below the rim. It clings. He taps it speculatively and it rolls around the outside of the glass, coming back to its starting place. A watch is borrowed and vanishes with a toss of his hand. From a flaming brazier, he extracts the watch by means of a long book. It is unharmed. He starts a small water fountain squirting into the air. A hat is shown and gradually lowered over the stream. But the water seems unimpeded. As if the hat weren't there the fountain continues, apparently squirting right through the hat. The hat is moved up and down. The water may be seen entering the hat on one side and emerging on the other.
--

... I'm not kidding. This is an authentic example. Where is the plot?
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 06:26 PM

No disrespect to Dariel, BUT there is so much to be learned by DOING a play... from working with actors to taking direction to FEELING the audience night after night...

SO much to learn.

Unless there is a rights issue... more the better to read those texts.

One is well advised to presume good intent in the works.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 07:02 PM

John LeBlanc:
Checking the bi-annual U.S. Copyright Renewals published between January 1950 and June 1977, I can find none of the trilogy listed.
You can check for renewal through either the Copyright Office's web server, or by going through the published volumes available through Project Gutenberg. Neither are definitive -- the only way to be sure is to go through the paper records at the Library of Congress, either personally, or to pay LoC staff or a third party to do so.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 09:38 PM

The question is: Was Fitzkee a working professional performer or an armchair theorizer?

How much real performing stage experience did he have?
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/11/07 10:07 PM

David Alexander wrote:
The question is: Was Fitzkee a working professional performer or an armchair theorizer?
As far as I remember, there is only one show that he mentions a lot. "Magic in the air" - which he apparantly produced and/or directed. He's very proud of it, but mentions a few shortcomings that he claim is due to insufficient rehersals.

I know nothing about the man, but judged by the way he talks about performances, I think it is a safe bet to say that he wasn't a professional performer, but an amateur magician with a good mind and lot of opinions about topics he knew little of.

For example, the odd advice in "Showmanship for magicians":
...in such a manner that audience interest and entertainment INCREASES in intensity steadily. The audience attraction must always INTENSIFY. It must never waver. It must never recede. It is best if the audience attraction is never allowed to stay on the same plane. Entertainment value, as emphasized before, must climb the golden stairs.
...talk about an impossible goal. Anyone with experience (like Henning Nelms) know that it is preferable to have a show that "breathes"; dynamic with peaks and valleys. What Fitzkee advocates, a straight line from start to finish, will just appear static.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 10:46 PM

Tom -

Are you sure you aren't losing something in translation (as possibly seen through a different era/generations writing style)? This quote:

...in such a manner that audience interest and entertainment INCREASES in intensity steadily. The audience attraction must always INTENSIFY. It must never waver. It must never recede. It is best if the audience attraction is never allowed to stay on the same plane. Entertainment value, as emphasized before, must climb the golden stairs.

Doesn't seem to jive with your accusation:
"What Fitzkee advocates, a straight line from start to finish, will just appear static."

Steps are certainly not a straight, static line.

And when taken in historical context of what he is writing, is quite a bit in line with your Nelms observation:
Anyone with experience (like Henning Nelms) know that it is preferable to have a show that "breathes"; dynamic with peaks and valleys.

Mr. Stickley
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/11/07 11:34 PM

Mr. Stickley wrote:
Are you sure you aren't losing something in translation
No, I don't think so. "INCREASES in intensity steadily" means that intensity is directly proportional to time. A straight (diagonal) line.
"It must never waver. It must never recede" - that doesn't allow for any valleys.

You can't get more intensity than 100%. That's the end of the "climb". Track that backwards, and you find that Fitzkee's practical advice in reality is to start with almost no intensity at all.
Also, if you don't plan moments where the audience can relax - they will relax anyway, but outside your control, and according to each spectator's individual stamina - breaking up any group dynamic you try to create. There must be valleys - otherwise, you can't get peaks. You can't get the effect of high intensity, without first taking it down, to allow the contrasts to do the main work for you.
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Postby Guest » 03/11/07 11:47 PM

Tom,

I still believe you are lost in translation, and moreover it is about his writing style rather than the spirit in which he is writing. Steps involve plateaus if you wish to get technical, and it is obvious he is referring to the "Golden Steps of Entertainment", which leads me to believe it is semantics and translation of a bye-gone era to which you are arguing.

I think you will find as a whole, most successful acts do build upon themselves. Sure there are valley's or more likely - plateaus. But it generally is a "climb to the top". I find the spirit to which he is writing about very relevant, yet possibly dated in its form of explanation.

Mr. Stickley
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 12:43 AM

It might be so - which I pointed out earlier. It's so dated that it's hard to tell if there's anything useful at all in it.
But I find it hard to believe that the meaning of "It must never recede" in 1945 meant the opposite of what it means today. Especially since Nelms in 1969 says that it *must* recede. And that "Maintaining a steady rise is virtually impossible" - which also is contrary to Fitzkee.

