I told someone this morning that I am done with this crap. But the PMs are flying. I cant help but wonder whats happening behind
my back. In front of my back I have been accused of being in cahoots with Richard Kaufman in some sort of conspiracy to get Damian Nieman via yellow journalism among other things that call my integrity into question. It all makes my brain hurt.
Richard Kaufman featured Shade in his magazine and I have nothing against Mr. Nieman. I actually like Shade and purchased the DVD versus trying to weasel a free copy somehow. Why in the world would we conspire to get the man? I had great hopes for this set of DVDs. But then I got them.
Also, Richard Kaufman does not influence my DVD reviews; period. The only thing he does is tell me how many words I get. He has also, on more than one occasion, saved my ass from committing a random act of crappy writing.
So far I have also been accused of being so biased on the credit aspect of the DVDs that I let that prejudice color my view of the rest of the material.
In the past I have been complimentary of good material when I have slammed the same DVD for no crediting. So what changed in this case? Am I a Tony Giorgio disciple? While I have tremendous respect for Mr. Giorgio, his skill, and his accomplishments, we are not pals by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we have had our differences on a few subjects. I will not lie to promote or protect anyone in this game, including Tony Giorgio. By extension, I will not lie to drag down someone, including Damian Nieman.
So what then? What prompted me to slam this
set of DVDs?
Isnt it possible that these DVDs did not live up to their own claims and all I did was point that out?
I might regret thisand I know some of my friends will call me crazybut to find out the answer to the question above, lets all look at the review as it appeared in the July 2008 issue of Genii.
This will also give anyoneincluding Mr. Nieman if hed likethe chance to comment. Perhaps well find out together how uninformed I am or how I have attempted to rebrand [sic] this review. Best of all, close-up dude, who started this thread, will get to read the review he wanted.
Thanks in advance for your time.
[NOTE: The review is in [color:#3333FF]blue font[/color]. My comments are bracketed and in a normal font color.]
Damien Nieman $80 (2-disc set)
[Well crap; I owe him an apology. Damned if I didnt misspell his first name back then (though it appears correctly later in the piecego figure). Maybe thats what hes all in a twist over? Nahhhhbut sorry, Mr. Nieman, just the same.]
[color:#3333FF]It is official: I've heard it all. Of the many reasons people have given to justify making a magic DVD, Damien Nieman, the writer/director of the film Shade, has come up with the most unique reason I've ever heard: "There's a writer's strike going on In Hollywood; so, not a lot going on at the moment." It's the only really original thing that can be found on this self-produced two-disc set.[/color]
[I stand by this statement. It is indeed the most unique reason Ive heard and indeed the most original thing on this set of discs.]
[color:#3333FF]Not surprisingly, the production values on this projectexcept for some "muddy" sound here and thereare outstanding: It's beautifully shot and looks like a film versus a "magic video." The camera angles are excellent and it haswithout any doubtthe best editing I've seen on a magic DVD. While extremely helpful to a good project, we in the magic biz do tend to judge the content of a DVD first.[/color]
[I presume were okay here. The DVDs are indeed wonderfully produced; some of the best Ive ever seen.]
[color:#3333FF]Mr. Nieman is an aficionado of sleight of-hand with cards; particularly work in the genre of the gambler. But in direct conflict with the marketing hype behind the set ("This is much more than just a demo of gambling sleights. This is a comprehensive instructional resource that explains these moves ... These DVDs deliver excellent study of some of the finest card artifice to date presented by one of the best pair of hands in the art ...") Mr. Nieman's technique and execution could never get by in a real game and he even states that he only performs "gambling demos." His is a demonstrative style, along the lines of a Martin Nash, but without the polish, the character, and, frankly, the skill. Some of these techniques are not done expertly at all, so what you get is a less-than-expert pair of hands demonstrating less-than-expert technique.[/color]
[Mr. Nieman himself admits that he only demonstrates this stuff. I agree. Should he try to move in a game with fast companyto borrow a phrasehed lose more than a poker hand. Could he move in a casual game with less than sharp players? Possibly, but in a game like that, his way-better-than-theirs technique would stand out like a sore thumb and garner more attention than anyone trying to take the money would ever want. So, I will again stand by what I said, he couldnt get away with his technique in a real game.
Apparently some want me to applaud Mr. Niemans technical execution. I did, though I freely admit I used my technique as a writer to avoid calling a lot of attention to it. The sentence [s]ome of these techniques are not done expertly at all implies, by extension, that some of the remaining technique is
expertly executed. I cannot be held responsible for readers who fail to grasp this simple extension in logic.]
