Larry Jennings - Oil and Water - variations needed

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Vraagaard » 06/28/05 06:54 AM

Assistance needed.

From the Larry Jennings' Thoughts on Cards DVD the oil and water effect caught my strong interest its a performance piece and its wonderful magic. After numerous rehearsals Im now almost ready to perform the effect.

Mr. Jennings routine runs in three (actually 4 phases, you can say). Phase 1) mixing and revelation, phases 2) clean mixing and revelation (this is the difficult part not technically but from flow point of view and from the fact that the spectators are burning your hands at the same time), 3) Now comes a magical mix by shaking the cards, 4) a clean display of mixed cards into a pure revelation of the cards divided into reds and blacks. Beautiful routine.

Challenge: The 2nd revelation has a different flow from the rest of the revelations, and here you have all spectators watching your hands because they know whats coming, and they cant believe how that would happen. Its also the part of the routine where you have to cheat in the most difficult way (not technically) from a performance/acting point of view. It has to look right although it is not entirely right and has a different flow than the first revelation. I'm sure that if you can pull this of convincingly you have a winner and a great magical effect that will serve you forever. It will walk by if you have the specs on a little distance, but the point is you have at least one spectator really close up and I prefer to have everyone close up for this effect.

Im so hooked on this effect that I would like to study all possible variations but limited to variations that only use 4 black cards and 4 red cards. Meaning Im not looking for effects that are using extra cards, gimmicked cards or effects where the 4 reds and blacks suddenly changes into 4 queens or something else. Im only interested in effects where 4 red and 4 black cards are mixed and then separated in the oil and water fashion. Im sure that this forum will be able to direct me to other great variations.

Thanks in advance

Jan
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Postby Jim Morton » 06/28/05 09:22 AM

Oil and Water tricks used to leave me cold. Like too many Matrix effects, most oil and water routines seem to just be the same thing again and again. ("I mix them up, they separate; I mix them up, they separate; I mix them up, they separate." :sleep: ) Then I saw Michael Skinner's version and thought, "Yes! That's how it should be done." Always end with a surprise, and that surprise better not be that they've separated again, because that's no surprise at all.

Just my opinion.

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Postby mrgoat » 06/28/05 10:04 AM

Originally posted by Jim Morton:
Oil and Water tricks used to leave me cold.
Even Rene L's?
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/28/05 10:10 AM

My old pal, Frank Shields, used to say "Oil and Water is the worst trick ever created."

I tend to agree, except when Tamariz does it.
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Postby Guest » 06/28/05 12:23 PM

Although it does use an extra card, Guy Hollingworth's Oil and Water (published in his video The London Collection and in his book Drawing Room Deceptions) is worth taking a look at. The method is very direct and simple, and can be done close up. If you buy Drawing Room Deceptions, you also get the best false riffle shuffle out there, the best triumph routine that I know of, and of course his famous torn and restored card routine Reformation, among many other excellent and challenging effects.
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/28/05 01:16 PM

I think if I wanted to do that kind of effect I would use strippers.
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Postby Temperance » 06/28/05 01:17 PM

You don't think that would detract from the effect slightly? I suppose it depends on the strippers...

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Postby Steve Bryant » 06/28/05 01:18 PM

Vraagaard, we've done this topic before. Check http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 6;t=000069
for the complete discussion.

To repeat my own response from there, I love Danny Dew's version (but it uses an extra card), then finish with a Vernon routine (which doesn't use an extra card), I think called "Oil Slick," from one of the Vernon Chronicles books.
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/28/05 02:26 PM