Point being - The Fitzkee Trilogy are crappy books. Granted, a lot of good intentions, but still mostly uninformed guesswork.
I know nothing about how they were recieved when they first were published - but I wouldn't be suprised if the books got bad reviews from reviewers who also were performers.

Re, David Alexander's question: It seems like Fitzkee was an acoustical engineer and semiprofessional magician.
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 02:48 PM

Wow, Tom.

Nothing you are describing about Nelms teachings seems to jive with your comaprison to Fitzkee.

Being a fan of both Fitzkee AND Nelms I re-visited with interest the Nelms book today. May I suggest going back in read Chapter 18 - "Continuity" where he specifically rails against act whoes interest randomly go up and down, but instead suggests ala Fitzkee a constant trend upward, and it is even illustrated in diagram form on page 23 of the Dover re-print.

He is sayin virtualy the same thing, albeit it more modern language. I think it is a mistake to discoutn Fitzkee based on a mis-understanding of his writing style.

Mr. Stickley
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 04:09 PM

Mr. Stickley wrote:
but instead suggests ala Fitzkee a constant trend upward
Figure 137 on p.236 (Nelms, Dover printing). The spots marked "A" - do the curve not have a negative slope there? Do not "recede" imply a gradual withdrawing from a high point in the curve?
Fitzkee's "it must never recede" seem to disallow that.
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 06:20 PM

Tom -

Are you sure your READING what he is saying and not just looking at the diagram? The caption under figure 137 (p. 236, Dover)specifically addresses that it must be a constant build.

Sure, at the END OF THE SHOW he illustrates the curve going down.. it has to - THE SHOW IS OVER! I don't believe Fitzkee was an advocate of the eternal never ending show!

Let's also examine where he directly contradicts your claims about his...

(p. 237, Dover)
"When you try to achieve a rising curve, keeping the beginning low is as important as making the ending high. If you start with a strong number, the next few effects will let the curve sag- and you may never be able to make it rise again"

And no - as a whole, minor bumps in the curve do NOT constitute a decline in the overall curve of the show - so no - the show doesnt decline over it's life until the end - Nelms addresses this - "Each peak and each valley should be higher than the one before it". By this logic - you get an overall climb - stairs or steps if you will - similar to Fitzkee's "Golden Steps of Entertainment."

None of this contradicts Fitzkee's teachings - if anything it EXPANDS on them and modernizes them greatly, much the same way Sandy Misners work was derived from Stanislovski.

I have a feeling that your difficulty in digesting the large amount text produced by Fitzkee may turn you off a bit. And that may be fine. But I think it is an injustice to label it irrelevant. Many people have a very hard time grasping Shakespeare's out of date Elizabethan English - I don't think that deams what he had to say irrelevant.

Mr. Stickley
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 06:42 PM

Tom Bowyer, perhaps the most articulate and astute book reviewer that has ever graced the pages of magic magazines, resigned from his post as book reviewer for the Linking Ring after John Braun deleted some of his remarks regarding Magic By Misdirection in the Linking Ring. (Bowyer, as readers of Ibidem will know, carried on extensive correspondence with Fitzkee about all of his books.) Here is Bowyer's uncensored review:

"Magic By Misdirection

Here is a volume which (as the author states) contains the magic methods of the future. That's merely because the psychological principles which he discusses are so fundamental that, as in ages past, they will beyond all doubt be essential in the eons to come. Moreover, these precepts are so elementary that any intelligent person studying conjuring can't possibly fail to realize and utilize them. Nevertheless, here we have Mr. Fitzkee, with the air of revealing the secrets of the universe, proferring a book -- at one of his now customary fancy prices -- that has the doleful distinction of imparting, so a far as we can find, not even one new thought! To us it represents a new low in presumptious authorship and one of the most glaring examples of continuous padding we have encountered. Eleven pages, for instance, are devoted to the working of the sucker diebox, and not content with that, this feat is referred to later over and over. And so on with some other well-known tricks. The obvious (or what every magician knows) is further tediously - and at times asininely-- reiterated on page after page, with the percentage of contradictions usual in this author's particular brand of cerebration. He says he has waited many years to write this book. It seems to us there would have been nothing lost had he restrained himself for a century or so longer."

And you thought Jamy Ian Swiss could be harsh!
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Postby John LeBlanc » 03/12/07 06:47 PM

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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 06:53 PM

Re: Moreover, these precepts are so elementary that any intelligent person studying conjuring can't possibly fail to realize and utilize them.

Bower would have never said that had he seen some of the drek posted on YouTube!
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 07:03 PM

with the percentage of contradictions usual in this author's particular brand of cerebration.
Yeah! :-)

Thanks David!
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 07:09 PM

Bower would have never said that had he seen some of the drek posted on YouTube!
There have always been egoists and hacks. YouTube attracts them like moths to the light of a monitor.

