So...what is a magician?

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Travis » 10/04/08 11:27 PM

Or perhaps I should ask, who is a magician?

Does knowing and performing a few tricks make a person a magician? Or is is only someone dedicated to the discipline of the study of magic in its myriad many forms? Or is the perception of the audience all that matters?

I'm curious what you all think, as I've pondered this of late.
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Postby Steve V » 10/05/08 01:26 AM

In my never to be humble opinion one is not a magician until they have studied the art and worked to the point where they present magic as a performance piece rather than doing a trick. The trick part is easy, learning to do the trick right takes a bit longer, realizing that the trick can be presented in an entertaining way and doing so with your own character, that is magic.

I do want to point out I am a firm believer that without mystery it isn't magic. Those that think they can do a trick badly but they can get a laugh and that makes it magic are full of it and are not magicians.
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Postby Travis » 10/05/08 10:15 AM

Thanks for your input, Steve. So, if a person were to study and learn one trick and present it perfectly, would that person qualify?
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Postby Steve V » 10/05/08 02:17 PM

Nope, they would be a person who does one heck of a trick. I am from the old 'magic shop' magician days, meaning I would go to the shop, hang out, pick up what I could type of guy. I didn't refer to myself as a magician for several years.

I remember reading the story about the play where the performer on stage did several magic tricks. After a show a magician approached him and told him he was a very good magician, the actor replied he wasn't a magician he was just acting. He was correct. I think there are guys out there who know hundreds of sleights and effects to perfection and they are not magicians because they cannot cross the line into being able to present magic.
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Postby chipper » 10/06/08 04:37 AM

I feel in some ways the answer is simpler than we think it is, because we could ask the same question of other types of artists. For instance, when do you call a dancer a dancer?

When they've studied the craft and are fully dedicated to the pursuit and performance of it. Fully understanding the techniques, positions, history, styles, etc...

The opposite it is also true: I can change the oil in my car, but obviously I wouldn't be called a mechanic.

The only other caveat would be the (true or false) opinion of the viewing audience when it comes to theater (dancer, actor, magician, you name it.)....Some people have perfected their act to a point where the audience is eager and easily ready to 'call' them a magician upon witnessing their performance, and yet they don't fully know that possibly the guy onstage has a very limited amount of knowledge beyond the scope of his own small act. The audience CAN BE FOOLED at times.

But if you're talking magician to magician, you should obviously know your history, the classics, the masters, the well known moves, themes, vernacular, etc... and have a definite goal in deciding what you are going to work on and present and hopefully make a living at it -- be it close-up, stage, mentalism, etc...

And like teachers, plumbers, dancers, etc....they all continue to learn and expand and grow on a continuing basis as the world grows, and as technology, new inventions and techniques continue to evolve.

In short, a 'true' magician respects and understands the art of performing magic as an artform.

Them's me thoughts. : )
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/06/08 08:45 AM

with good intent wrote:I feel in some ways the answer is simpler than we think it is, because we could ask the same question of other types of artists. For instance, when do you call a dancer a dancer? ... In short, a 'true' magician respects and understands the art of performing magic as an artform.

Them's me thoughts. : )


Them's amusing - but not even specious much less cogent thought.

Consider automata - are they magicians or dancers? By the amusement above they both are and are not - as while they understand nothing they do perform for others in context and offer suitable entertainment.

What distinguishes the performance which transcends the craft to bring the audience into the experience of the art from a performance which presents the art? What is it that some performers do which permit us to forget ourselves and get swept up by the show? There - IMHO is where we would do better to explore.

Let's start with the most basic question - you are looking at a person and for some reason want to know "are they a magician". How might you know? What might you do to find out? Even if that person is actually your own reflection in the mirror - it's still a valid question.

Crowley's call to will, Lovecraft's pattern of convoluting the discomforting and all those other tools of the craft will still be there after we know what it is we wish to accomplish and then perhaps choose to act upon that desire.

*

How does one distinguish between what one knows, what one believes and what one wishes others to believe?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/06/08 09:09 AM

Travis wrote:...Does knowing and performing a few tricks make a person a magician? ...


Hmmm - does owning a copy of the Karma Sutra make one a great lover?

There's a funny thing that happens in algebra class - where some students say something like "know the rules and can see the problems and can follow the examples but I can't do the homework". There - IMHO is an example the difference that makes a difference. So can you do a mixture problem or a word problem? Do you even remember that doing the work starts by writing down the problem and then starting your analysis by writing down something like "Let x be ..."? Hey - that's moved the discussion from knowing to doing which takes us to what IMHO is the central issue here - the doing.