Vraagaard,

I have been performing this routine (sans the first phase) for 2-3 years. The sequence you speak of (which is, incidentally, the invention of Ray Kosby) is difficult -- but it is also extremely STRONG. When performed well it really stuns. Here are a few tips:
  • I use 3 cards of each color rather than 4. This is primarily for aesthetic reasons, but you would be surprised how much easier the display sequence is with one fewer pair (you would also be surprised by how much more entertaining the routine is with one fewer phase).
  • ATTITUDE is extremely important to this deception. Prior to performing this sequence all of your attention should be on the packet and you should be tense. You perform a magic gesture, smile and relax. Your attitude is triumphant. YOUR SHOULDERS RELAX and you now execute the display sequence WITHOUT PAYING ANY ATTENTION TO THE CARDS. Your attention only returns to the cards when you raise them to shoulder level to display the colors on the other side. YOU MUST BELIEVE THAT THE CARDS SEPARATE THE MOMENT THAT YOU MAKE THE MAGIC GESTURE AND THAT THE DISPLAY IS A MERE FORMALITY. It helps to visualize the cards separating as you make your magic gesture.
  • The ball of your left thumb is against the left edge of the top card. As the card is being pushed over the thumb makes contact with the second card. Thus, the top card is side-jogged and a break is taken under the second card in ONE SINGLE, CONTINOUS MOTION.
  • Obviously, this sequence should be second nature to your hands and happen automatically without conscious focus. This is much easier to achieve than it sounds. The final three phases (the only ones that I perform) form a continous loop if you simply interlace the blacks and reds after the final phase (very simple to do without looking or putting the cards down). When I was first working on this routine I would have six cards with me whenever I was watching a movie or t.v. Because the sequence flows together in a loop and is silent, I could pay attention to what I was watching and continously go through the sequence in my hands (the sequence is silent, so your practice in a movie theatre is discreet). Because the technical actions alone only take about 30-45 seconds to run through, I would be able to perform the sequence at least a hundred times every time I saw a movie. After having performed the actions of the routine thousands of times in the last few years, I would now have to make a conscious effort to stop between phases once my hands had begun the routine.

This is a wonderful phase, don't be afraid of it.

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Postby Vraagaard » 06/29/05 03:36 AM

Thanks everybody, I'll look into Rene L., Mike Skinner and Hollingworths book (which I should have bought a long time ago).

Mr. Biro. Honestly, Oil and Water has it all. It's a simple concept, it's easy to follow and done flawlessly it's "impossible" it's magic. It has everything an ambitious card routine has, except I think oil and water seems even more impossible. Well it's personal preference, and I believe this is among the best of card performance effects - it's not just a trick - its theater. But as with all copied classics there are probably more bad than good versions and even more bad than good performances going around.

Nathan, Thanks a lot for your detailed description and effort. Actually I was sitting during an entire movie yesterday doing the routine (3 phases), and phase 2 just became a lot easier. I would say 10 more movies, and then a planning on my patter and acting, and then a 100 performance rehearsals and I'll be ready to perform this miracle - flawlessly.

Thanks again
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/29/05 04:54 AM

Originally posted by Vraagaard:
...Im so hooked on this effect that I would like to study all possible variations but limited to ... Im sure that this forum will be able to direct me to other great variations...
Yup you are hooked. Serious sign of an obsession there to take a pointless thing and further restrict it to keep up your interest.

I used to do the with the entire deck (published) and sometimes played with two decks of cards (gave to David Regal) to see what AUDIENCES thought of the trick.

Net net... it really needs a presentation beyond "watch me get clever and do it again in case you care to catch me at it".

Suggestion: Once you find a presentation for the trick, let the presentation direct your efforts. Someone suggested a presentation about the boys and girls at school dances.
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Postby Temperance » 06/29/05 04:59 AM

Rather than going down the tiresome "and now I mix them, and now they seperate" road, you may want to try something a bit more topical.

Start off with the standard mix and unmix sequence using the standard oil and water patter. Follow this up by saying something along the lines of.

"Of course, the way the [insert western super power of your choice] are going, pretty soon there wont be any oil left".

Show the four black cards to be blank (or make them vanish altogether).

"And as for the water, well the less said about that the better!"

Show the four red cards have changed into hazard warning signs or similar.

If you like this idea and want to use it in a trick, have a look at Dave Campbell's 'Oil And Water Plus', which has been published in a few sources but is most readily available in Peter Duffie's 'The Dave Campbell Legacy'.
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Postby Denis Behr » 06/29/05 05:09 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Net net... it really needs a presentation beyond "watch me get clever and do it again in case you care to catch me at it".
I found that the classic presentation about oil and water works not only well to introduce the effect but is memorable, too. Once the idea of the trick is established, just like with the ambitious card, the repetitions are about fairness, conditions or surprises.
I made extremely good experiences with the oil and water effect for laypeople and I am that convinced that when I have only one shuffled deck at hand I often use an oil and water routine as a closer.

