On The Slant 4/03

Discuss the views of your favorite Genii columnists.

Postby Guest » 03/28/03 10:30 AM

Jon Racherbaumer wrote a few things that really resonatated with me in this month's column. I'm surprised that more people aren't talking about it. Specifically under "Mental Fast-Food Nation".
On some of his life changing books he writes, "There was no racing around, scarcely no eagerness to move on...They captivated us." For me, I felt the same way with Lorayne's The Magic Book and later, Close-Up Card Magic. At the time of reading, I was completely in the moment, which lasted for a long long time! Reading Close-Up Card Magic, I wasn't concerned with what was next to read, or if I was reading the right thing, or even how to change what I was learning. I had the book and that was that! And it was great.
On one hand, we see that magicians coming up today have everything handed to them on a silver platter, and we think of how lucky they are. But are they? There's no time to "live with" (as Jon points out), a life changing book. There's always something "better" (read: something "else") around the corner.
With such a glut of stuff coming out, it makes everything as a whole, less special. I can't believe when I read of magicians not liking Close-Up Card Magic!
This is one of the reasons why I continue to sell off books from my collection. When I do, it brings me close to what really matters.
So, anyway, thanks for sharing, Jon.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 03/29/03 12:10 PM

I'll be honest, I'm torn on this whole issue. Whenever I hear or read words like "when I was young, things were different..." or "kids these days don't understand... yada yada yada..." or any other over sentimental notions of yester-year, it makes be bristle and get defensive.

Things are never that bad now and they were never as good as we like to remember them. Sure there's a lot of information floating around, but maybe that's brought more people into the fold or inspired more magicians to even greater performances.

I say that and then I look at my nightstand. I'm not kidding, I have books by Darwin Ortiz, Aaron Fisher, John Carney, Frank Simon (reprint), Racherbaumer, Kaufman, Annemann, Aronson, Jay (2), and three issues of Genii magazine. Plus a book about blackjack cheaters called "Bringing Down the House." I may concentrate on one book for a week or two, but I will inevitably begin to roam to another after a bit. That certainly doesn't qualify as 'living with' a book.

Maybe I should impose a moratorium on book purchases? Right after I receive my Al Baker book.

Jeff

PS I can still buy DVD's, can't I?
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Postby Carl Mercurio » 03/31/03 08:06 PM

I do find that the younger generation, and by that I mean magicians in their teens and early twenties (I'm 43), tend to all know the same stuff, which is often what's on the latest video. I don't know if this is a function of youth or of their relative newness to magic. And that's not true of the young pros I meet (who are very well versed), just the young amateurs. I performed Hindu Sands two weeks ago at a local magic shop and most of the kids there never even heard of the trick. But I do agree with Jeff in general, and would point out that a hack is a hack is a hack no matter what the age. Maybe the lesson is that you really do require some quiet time and space to work out the real issues concerning your particular approach to magic, to work on creativity, and to advance as an artist. That's hard to do as the level of "noise" around us increases, beckons and ultimately deafens....
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Postby Guest » 03/31/03 10:28 PM

Coincidently I was perusing a Linking Ring magazine dated January 1938. There is a column titled Uncle Tom's Gabbin and his statement read as follows: "To know what's new in magic, learn what is old". Very interesting statement and I believe no truer words were ever spoken. Do you agree, yes, no ????
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Postby Carl Mercurio » 03/31/03 11:30 PM

Rennie,
There's a similar quote in Chapter Nine of Greater Magic, titled "Old Wine in New Bottles." It goes, "When a new trick comes out, I do an old one." The quote is attributed to The Great Jaggard.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 04/01/03 12:19 PM

Originally posted by Rennie:
Coincidently I was perusing a Linking Ring magazine dated January 1938. There is a column titled Uncle Tom's Gabbin and his statement read as follows: "To know what's new in magic, learn what is old". Very interesting statement and I believe no truer words were ever spoken. Do you agree, yes, no ????
I'm not saying agree with it, but there was a quote from a young, talented film director (I think it was Spike Jones - Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings) where he said something to the effect - I don't need to learn all of the old guys, Felini, Godard, Eisenstein, Griffith, because I've learned and disected all of the more contemporary directors (Scorsese, Coppola, Sayles, etc...) If they have digested the old masters than so have I.

He also made the point that the volume of material out there keeps getting bigger and bigger, and it's impossible to take it all in. Therefore, you must pick and choose your inspirations.