One can learn from the mistakes of others. YouTube helps in that respect.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 07:19 PM

Mr. Stickley wrote
I have a feeling that your difficulty in digesting the large amount text produced by Fitzkee may turn you off a bit.
No, I think it has more to do with my difficulty to digest the large amount of nonsense produced by Fitzkee. To be fair - I don't agree to everything Nelms said either - but in the writings of the latter is at least a voice of experience that I can respect. And I do respect Fitzkee's desire to fill a void, but unfortunately, he was not the right person for the job.
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Postby Pete Biro » 03/12/07 07:29 PM

Having spoken with those around Fitzkee, in his time... his "SHOW" was a disaster and he, as a performer was a FLOP. It seems after his show's closing he quit magic.

Sold his library to Lloyd Jones (and I got the duplicates) and was not heard from after that.
Stay tooned.
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 07:53 PM

Pete, folks...

Even if the guy was a not equiped to take on the task to which he set himself.. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HIM?

Is there any record of his show? Can we learn from that?
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 08:13 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HIM?
Nothing. His works should silently and mercyfully be forgotten, and never ever mentioned again. Showmanship for magicians is just plain bad. Magic by misdirection contains just one single good idea. And Trick Brain is directly harmful.
Is there any record of his show? Can we learn from that?
Some of the numbers are described in Showmanship for Magicians. One or two of them starts out with reasonably nice plots - but those plots go nowhere fast. The rest of the examples are just bad. He mentions a few reviews (which he disagrees with), so there should be records.
But there is nothing to be learnt.
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Postby Guest » 03/12/07 08:17 PM

My earlier question was written to prompt others to identify Fitzkee as what he was, an enthusiastic amateur who made his living doing something other than professional magic. As I understand it, his show with "new" ideas was a massive bomb.

One of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers is Stanley Collins: Conjurer, Collector, and Iconoclast by Eddie Dawes.

Collins was a successful magical entertainer for many years and could speak with authority on magic. Because of his professional qualifications, his thougths on Fitzkee and his books carry more weight with me. In 1948 Collins wrote to Sam Sharpe the following:

"Fitzkee is a man with the mind of a double-entry book-keeper, the precision of a clerk, and the impudence of a Burling Hull. His dissection of the conjuring body corporate tells us as much about the ART as the dissection of a wax effigy would tell us of the life principle of homo sapiens. I have his trilogy complete. Showmanship for Magicians and Magic by Misdirection to me are just flapdoodle, particularly Magic by Misdirection which seems more stupid even than Hugard's essay in Expert Card Technique. The badly-named Trick Brain is far away the best of the three; certainly not nearly so daft as the ridiculous fustian of Nevil Maskelyne's Our Magic or the lunacy of Oscar Teale's Higher Magic. Fitzkee could write really well if he tried and avoided his needless and tiring repeitions. All his books would gain by being compressed in one-third their present bulk."
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/12/07 08:30 PM

His dissection of the conjuring body corporate tells us as much about the ART as the dissection of a wax effigy would tell us of the life principle of homo sapiens.
Wow! I think I need to read up on Stanley Collins.

...Odd that Fitzkee is reveered like he is, by so many who has not read the books. It would be interesting to read a Genii article on this topic - taking the books down from the pillar.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/13/07 08:59 AM

Mr. Collins didn't think too highly of Our Magic, either.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 10:05 AM

Collins didn't like Nevil Maskelyne's portion of Our Magic , calling it "fustian" meaning "pompous or pretentious talk or writing."

I do not know how much of that opinion was prompted by Collins opinion of Maskelyne himself or just the writing. Perhaps a bit of both. Even when publishing I think Maskelyne's prose would have been seen as a bit heavy handed or overwritten.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 12:11 PM

Mr. Stone -

You have been very hard on Mr. Fitzkee's works throughout this thread. I've gone through everything you've said so far, and I absolutely frickin' agree. Thank goodness that trilogy is finally getting some realistic critique. I owned, tried to read, and ditched that set a while back. Fitzkee seems to have had an overextended opinion of his own omniscience. For those who want to get a flavor for Fitzkee's blathering at a lower cost, grab his seminal work "Rope Eternal - Or - The Only Six Ways To Restore A Rope." I fear if Fitzkee had written a mystery, the final line would have read, "It is quite obvious - the murderer is... the person who killed the victim."
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 02:06 PM

I'm not much on destroying icons as its own activity.

Since those books were written we have added the ideas of folks from Freud and Duchamp to Millgram, Hofstadter, Eco and Chomsky into our way of looking at things.

I feel there is room for a thoughtful analysis of routine construction, effect design, audience dynamics etc and I hope folks step up with less affected language than those who tried before.

How would you suggest going about it this time around? Are we ready to try things like video recording the audience during shows to get some honest feedback? Are we up for trying modern or scientific method type analysis of the responses we get from audiences? How about treating a routine or act as a work of rhetoric?

We're at the start of the twenty first century. What would serve us today and into the future?
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 02:21 PM

I've always thought the Fitzkee Trilogy was the Emperor's New Clothes of magic.

Nice to see others have the same view.
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