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Postby Vraagaard » 06/29/05 06:49 AM

I'm in agreement with Dennis on this. I find the "oil and water" theme to be the perfect patter - everybody understands it and it's easy to follow.

I find absolutely nothing tiresome about a 3 phase mix and seperation - but you have to accept that after the first phase the spectators will burn your hands, because then they know what is coming. So this is all about what Dennis describes as "fairness" - if you can't pull of phase 2 and 3 with totally fair moves - then you are in trouble and has no effect. You may divert the "burning of your hands" by resorting to misdirection of some sort - but I wouldn't do that. The magic of this trick is to allow them to burn your hands, actually almost demanding it (in an unsaid fashion), show the clean mixing and do the impossible seperation without a trace of faulplay. The presentational challenge is to make it great theater - to make it magic - and not, repeat NOT, by any chance make this a "look how clever I am effect".

To me this effect is so "impossible" and "magical" that I strive for totally fair moves throughout all 3 phases and stick with the seperation as the effect. I don't need a kicker ending in this effect, I actually think that will divert and "ruin" the "original impossibility of seperating the cards". I don't believe that magic as such always needs an "extra kicker in the end" - some tricks might - but most tricks doesn't. However what all tricks do need is a flawless handling and a killer presentation - and I believe the Oil and Watter patter sells this effect - then the task is to build suspense.

Suspense was build by Larry Jennings simply by being quiet for 5-6 seconds implying that the separation proces was "a natural law, that simply took some time". On a sidenote - being totally quite suddenly during a trick can expand the effect - it's like music - any break indicates a rythm and a note - here Larry Jennings used it to build suspense.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/29/05 06:54 AM

Originally posted by Vraagaard:
..."a natural law, that simply took some time". ...
Taken at face value, that statement suggests cards will separate on their own, and thus implies the necessity of shuffling the deck OFTEN to break up the naturally accumulating collections of cards which tend to new deck order.
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Postby Vraagaard » 06/29/05 07:06 AM

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Originally posted by Vraagaard:
[b] ..."a natural law, that simply took some time". ...
Taken at face value, that statement suggests cards will separate on their own, and thus implies the necessity of shuffling the deck OFTEN to break up the naturally accumulating collections of cards which tend to new deck order. [/b]
Jonathan, good point. Yes indeed it would - quite funny - but lets not hope the lay audience will start coming to that type of conclussions. It actually sparks a thought or two.

As you are aware the original patter by Larry Jennings uses it in the context of oil and water, by saying "no its not a rule, it's a law of science" - a 5-6 seconds break and the card are seperated. And thats the thing in a nutshell - the cards are proven to be mixed and with no moves they seperate themselves - thats what the sepctator should think and believe they saw: "The cards seperated by themselves with no moves applied" - thats the magic - thats the reason for absolute fairness in this routine.

And here is my thought then: Actually that implies that the secret seperation must be done in the natural process of showing the cards mixed or in the natural process of showing the cards seperated - if you need extra moves after showing them mixed or in the seperation process - you will start compromising the fairness. And I think that is the sentiment about the 2nd phase of Larry Jennings routine, namely showing the cards to be seperated isn't done in a natural process. But I believe it can play to a lay audience as a natural way of doing it.
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 06/29/05 07:42 AM

Here's a rather interesting 8-card oil and water sequence from Ariel Frailich's website:
http://www.isawthat.com/en/tricks/trick006.html

All it needs is a couple of Elmsley counts, and at the end you are left completely clean.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 06/29/05 08:27 AM

Denis Behr writes:
Once the idea of the trick is established, just like with the ambitious card, the repetitions are about fairness, conditions or surprises.
I made extremely good experiences with the oil and water effect for laypeople and I am that convinced that when I have only one shuffled deck at hand I often use an oil and water routine as a closer.
I too will often close an impromptu session with oil and water. I consider it a perfect card trick for both adults (esp. if they have been drinking) and children, as they don't have to know anything about the values of cards or about gambling to appreciate the magic. I recently did it for a birthday party of six-year-old girls (letting the birthday girl wave her hand over the cards to cause the "magic") and they loved it.

