Real Power or a Trick?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby ashburner » 07/06/11 10:02 AM

I've been thinking lately whether or not it's actually good to say that it's real power or energy when you do an effect; especially for metal bending and mentalism. Uri Geller was persecuted by alot of magicians because of his claims but I think he was a "true" magician. Magic is not supposed to be a puzzle; it's supposed to be amazing. How amazing is it to fool someone as opposed to performing 'real' magic? When you say you're a magician these days you become a walking puzzle thats begging to be solved. What are your thoughts? Mentalists constantly 'infer' that it's real power but are constantly sitting on the fence.
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Postby mrgoat » 07/06/11 10:43 AM

It's not a good idea if you are in the UK

The Advertising Standards Authority is now cracking down on charlatans pretending to have powers they do not have.

http://asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudicati ... 51081.aspx
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Postby Oli Foster » 07/06/11 03:38 PM

I think they're concerned with alternative therapies etc but I've heard that psychics have to mention 'performance' or 'entertainment' in their literature. Most people know it's all placebos but weirdly, like magic, they accept that placebos have a value in themselves. Personally, I think it's overcooking it and nannying people. Fraudulent psychics are bad but are they any worse than, say, priests or any other person making money out of people's beliefs? It's only the perceived intention that makes the difference.

Similarly magic has a value not in spite of but because of it being fake. Conventional magicians make tongue in cheek statements all the time, not because they intend people to take them literally but becasue they usher the audience to 'go along with it' on the understanding that the consequent surprise will be worth the confederacy and that the confederacy in itself is a part of the entertainment because it's turned on its head again and again.

If we're being honest, it's the same thing with spoon bending etc. I don't think many people are going to change their world view because of a trick with a piece of cutlery. However, it can still be just as impressive because it's an imaginary game and the fact that you can get inside a stranger's imagination and rekindle that feeling of being an in-awed child about mundane objects is inherrently as impressive, if not more impressive than the idea of a bit of metal buckling at your command.

It's not wise to seriously insult your audience's intelligence but, in the context of a performance, I think a spoon bending because of imaginary energy is as acceptable as a card rising to the top of the deck. Like the psychics and the priests, the only thing that can make it sinister is your intention and there are less noble intentions than to simply put on a good show.

Just my tuppence worth.

Oli
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 07/07/11 02:08 AM

Just to twist the discussion slightly....

I have often been asked and I don't quite know how to answer....

"I saw a magician do X. Is it real or is it a trick?"

I have a great deal of trouble not treating the person like an idiot. But at the same time, while I say its all magic in my performances, I find it difficult to answer that question with the same answer.
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Postby ashburner » 07/07/11 04:18 AM

I think the word 'trick' should only be used by magicians. If you tell people you are doing tricks; they have the sense that you're making a fool of them and try even harder to 'catch' you doing something. I honestly prefer the word 'illusion' It implies that it takes great skill and you're not fooling their intelligence but your fooling their eyes. I say to people who ask me if it's 'real' or not that "some of it is real; as in scientifically un-explainable at this time; and some of it is an illusion; it's up to you to decide for yourself. Three hundred years ago electricity would have been considered real magic"
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Postby mrgoat » 07/07/11 05:15 AM

ashburner wrote:Three hundred years ago electricity would have been considered real magic"


I love the bit in Greater Magic that is something along the lines of: Many young magicians are showing an interest in a strange and unreliable fluid called electricity.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/07/11 08:44 AM

Was greater magic written when folks presumed there had to be a luminiferous aether - which was until about 1920? The inventions of Tesla and introduction of electric lighting at the time may have given some the impression that electricity was "strange and unreliable".
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Oli Foster » 07/07/11 03:30 PM

Re Tesla, although it's entirely ficticious (now there's a silly disclaimer!), see the prestige - cracking stuff! :)

Think about Houdin's gallic punning with his 'ethereal suspension', referencing the theretofore mysterious powers of ether as the anaesthetic used to put his son into a trance and the ethereal realm into which he seemed to cross when he became lighter than air. Science and magic in a time when uneducated magicians were all 'professors'. Equally cracking stuff.

I heard today that a guy went to a psychic saying he felt suicidal, to which she said she'd see him in the afterlife for a cuppa. He then proceeded to take his own life. Perhaps this stuff is more harmful then I'm giving it credit for - in the wrong hands. I'll try to find the article. However, it could equally have happened if the other person wasn't a 'psychic' and just thoughtless. Or if the guy was confessing his sins to leave this earth with a clear conscience. Some people are just bad, others stupid, but that doesn't have to infer anything about us.

Having said that, appreciate there's a world of difference between basically killing somebody and pretending you don't need brute strength to bend a spoon, so it's all relative and again down to intentions.

I realise I earnestly lie about fake processes by pretending to get a thought-of card by nlp. Don't know whether that's insulting given that I have no real knowledge of nlp, but I can't be called on it as I don't verbally say that's what I'm doing and always coyly deny it if asked. I just silently imagine the process in my head and try to work out their card by watching their eye movements while I break their choices down, even though I already know it. Of course alot of people will realise it's [censored] but not knowing where the [censored] ends is the mystery of magic really and of life, to put it exceptionally coarsley. Fun [censored] is good. Nasty, line-crossing [censored] is bad. Religions have been started on less.

An' it harm none, do what thou wilt, for that is the whole of the law...