Again, I'm not saying I agree with it. However, he does make a point about the volume of material. Am I doing wrong by studying the new Genii or Magic magazines instead of the old Hugard's? Is it an absolute must to study Germain or can I focus on David Ben?
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Postby Rennie » 04/01/03 02:34 PM

Jeff,
Your point is well taken and I do agree to an extent.Back in 1938 they never heard of an Elmsley count, Jordan count, Siva count or the Olram sublety etc, etc....And I do believe there is something new in magic all the time.However the basics of magic are still the same and we are constantly devising variations of the same principles. Take a good look at the Tarbell series , Carl Mercurio bought a set from me a while back and I know he is probably using them ( right Carl ? ) and of course Greater magic has a wealth of information. But like you I am also buying every new book that comes out and yes I always find something new and interesting.So I guess we both are right in some ways.Reading the old Linking Rings are sure fun though, cannot believe the prices...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/01/03 03:08 PM

Many of the smartest and most talented sleight of hand artists in magic can make a simple statement: Their favorite magic books are all at least 100 years old.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/01/03 03:42 PM

Back when I was a kid....

Seriously, when I was a kid a good magic book came out maybe once a year, whenever Paul Harris got around to finishing one. (That should put me in the time line). I didn't have a lot of money but that forced me to live with the books I had. Whether it was the latest Harris offering, Well's Great Illusions, or Dunninger's Monument to Magic I went over page after page, again and again. I learned every trick I could and fantasized nightly about the ones that someday I would build (like that little wax mummy that melted on the hot plate).

My lack of resources gave me focus. I performed every trick in those books that I could and from that gained an understanding of magic that comes from thoroughness.

Now I buy books 10 at a time and flip through them before shelving the majority. Of course, this is a statement both about me and the quality of material being offered today. It is rare that I'm compelled to absorb the new, though there are exceptions. But even then something "hot" comes across the radar and one feels as if they might be missing out if they don't give that new tome a little bed stand property.

Still, there are those restless nights when nothing suits my fancy and I grab Hoffman, or Goldston, or Neil off the shelf and realize its been 4 hours since I turned on the reading light. I realize that I've made mental notes to recall such and such a trick whenever someone is going on and on about the latest magic hot shot's magic thing and I see it written almost verbatim in 1898. And I also realize that these magicians whose work is chronicled here had a vast understanding of the commercial and timely that many of us today would profit through understanding.

Hey, is Hocus Pocus really having a sale????
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Postby Rennie » 04/02/03 08:02 AM

Now that we agree that most of the older books are full of fantastic magic could anyone do a David Regal and list some of their favorites from Tarbell and Greater magic ?It would be appreciated.
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Postby Guest » 04/02/03 03:37 PM

One thing I don't hear a lot of talk about is how this overload of information is crippling individual creativity.

I don't know about others, but I know that almost everything I've come up with has been the direct result of getting information in limited amounts. The ideas, sleights and routines had time to ferment in my head. I had to imagine what many things were supposed to look like, and consequently modified, examined and modified things some more in order to achieve what I thought the result was supposed to be. Sometimes, there was no way to get an out-of-print book, or there was no published method for doing "X", so I had to figure one out myself.

DVD's are even worse. If you only know what the mechanics of a move are, you'll have to come up with your own style for it. Make it fit you. Make it stylistically coherent with your other stuff. But to see someone do it, before you've had the chance to think about it or work on it yourself is very likely going to end up with you just parroting the way they do it. It's cutting your imagination's throat.

Frankly, I'm glad I came up the way I did. I don't think the table of contents for my book would be seven single spaced pages long if I'd gotten started now.

By the way, just forget everything I just said and buy my book.

And DVD's.

Best,

Geoff
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Postby Pete McCabe » 04/02/03 04:44 PM

I know just what Geoff Latta is talking about.

Just last week I was reading through an ad for the new Henry Evans DVDs. I read a description of a trick that sounded great.

In a flash a possible method came into my head. And I immediately thought of another trick that I could create, using the same basic principle but with a different adaptation.

The beauty of this is that I don't know the method of Henry Evans' trick. This is one reason I read so many ads when I buy so few things. The incomplete information practically forces my brain to fill it in, making something complete out of it.

A friend told me the following (possibly apochryphal) story of a young juggler who saw an old master do an incredible trick where he had a ball balanced on his toe, and in a single movement swept it around so it was balanced on his heel.

Our young juggler went home and practiced for months until he could do it. Then the young guy sought out his elder and showed him the move he had worked to hard to learn.

The master looked at him and said "I've never done anything like that in my life."
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Postby Max Maven » 04/02/03 08:59 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
Our young juggler went home and practiced for months until he could do it. Then the young guy sought out his elder and showed him the move he had worked to hard to learn.

The master looked at him and said "I've never done anything like that in my life."
Several related magic anecdotes come to mind. Back in the mid-1960s, Bill Madsen (editor of The New Jinx went to the Abbott's Get-Together. When he returned to Boston, Ronnie Gann (proprietor of Holden's) asked him if he'd seen anything new and interesting. Madsen described a baffling bare-handed coin vanish.

Gann worked on it for over a week, and finally came up with a method. He showed it to Madsen, and asked if it was similar to what had been seen at Abbott's -- at which point, Madsen confessed that he'd made up the story as a prank, and had not expected Gann to come up with a solution.