Although I think most magic tricks need context and premise, I reject the notion that they must have "meaning" (in terms of the cards being a metaphor for something else, such as oil and water, Montagues and Capulets, life, birth, death, infinity, whatever--it's okay for them to just be cards). Specifically I have never found "oil" and "water" to be emotionally interesting topics and have never, ever used those words in doing the trick. This does not mean, of course, that other magicians cannot be entertaining with these ideas; it's just not for me.

So what context do I use? I always introduce the trick by talking about attending the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas each year (suddenly I am introducing information about ME, for remember Goshman's teachings, etc.) and about the year that was really special because Rene Lavand was present, and this was one of the tricks he did for us that made his reputation. I tell a little about Mr. Lavand, and just as I begin the routine, say, "But I'm not as good as he is. I have to use TWO hands." (So before the trick even begins I have established that they are about to see something really special, something that 1000 magicians in Las Vegas also thought was special.) And then I do Danny Dew's version, doing his third and final phase with one hand. If the situation warrants, as it almost always does, I do Vernon's Oil Slick (just the 4th separation) as an encore. (That version uses only 8 cards, with the red cards face up and the black cards face down. I once had another six-year-old girl SUGGEST I do it that way, a very nice coincidence since I could, and I now also relate that incident as part of the patter.) At the conclusion of the trick, the people will often ask me questions about Las Vegas, and I am happy to respond as it is a favorite topic.

So it's a bit of a cheat of course in that I am invoking Mr. Lavand's name and not really doing his version. I broke my shoulder last year and spent a lot of time toying with some of Mr. Lavand's material, and it is SO difficult. He is a master.

I've seen a lot of wonderful magic over the years, but the strongest reaction I've ever seen to ANY trick by anyone was the night I did Oil and Water at a bar for a lady who was a tad inebriated and who had apparently never seen close-up magic before. The phases kept escalating her responses. Each phase was followed by screams, hugs, and a round of drinks. It took a half hour to finish the four phases, and years later my friends still talk about that night and that lady. Which means they are really talking about that trick. And me. I love this trick!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/29/05 09:25 AM

Originally posted by Steve Bryant:
...but the strongest reaction I've ever seen to ANY trick by anyone was the night I did Oil and Water at a bar for a lady who was a tad inebriated and who had apparently never seen close-up magic before. The phases kept escalating her responses. Each phase was followed by screams, hugs, and a round of drinks. It took a half hour to finish the four phases, and years later my friends still talk about that night and that lady. ...
Okay, you got her attention and entrained her, what then? We got the bit about escalating responses, that's called leading. Did you get what you wanted? Have you been able to repeat the process and found it to be generally effective for you? Would Ross Jeffries be proud?

The trick is just a vehicle for YOU. Where you go with it is up to you. When you can choose where you want to go and how you want to get there... much more to discuss.
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Postby David Acer » 06/29/05 11:07 AM

There's a beautiful eight-card oil-and-water sequence in Norm Houghton's highly underrated 1998 book, WIT AND WIZARDRY. It's called "Alternating Current," and it's the kind of trick that fools you even as you're doing it.
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/29/05 11:08 AM

The pause that Vraagaard speaks of -- which is really quite long in Larry's hands -- is death. I always felt this in my gut, but hadn't realized why it is death until I read Ascanio's Structural Conception of Magic.

The 5-6 sec. pause there is an anti-contrasting parenthesis. Magic is the impossible causal connection between an initial condition and a final condition. Thus, an effect becomes more magical as that contrast becomes more clear. There are at least two major ways to enhance that contrast (and therefore up the impact of any effect):

1. Establish the initial and final conditions as clearly as possible.

2. Minimize, as much as possible, the time between the final display of the initial condition and the revelation of the final condition

The strength of Larry's routine is that we can do both of these to a very high level...the initial and final conditions are crystal clear and very convincing...and, technically, there is no need for an extended pause between the initial and final conditions...