[color:#3333FF]As for being "comprehensive," the disc that covers technique (disc one, titled "Tools of the Trade") is a mere 67 minutes in length. On it he demonstrates (that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it) several pieces of card table artifice including "myriad" false cuts, shuffles (Push-Through, Strip-Out, Zarrow, and in-the-hands riffle), the Tabled Faro, hops, shifts, several palms, and the second and bottom deals. I will let the reader decide if all this material could be comprehensively taught in less than an hour by even a competent
teacher. At one point Nieman admonishes the viewer to read Expert Card Technique
for the work on the Tabled Faro because it is "much more thorough than I will go into" and admits that a two-disc set could be done on one technique alone: So much for "comprehensive."[/color]
[Where am I missing the forest through the trees there? Sorry, but who could possibly believe that this much material can be comprehensively taught
in under an hour? I did not make up these claims I quoted! Mr. Nieman
makes the claim that these discs are a comprehensive instructional resource
(emphasis mine). If thats not hyperbole, then its just plain [censored]. I stand by my statement that not even a competent teacher could possibly teach
this amount of material in a comprehensive manner in less than an hour. This material is demonstrative, not
instructional as claimed.]
[color:#3333FF]The second disc ("Legerdemain," 69 minutes), which is comprised of classic gambling themed routines. [/color][Arrghthat sentence still makes me cringe: The word which should have been deleted. Oh well, [censored] happens. I take solace in the fact that even Richard Kaufman missed it.] [color:#3333FF]We are told that the routines "are Damian's own versions of these classics." Considering he asked for (and in many cases apparently received) permission to include the material that didn't belong to dead guys that he (again) demonstrates, it's pretty hard to buy into the whole "[t]hese are Damian's own versions" idea. In the cases where he "added" something to these routines, he at times credits unnamed friends who "worked" with himwhich gently leads me into the crediting issues that can be found on this set of discs.
Right up front, Mr. Nieman says that he does not "claim ownership" of any of the material on these discs. He just wants to share his "takes" on it. The problem is that most of that which can be called "takes" that go beyond the classic works such as Erdnase and Expert Card Technique
, can be traced to the work of men like Steve Forte, David Malek, Gene Maze, Martin Nash, and Tony Giorgio. In a few instances, Mr. Nieman does credit Forte and Nash, but not always when he should. Maze does receive a brief mention in an all-text "bibliography," but Nieman never credits the others at all.[/color]
[Obviously this is where the whole crediting issue begins. He claims no ownership but then gets in a twist when hes called on not asking permission or giving complete credit where and when its due. Yes, from a legal point of view, no harm done. Ethically, however, hes on the outside looking in. And again, heand his fanshave a problem with me
for calling him on it. Oh well; it sucks to be me I guess. Damian Nieman and a guy who remains anonymous dont like me. Join the club: I even have a touch of self-loathing; or so Ive been told.]
[color:#3333FF]There is very little verbal crediting during the demonstrations. Butand I admit that this is a personal quandary that might seem oddI found his delivery of it to have a name-dropping quality about it. Crediting is an issue I often belabor here and I normally applaud even modest but honest attempts. However, it's another thing to give credit not only for the apparent purpose of name-dropping and to do so in a manner that implies a relationship where noneother than being influenced via a secondhand sourceever existed. For example, I found out from two separate (and trustworthy) sources that Mr. Nieman never met Dai Vernon let alone knew or studied with him. Yet several times he implies a familiarity with Vernon that is, to me, just plain creepy.[/color]
[I admit in the second sentence of this paragraph that this is purely a personal thing and it is odd. But the few times he did credit people by name, it did give me the creeps because of the name-dropping quality it has. If you dont feel this way, fine! Im just voicing an opinion. And if I am correct that Mr. Nieman never studied
with Vernon, then go back and watch the video; perhaps youll understand what I mean. If Im wrong, Im wrong. But frankly, Ill need to hear it from someone other than Mr. Nieman.]
[color:#3333FF]Most of the credits can be found on the aforementioned printed bibliography which is on disc two. Again, up front there is no claim of it being comprehensiveand it isn'tbut one particularly glaring omission stands out.[/color]
[We now know for an absolute fact that this bibliography was the doing of Jason England. He provided all the information and he insisted on its inclusion. Nieman had nothing to do with it and, had it been up to him alone, there would have been no crediting at all except for the aforementioned name dropping. I expect Jason is now unhappy with me, and for that I am sorry. But Jason deserves to be applauded and even thanked here. He knew it was the right thing to do.]