Any grownup can convince their child that there's a Santa. But can you convince an grownup that there is really a guy living at the North Pole who might visit them... who really knows if they've been naughty or nice and will act accordingly? Okay that's likely beyond most here so how about something simple - that with a moment of concentration you can get an impression of just how much loose change they have in their pocket? How about that? Can you? Or how about that the lucky coin you wrapped up when you were a kid and carry with you in a box marked with today's date and a time of about two minutes from now really is also the coin someone lends you and marks?

Done deal? Be honest with yourself. Santa already knows and BTW that's not the guy you see in the cartoons - that's just his delivery boy.
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Postby chipper » 10/07/08 12:26 AM

LOL
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/07/08 05:55 PM

...Lovecraft's pattern of convoluting the discomforting...


[size:14pt]You better not be talking about us, pal!
Signed,
Cthulhu and Oswald Spengler[/size]
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/08/08 08:52 AM

Of Massachusets, California or perhaps Canada? Are those tee shirts with the Celtic Knot around the C*'s visage from that happy occasion?

Anyway congrats on the marriage, you two seemed destined to make a great couple. Let us know when you Old Ones have happy news of spawning New Ones.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 10/14/08 01:56 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Hmmm - does owning a copy of the Karma Sutra make one a great lover?



No, but it might make one a creative speller. ;)

All silliness aside, this can be answered by looking at the other art forms.

Does being able to play 2 dozen 3-chord songs on a guitar make one a guitarist?

Does painting a whole lot of cookie-cutter landscapes make one a great painter?

Does the act of taking lots and lots of photographs make one a photographer?

In all cases, the answer is no. It requires more than just a superficial committment to whatever discipline we are dealing with.

There is a point in each of these at which the person who is performing whatever act is being performed, is transcending the mechanics of the work and somehow expressing himself/herself with the art. The audience finds itself drawn into the work and feels some kind of communication with the artist.
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Postby Travis » 10/17/08 07:37 PM

Thanks, everyone. I hope this discussion will continue.

Bill,

Great post! Allow me cite a very specific example. Let's take Jinger and Charlotte Pendragon. Although they are performing partners with their respective spouses, most would likely refer to them as "assistants", if only out of habit. However, both have been performing magic and thrilling audiences for many years. I would say that they both "transcend the mechanics and express themselves with the art" (to use your description).

So, are Jinger and Char magicians?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/17/08 07:47 PM

?? that's like asking if the props become "authentic" or the costumes used become imbued with powers.

If you want to believe...
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Postby Travis » 10/17/08 08:42 PM

Jonathan, please explain, as at first glance your comment strikes me as rather degrading. Are you equating these two fine performers with props??
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/18/08 02:53 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:?? that's like asking if the props become "authentic" or the costumes used become imbued with powers.

If you want to believe...


:D
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/18/08 05:04 PM

Even though Bud Abbot and Lou Costello did their routines hundreds of times before appreciative audiences there is good reason to wonder if they could reverse roles and get a comparable response.
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Postby Travis » 10/18/08 05:35 PM

Who said anything about reversing roles? I consider these couples to be a team. A pair of magicians working in concert.

The definition of magician may be subjective, but I can certainly tell you what I think a magician ought not to be. I believe a magician should not be a sexist pig who equates women with objects.

Jonathan Townsend and Ray T. Stott, you make me ashamed of this brotherhood.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/18/08 06:33 PM

Travis wrote:Who said anything about reversing roles? I consider these couples to be a team. A pair of magicians working in concert.

The definition of magician may be subjective, but I can certainly tell you what I think a magician ought not to be. I believe a magician should not be a sexist pig who equates women with objects.

Jonathan Townsend and Ray T. Stott, you make me ashamed of this brotherhood.


IMHO we will not know if those who perform as assistants will do well as magicians till they take the stage in that role, your personal interpretation aside, in public and get feedback from audiences.

Just so we have a reference - it is most common to refer to one whose acts of will alter mundane reality as a magician. Their genial assistant - however genial or comely is not usually the one acting upon the situation with their will as far as audiences are concerned. ;)
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/18/08 06:59 PM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Even though Bud Abbot and Lou Costello did their routines hundreds of times before appreciative audiences there is good reason to wonder if they could reverse roles and get a comparable response.


[font:Times New Roman][size:11pt]Who's on first??[/size][/font] :)
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/18/08 07:17 PM

Best I recall that routine it was Abbot onstage talking about the team for a bit. Probably a clip online for those who enjoy that kind of classic comedy.
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/18/08 07:31 PM

Travis wrote:
Jonathan Townsend and Ray T. Stott, you make me ashamed of this [color:#FF0000]brotherhood[/color].



[color:#3366FF][size:11pt]
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that shares his P&L Ultra Card Rise with me
Shall be my brother, be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:...
[/size][/color]
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Postby Travis » 10/18/08 08:04 PM

Wow. Just wow, Ray.
Join us in the 21st century, won't you?
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/18/08 10:32 PM

Travis wrote:Wow. Just wow, Ray.
Join us in the 21st century, won't you?