Oli
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Postby El Harvey Oswald » 07/07/11 03:48 PM

Those dumb enough to be religious are seemingly dumb enough to believe magic is real. Of course they never seem to have much actual confidence in "the afterlife," or the slogan that they're going to a "better place." So they are likely more frightened than truly dumb.
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Postby Bob Cunningham » 07/07/11 05:56 PM

"Those dumb enough to be religious"

I am assuming that your goal is simply to act as a troll. In the unlikely event that you are simply confused or misinformed, rather than trying to insult the 93% of Americans who believe in the existence of God note the following link:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science#2001.E2.80.93today_.2821st_century.29

This list neither proves nor disproves the truthfulness of any religion. However, it proves conclusively that people who are far more intelligent than you, or I, believe in some form of religion.

I think that your comment about, "Those dumb enough to be religious" reflects poorly on your own knowledge of the subject.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/07/11 06:13 PM

El Harvey Oswald wrote:Those dumb enough to be...


The dumb are those who don't speak. A word you might try on for size is stupid.

Incredulously,

me
Last edited by Jonathan Townsend on 07/07/11 06:17 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: I though the power of a trick was measured in return engaments.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/07/11 06:44 PM

El Harvey Oswald is just trying to get himself banned. He's becoming the new [censored].
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
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Postby ashburner » 07/08/11 05:42 AM

Please don't pull religion in to this thread. I asked about the ethics of 'real energy/power' versus 'its just a trick' It is not a good idea to fly in the face of a greater power than us; call it what you will 'energy' 'higher power' 'God' whatever. Oswald remember; as a magician you have to be a gentleman; gentle with peoples feelings; gentle with peoples beliefs. There are many magicians who believe in God and many who dont; but none of them insult their audience while performing; so why do it here? Profanity is another issue I have with you; don't assume you're around your pre-pubescent friends when you're on this forum. There is a great deal of knowledge you can get if you just put down the soap-box and have something constructive to say. I'm not attacking you but remeber; a character is forged; not born. Can you answer my question without insulting anyone and swearing? Please do; I'm sure you're a nice chap.
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Postby Suresh » 07/31/11 12:26 AM

The original post has some implicit assumptions that need to be examined. For example, in

Magic is not supposed to be a puzzle; it's supposed to be amazing.


1) "supposed to" by whom? why?

2) why is "being a puzzle" and "being amazing" considered contradictory states that cannot coexist?

Also, it might help to keep in mind that the rational won't be taken in by a claim of "real power" and that those that are taken in are not worth having any power over.

And, in any case, it is not worth having power over anyone in general -- I believe that an attempt to seek such power is just the seeking of a substitute for a lack of confidence in one's ability to deal with reality.
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Postby PhilG » 07/31/11 02:58 AM

Mr. Ashburner,

It is the spectator who infers, the Mentalist simply implies.

Plus, don't a lot of Mentalists begin their program with some sort of vague disclaimer? If the UK is that strict it would seem that cartoons should come with a disclaimer which states that rabbits can't talk, or movies should explain that Superman doesn't actually fly.

Respectfully,

Phil
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Postby mrgoat » 07/31/11 07:37 AM

PhilG wrote:If the UK is that strict it would seem that cartoons should come with a disclaimer which states that rabbits can't talk, or movies should explain that Superman doesn't actually fly.


In America they have to print that a cup of hot coffee may be hot.

In the UK, cartoons usually do not say they can do something they can't, then extract 30 quid from a little old lady who seriously believes they can do something they can't. So they are not concerned with the advertising of cartoons.

However, when some dirty little [censored] of a man pretends he can talk with Betty's dead dog and takes money from her, that is an issue. If someone pretends holding a crystal near someone's cancer will fix it, that's an issue.

Hope that clears things up.
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Postby PhilG » 08/01/11 05:32 PM

Sort of Mr. Goat. I see what you're saying about people making medical claims, but the thread started off talking about Uri Geller so I assumed we were talking about what most people think of when they think of Mentalists, the quasi-magic show types. I see where I may have misunderstood.

Respectfully,

Phil
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Postby Simone M » 08/06/11 11:10 AM

ashburner wrote:as a magician you have to be a gentleman; gentle with peoples feelings; gentle with peoples beliefs.


I think this pretty much answers the initial question. Yes, it's true that some performers could get away with their claims (Geller) and other performers could get away by twisting the line between non-claiming and disclaiming, but if you care to respect your audience's intelligence (which implies their education and their naiveness) you might want to avoid presenting your tricks as real powers.

Some performers solve the debate by saying that they respect their audience's intelligence so much that they trust they can come up with their own (hopefully right!) conclusions, but this approach is way too liberal for my taste, as it would imply that all of the audience has the same degree of education, skepticism and ingenuity.

One thing is stating that "you can fly" -- the average audience naturally assumes their are going to see an illusion, their education tells them so. This is nice [censored], because both you and the audience are accomplices in knowing it's magic.
Another thing is stating that you're going to implant thoughts in their mind using NLP or some other new age [censored] like that -- the average audience doesn't know what to think: they don't know how the brain works, they don't know what's natural and supernatural, so to speak. That's bad [censored] because you are taking advantage of the audience's ignorance.

So, I think the hard work must be put on "framing" and giving your magic a context where you don't have to introduce every trick by saying "This is just a trick, it's not real", but at the same time you're sure the audience doesn't misunderstand your work. It can be done, I think, it just takes a lot of thinking!
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