[color:#3333FF]In performing what he calls the "Squeeze-Out Bottom Deal," Mr. Nieman IS actually demonstrating a Tony Giorgio technique which was self-published in a limited (to keep it exclusive) 1996 manuscript. Given the falling out between the two men (Giorgio believes that the screenplay from Shade was based on columns he published in this magazine) coupled with this complete lack of creditNieman apparently didn't feel the need to drop Mr. Giorgio's nameit's a logical conclusion that Mr. Nieman did not have the permission to teach the deal. (Additionally, one of the "bonus" items on disc one, "The Lost Bottom Deal Tape," was an anonymous video released by Nieman without credit or permission sometime after he learned the technique from Mr. Giorgio's booklet.)[/color]
[I see no reason to reiterate the complete Tony Giorgio aspect of my argument here. That can be found in my earlier posts. I will say that I have been accused, by more than one person, that I have taken only the word of Mr. Giorgio and perhaps one of his friends in this matter. That is patently false. I did not communicate with Mr. Giorgio at all until he contacted me after
this review was published in Genii
. And as for Mr. Giorgios friend, what I spoke to him about first was to find out if he granted permission for the use of his material that appeared on these discs. That answer was an emphatic no. We did talk about the Giorgio Deal as well as some of the others whose material found its way onto these discs.
Of the other people I communicated with about thisand there were othersone is also an acquaintance of Mr. Giorgio (though he has never been implicated as a biased source). This person has never lied to me as far as I know. And he has no interest in doing so now. And I
to confirm if what I was seeing was indeed Mr. Giorgios deal as I believed. And it was he who suggested that I contact Mr. Giorgios friend noted above. So I already had confirmed what I was seeing before
talking with the people that have been implicated in some nefarious anti-Nieman conspiracy.
Another source I approached is passionately disliked
by Mr. Giorgio and the feeling is mutual. Can you imagine a better source? But he spoke what I believe to be the truth since he credited that bottom dealspecifically the finesse and little detailsto Tony Giorgio and it must have burned in his throat to do so.
So, to the best of my recollection, no one warned me that Mr. Giorgios deal was on this disc beforehand. I thought I recognized it and contacted some people about it (but not Mr. Giorgio for obvious reasons). Mr. Nieman said that all I needed to do was ask around. I did and I printed what I already knew and then confirmed.]
[color:#3333FF]I could go on, but I want to save space for some better discs for your consideration. But if you really want to know what all is on these discs, go have a look at the advertising. But trust me when I tell you that you should take the $80 these discs cost (for less than 120 minutes of material) and invest it into the source material from which Mr. Nieman has mined "his" work. Those sources are comprehensive and expert. This one is over-hyped, overpriced, and I am over-and-out.[/color]
[I stand by this too. Its overpriced, big time, for what you get.
I think the complete review says why.]
[color:#3333FF]▪ Fast Company ▪ Damien Nieman ▪ Disc One approx. 67 mins., Disc Two approx. 69 mins., DVD only ▪ Multi-region ▪ Available from your favorite magic dealer. ▪ Dealers should contact Murphy's Magic Supplies, Inc. on the web at www.murphysmagicsupplies.com or by phone at (800) 853-7403 ▪ $80
[So there you have it: If you want to see a really well-made DVD, pay the $80. But I still believe that you can do better with your money.]
* * * *
That's it for the review and my comments directly addressing it. But I have some other thoughts to share if I may.
Why do I care so much about credit? Is it ego? Well, no because I havent invented much and I dont feel compelled to protect anyones ego.
I do feel compelled to try and protectto the best of my abilitythe historic record. That
is important to me, as it should be to anyone who enjoys this craft. And when this vital information is left off a disc or out of a book then the person(s) doing so are committing a disservice to that craft. Someone watching/reading this work might come away with the wrong information and continue to spread this misinformation. Where is the okay in that?
As for permission, well, thats just plain old good manners. Integrity is valuable thing and, at the end of the day, sometimes its all you are left with.
Okay: I have given you all an unprecedented opportunity here. All I ask is that you be relatively civil when you take me to task (I dont mind a little sarcasm if/when I deserve it).
Thanks again for your time,