Larry, Hollingworth, and everyone else who sits back and waits is strongly diluting the magic...and it is not just wrong for the magic, it is awful theatre...Pauses can be very pregnant when we, as your audience, have been engaged and the pause means something...

frankly, we don't give a sh*t about this presentation because there is no way for us to believe that you really give a sh*t about it...is it an explanation of the emulsion principle? can't be, because by the time the introduction is over we know all that we are going to know about the separation of oil and water...the magic doesn't make it any clearer...are you demonstrating a property of the cards? well that's horsesh*t because we know that leaving a shuffled deck on its own for 5-6 seconds doesn't cause it to separate out...

now, just because we know that it is b.s. and you know that it is b.s. doesn't mean that it can't have some charm as a presentation...but you shouldn't make us exert effort to keep up the charade...you can't leave us waiting when we don't care about the reason for the wait...

There is, incidentally, a much better frame for this effect than oil and water (indeed, better than any in which the cards are supposed to represent things that don't like to mix)

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/29/05 11:18 AM

Originally posted by Nathan Coe Marsh:
...are you demonstrating a property of the cards? well that's horsesh*t because we know that leaving a shuffled deck on its own for 5-6 seconds doesn't cause it to separate out...
Hey, I like that premise. Maybe your deck is not trained or lazy or playing opossum or something but this deck seems to be working fine.


There is, incidentally, a much better frame for this effect than oil and water (indeed, better than any in which the cards are supposed to represent things that don't like to mix)
What frame is that? I mentioned boys and girls at the school dance as a possible frame, what are you suggesting?
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/29/05 11:55 AM

Hey, I like that premise. Maybe your deck is not trained or lazy or playing opossum or something but this deck seems to be working fine.
Then run with it as an intentional choice. Just don't make us sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for the magic...

The frame I have in mind, and use, is published...so it isn't mine to give away, nor am I inclined to point the way to the source because I like the fact that it isn't the standard frame and that very few other people -- I only know of one -- are doing it...others here are certainly aware of this frame (and I would be happy to perform my routine for anyone who runs into me in person)...Its existence, however, points up that we need not be locked into the standard presentation by inertia...

I certainly have some reservations about any standard frame...but there are some -- Vernon's for "Triumph" and "Cutting the Aces" for example -- that fit the effect perfectly and greatly enhance its entertainment value....Oil and Water is not such a frame...

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/29/05 12:26 PM

Originally posted by Nathan Coe Marsh:
Hey, I like that premise. Maybe your deck is not trained or lazy or playing opossum or something but this deck seems to be working fine.
Then run with it as an intentional choice. Just don't make us sit twiddling our thumbs waiting for the magic......
Agreed, especially that one must make one's magical premise evident to the audience. Expecting them to know that red cards and black cards are supposed to separate seems silly. Likewise waiting while nothing appears to be happening is also awkward. I would suggest putting the cards into an envelope and asking a volunteer to shake the thing to account for the magic... though again that is just my way of thinking and others do need to find their own way in magic.

The premise of a magical pack of cards that has the property in question is IMHO worth presenting. One logical structure would have the pack shuffled by a volunteer, who hands you the eight cards... and at the end, have the pack in new-deck order.
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/29/05 12:35 PM

I certainly like that as a premise...presenting a bizzare deck that behaves in that way

I think the envelope suffers from anti-contrasting parentheses and a lack of clarity...perhaps the cards flex upwards as they are separating...whatever the apparent agency, this routine can and should be structured so that you have conviction of the initial condition of the cards, magical moment, and then IMMEDIATELY conviction of the final condition of the cards...the envelope, IMO, muddles this...

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Postby Guest » 06/29/05 03:15 PM

Originally posted by Vraagaard:

Suspense was build by Larry Jennings simply by being quiet for 5-6 seconds implying that the separation proces was "a natural law, that simply took some time". On a sidenote - being totally quite suddenly during a trick can expand the effect - it's like music - any break indicates a rythm and a note - here Larry Jennings used it to build suspense.
On the London Collection video, Hollingworth uses the pause, but like so many other examples of his dry British wit, I think it's almost more for the sake of comedy than to build any real sense of suspense. I think if you do it with a sense of ironic distance, the pause can be quite entertaining. But if comedy does not play into the pause, and the pause is too long, I agree that it can be just another example of taking the "magical gesture" concept too far and insulting your audience's intelligence.
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/29/05 04:11 PM

Scorch,

You are right that Hollingworth's pause is comic (and entertaining)...but it is still an anti-contrasting parenthesis and therefore it still dilutes the impact of the magic