The trick Ronnie created was later reinvented by John Cornelius. Perhaps you've heard of it: "The Fickle Nickel."
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Postby Rennie » 04/03/03 07:44 AM

Definitely heard of the Fickle Nickel and all this time I thought John Cornelius invented it, well we learn something new everyday.Doug Henning did the trick to open one of his tv specials and when I saw it it was truly baffling and could not explain it.When it came on the market I believe it only sold for $10.95 and was well worth it and very easy to do.I really enjoy reading some of the stories about tricks being invented, please continue.
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Postby Brian Marks » 04/07/03 06:40 PM

Why are there so many new magic products out there? I cant believe the marrket is that big?
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Postby Jeff Eline » 04/08/03 12:43 PM

OK here's a question for Richard, Max, Jon, Geoff, Pete or anyone.... And please take this in the spirit's its intended. I'm NOT trying to be confrontational - it is a light, thought provoking question.

For those that make their living in magic products (books, tricks, magazines, lectures, DVD's, Videos, etc...), if the glut of magic information is bad (and it seems everyone agrees with that) why do you do it? Is it just to make a living? If what you are producing is detrimental to the craft you love, why do you keep selling stuff.

Again, before I get flamed - I mean no disrespect. I am, with a doubt, a very active magic customer and I love (dare I say, crave!) the products you sell. I'm not saying I want it to change. But in light of this discussion, I have that question.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 04/08/03 02:21 PM

First, my livelihood is not wholly dependent on creating magic PRODUCTS. Second, I've always been conflicted about the ongoing problem of secrecy versus revelation; of trivializing or potentially cheapening the Work by assigned a relative (monetary) value on it.

Yes, the Glut disturbs me and I do not want to ADD to the welter in a NEGATIVE way. As far as my publication projects, past and present, most of them were money-losing, break-even, or marginally profitable ventures. I'm a memorialist and archivist, a preservationist and conservationist...this includes raw data and almost everything...

But one must learn, bit by bit, how to separate the good from the bad...and this is seldom easy and has currently become even more difficult.

I have perhaps two or three more books I'd like to put out. Then I'll trudge off to the sidelines to contemplate all the stuff I've accumulated during the past 40 years...
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Postby Pete Biro » 04/08/03 03:18 PM

Maybe not related... but I am so thrilled I can't believe it... someone tipped off an idea to me and today I figured it out.

It is, and I find it hard to believe, a totally new way, new to me, to load a large ball or lemon into a cup.

I am having so much fun practicing it I can't describe the feeling.

I can't wait to be able to NAIL folks with it.

The amazing thing is this is the oldest known trick and someone came up with something totally NEW. :cool:
Stay tooned.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 04/08/03 06:14 PM

Please - make a video and sell it!! :D
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Postby Matthew Field » 04/11/03 07:04 AM

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
I have perhaps two or three more books I'd like to put out. Then I'll trudge off to the sidelines to contemplate all the stuff I've accumulated during the past 40 years...
Bull ticky.

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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/11/03 07:24 AM

It is, and I find it hard to believe, a totally new way, new to me, to load a large ball or lemon into a cup.

I am having so much fun practicing it I can't describe the feeling.
I recall that feeling in college, when the Jennings Chop Cup routine appeared. It rocked my world. The youngsters are going to LOVE Magicana when Richard publishes it. How nice to come across ANY practical new idea in magic.
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 04/14/03 09:55 AM

Originally posted by Jeff Eline:
Is it an absolute must to study Germain or can I focus on David Ben?
Oh, I like this question!

Never cheat yourself out of an original relationship with source material.
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Postby Guest » 04/19/03 02:22 PM

I'd like to relate my experience with groing up with magic.

I started when I was about five years old. I had seen a magician vanish a ball on Mr. Roger's Naighbourhood and was hooked from then on. So, I had my parents take me to the library and get me kid's magic books. (Klutz, etc.) I read the books and showed the tricks to my family and friends (although I doubt I was really fooling my parents). When I got a little bit older, I discovered the "grownup's" section of the library. There I discover Now you See it, Now you Don't by Bill Tarr, Wilson's Encyclopedia of Magic , and Impromptu Magic , among several others. These were the only scources of magical knowledge and experience that I had access to. I didn't know of magic shops, magic clubs, and conventions. I didn't know any other magicians. I had to read into the books and try to understand what the authors were REALLY saying. I took a long time to learn that when they wrote "do this naturally," they really meant it. Little tidbits about "the presentation making the trick" are buried in these books. I became a relatively entertaining performer.

In high school I met other magicians. They had had similar experiences to mine. We began to exchange ideas and grow together as performers.

The point that I'm trying to make is that I had to develope my style and phylosophy of magic without having magicians to immitate or directly influence my decisions. This means that when I do interact with other magic guys, we can do more than just discuss the latest "hot" tricks. We can talk about the stuff that really counts. Excitement about what's new and cool can come later.

To my mind, the danger of overexposure to other's ideas about magic is that it can hinder the developement of your own.

Just my two cents (or, six, or eight).

Sincerly,

Brian R. Stevens
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