[color:#3366FF]
Thou bad old magician, THAT is the best and the honestest thing I honour in thee, that thou hast become weary of thyself, and hast expressed it: "I am not great."
...Nietzsche through Zarathustra
[/color]
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/18/08 10:52 PM

Prospero? now Shakespeare and Nietzsche?

Not going to suggest reading Magic Without Tears now are we?

Or perhaps R. U. R.?
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/19/08 01:18 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Prospero? now Shakespeare and Nietzsche?

Not going to suggest reading Magic Without Tears now are we?

Or perhaps R. U. R.?


No Crowley for me - A.E.Waite debunked him a long time time ago.
Give me a double shot of the Left Hand Way with Eliphas Levi - shoemaker to necromancer - Now there is a real transposition with no cloths or cabinets!

R.U.R.? - Loved it, sorta of a Pre-Cambrian Blade Runner.
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Postby Travis » 10/19/08 04:42 PM

I really am asking you two in all seriousness; is your thinking truly this backwards and medieval?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/19/08 07:12 PM

Travis wrote:I really am asking you two in all seriousness; is your thinking truly this backwards and medieval?


Perhaps an error in observation rather than measurement?

We have a diverse community. Some of us have advanced this craft and champion the art. Some do their part as consumers of product. A clear understanding of how the attribution of will to a result within a perceived narrative is experienced as magic is about all that unites us as magicians. Of course as civil adults we also have courtesy and some here also enjoy a learned and literate playfulness.

If the older works don't appeal - how about Neal Stephenson's latest?
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Postby Travis » 10/19/08 07:51 PM

Jonathan, I was not referring to the literarily referential discourse between you and Ray.

I was referring to the extremely sexist remarks made and/or inferred by each of you.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/19/08 08:11 PM

Travis, I can only speak for myself on this one - I have no sexist issues with magicians be they male, female, gay, transgendered or whatever. I hold the position that we won't know how well those who currently perform in the role of assistant would do when performing in the role of magician till they do so. I'd be curious to see what sort of act they would design to highlight the character they would use to present magic.
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Postby Travis » 10/19/08 10:42 PM

Fair enough, Jonathan, and I understand your point about the perceived will of the magician acting upon his surroundings.

However, I cannot help but refer you back to your comment in which you quite flippantly equated these women with stage props.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/19/08 11:10 PM

Travis, IMHO one does not become a great batter by being a bat boy alone - nor a wizard by being a great assistant. Such is as absurd as expecting a bat to become better at hitting the ball by virtue of being used by great batters. IMHO in all such cases proximity alone does not imbue one with the skills and experience from the actual doing required to excel especially in the performing arts where audience feedback is critical. I regret taking that argument to its logical reductio ad absurdum without first laying the groundwork for all to follow. Kindly notice that there is no presumption about the gender of the wizard or the great batter or the assistant.
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 10/20/08 12:05 AM

Travis wrote:Jonathan, I was not referring to the literarily [sic]
referential discourse between you and Ray.

I was referring to the extremely sexist remarks made and/or inferred by each of you.

[color:#FF0000][size:14pt]
Sexist??
[/size][/color]

[size:14pt]Once, when asked about the role of women volunteers in SNC Stokely Carmichael, the guy in the center of the photo, Image replied that the "only position for women in SNCC is prone." - Now that is [color:#FF0000][size:14pt]sexist[/size][/color]. [/size]


[size:14pt]During my studies at Penn this fellow, a rather evil smelling ablutophobic Philadelphian, Image and, John McConnel to the contrary, self proclaimed co-founder of Earth Day Image and liberal activist, by the name of Ira Einhorn, murdered his much abused live in girlfriend and stuffed her corpse into a trunk and sealed it up in a closet of his digs where she took up posthumous residence for eighteen months priory to discovery.
Now that is [color:#FF0000][size:14pt]misogynistic, homicidal and sexist[/size][/color].
[/size]

[size:14pt]Now this gent is Ed Gein Image who one might refer to charitably as [color:#FF0000][size:14pt]sexist[/size][/color] [/size]

[size:14pt]You are accusing a man of being [color:#FF0000][size:14pt]sexist[/size][/color] who fantasized about Gloria Steinem, not when she looked like this, a comely Playboy Bunny, Imagebut when wearing those yellow Radians shooting glasses Image in the Womens Lib movement until I grew too old to do anything about it. (So, in fact, did she.)
[/size]
[size:14pt]Travis, [font:Times New Roman]"the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting. Sexist I am none. Therefore farewell. I see thou knowest not me.[/font][/size] :)

[color:#FF0000]With apologies to the Pearl of English Literature who died in the 17th Century.[/color]
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Postby Travis » 10/20/08 08:54 AM

But there is a presumption, Jonathan. You responded directly to my question which was specifically about two female figures in magic. I even went so far as to call them both by name.

To my question "Are Jinger and Char magicians?", you responded with a statement calling them nothing more than stage props to be used by the performer.

And Ray, you simply found this funny, therefore I can only assume you hold the same lesser view of the female gender. Being well read, sir, does not preclude your being a male chauvinist.
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Postby Travis » 10/20/08 09:07 AM

Let me add another specific example.

In the Spirit Cabinet routines of both Glenn & Francis and Mark & Jinger (or myself and my partner), is it not the female medium (within the context of the story) who is causing the effects to occur through her communication with the spirit world?

In these instances, Glenn and Mark and myself guide the audience through the story, but we are onlookers as much as they. The medium is the star and it is she who affects the environment around her. For the most part, we simply stand back and watch with the audience.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/20/08 09:09 AM

Travis wrote:...I was referring to the extremely sexist remarks made and/or inferred by each of you.


But there is a presumption, Jonathan.
You came close here - admitting that there is a presumption but failing to own it. Who is presuming what? Such deletions don't do much for us except as methods in tricks.

Projection is not always your friend. Part of learning magic is learning to notice when you are fooling yourself or at least admit the possibility that others won't see things as you wish to.

In the Spirit Cabinet routines of both Glenn & Francis and Mark & Jinger (or myself and my partner), is it not the female medium (within the context of the story) who is causing the effects to occur through her communication with the spirit world?


As described we have Francis and Jinger taking the lead for that phase of the show. BTW Hofziser's wife also opened the salon shows with mentalism. In those cases we have a team of performers and the term "assistant" is not quite applicable when describing those people in context of the show as a whole. Why the wimpy phrasing of your example ending with a question rather than just saying "My partner, Francis and Jinger each perform a seance section in the shows they perform"? Are you deleting part of the process where you or their partners put them under a spell or something?

Back in the 1970s it was considered dark humor to discuss futures where sexism was condoned - Soylent Green had the reference to women as furniture and a song had a lyric "a unit was a figure not a she". That's about it for sexist references on this side.

You never heard it from me.
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Postby Travis » 10/20/08 04:35 PM

Jonathan, I appreciate your magic analogy. Cleverly worded. I've been performing professionally for a long time and I understand the performance of magic very well.

But, again, I clearly gave an example of 2 women. You responded to that example. I think it's perfectly logical to assume that your response was in reference to said example. I understand if you did not intend for it to come across as such, however I absolutely think that it did.

I do not find the word "wimpy" an accurate description of my previous post. I posed a question. No intentional deletions but, yes, you raise a valid point. The medium is placed into trance. However, I won't hesitate to still say that she is the star of the show this point.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/20/08 09:15 PM

Okay maybe a magician is someone who can turn a discussion about what is a magician into a search for sexism?

As part of learning magic it's useful to own ones perceptions as apart from the thing one is perceiving. It's a step toward volitional reframing. Text is just that. Not everyone plays with irony.

Next step- anchoring. Best learned after pacing and preferably before leading too.
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Postby Travis » 10/21/08 10:47 AM

Truce!

Seriously, though, this was not me making a concentrated effort to spin things in a different direction. I (and my performing partner) literally were quite shocked at your initial reply to my query regarding Jinger and Char. And then it seemed to spiral into literary jokes and quips (all well and good), but I was just trying to get a straight response.

I do understand your points on the matter of roles, but I would also like to add that I do not believe any person, male or female, should be equated with or referred to as "props".
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/21/08 11:12 AM

Travis wrote:Truce!...I would also like to add that I do not believe any person, male or female, should be equated with or referred to as "props".


Agreed - as per mentions of the dialog in the movie "Soylent Green" and the lyric in the song "Dodo" ... sexism and objectivication of people is simply not a part of our better nature. :)
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Postby Steve V » 10/21/08 02:20 PM

I just saw the question about Jinger and Char. Both of these women are very talented and while I've had contact with both I have spent more time with Jinger. She, Jinger, is not an assistant but, as is Char, considered a partner in the act. That being said Jinger has always described herself as a 'dancer' and that she had to learn how to talk on stage and all that and she does a wonderful job and has developed into part of a magical team the same way Penn, who I consider a juggler not a magician, has become part of a magical team with Teller.

If you ever saw a full performance of Kalin and Jinger or The Pendgragons you would have to say that without the presence of the lovely (in Jingers case unfreakinbelievably lovely) and intelligent women are the keys to the success of their husbands. They should not be viewed in any lower a position as part of the team as Penn is in Penn and Teller.
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