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Postby Denis Behr » 06/30/05 12:02 AM

Originally posted by Nathan Coe Marsh:
You are right that Hollingworth's pause is comic (and entertaining)...but it is still an anti-contrasting parenthesis and therefore it still dilutes the impact of the magic
I disagree.
First of all experience shows that a short [!] pause works very well. And the pause is consistent with the apparent phenomenon [and actually necessary!]. If you use the oil and water theme that is.
And mostly: what is anti-contrasting about that parenthesis? Ascanio writes: "...if too many things are inserted in between, such as jokes, stories, words, gestures or incidents, by the time the effect is produced, spectators have forgotten how things were in the first place." If you wait for about 3 seconds of silence [the time I use] and in this time the full focus is on the cards, I don't believe and don't experience that either the mixed condition is forgotten or the fairness of the handling or effect are diluted in any way. In fact I found that this short time reinforces the impossibility [one regularly hears spectators mutter "they are not going to separate now..."] and strengthens the reactions.
What do you suggest as a magic gesture? Is snapping the fingers also an anti-contrasting parenthesis? ;-)

Ascanio of course was a fan of the oil and water effect. Does anybody here know what he did between the alternating and the disclosure of the effect?

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Postby Vraagaard » 06/30/05 12:47 AM

Originally posted by Denis Behr:
First of all experience shows that a short [!] pause works very well. And the pause is consistent with the apparent phenomenon [and actually necessary!]. If you use the oil and water theme that is.

Denis [/QB]
I once again agree with Denis, In the context of "oil and water" the pause enhances the effect, because everybody know that in real life it takes a little time for oil and water to seperate. And as Denis very importantly points out: The short pause, whether 3 or 5 seconds, actually allows the spectators to think "no this time the cards are not seperating, its not possible, i just saw them mixed, and he didn't do a single move". Actually here the pause leads the spectators to think exactly that which enhances the magical effect of the seperation. Agreed, it works in the context of oil and water, it might not work in other story lines and concepts.

So the pause acts to lead the spectators - it shouldn't in that context insult anybodys intelligence. It's all theater and it should be great theater - so of course it has to fit your personal style to work. I go always with Nate Leipzig and "nobody minds being fooled by a gentleman" so by no way do I want to insult anybody's intelligence.

However, I must say that if we cannot act a 3 to 5 second pause in any trick without causing awkwardness and insult, then we should start working heavily on our acting skills instead of working on our technical abilities and misdirection. I haven't seen Hollingworths presentation but my bet is nobody ever felt insulted by the Jennings presentation (read 5 second pause). I disagree to the fact that the pause is a problem, actually its an enhancement.

Also I read some references to magical gestures and keeping up the charade being inapropriate. I believe I have misunderstood the meaning of this - because I'm not ashamed of pretending to present real magic - because thats what the spectators paid to experience - and they all deep down inside know that its "cheating". So I try to act as a magician. Small magical gestures and selling the effect is a part of my act, casting a shadow, snapping my finger etc.

Here is my theory: If I could do real magic then people would indeed be astonished and amazed. However, it would soon become boring because it meant that I would posses an ability that no other possesed. So their interest would dissappear after they asked me to vanish something bigger. However, what makes magic performances really interesting to the audience is really the fact that they know its not real magic - meaning I'm presenting that the "impossible can be done" - meaning essentially they could do it too (if they only knew the secret). So here is the killer, since they and we all know its cheating, the challenge is to create that split second in every spectators heads where they think "magic", and then afterwards they can start rationalising about how it was done. If you can create that magic split second - you then created real magic inside their heads. That will leave them really amazed, and that is what they paid to experience - "the feeling of real magic". Thats my premise, and since all know its not magic, then everybody also accepts that I'm playing the role of a magicians. Playing the role of a magician also means that you shouldn't act as an excuse for yourself, not implying that you are cheating (except if you perform a gambling act in the cheating context), don't use words that "I'm trying to fool you - whatch me closely" and that sort. No, it takes a theater personality and acting skills to act the role as a real magician, and in that context small magical gestures, casting a shadow, snapping a finger, making a 3-5 second pause fits just perfect - however, everything can be over done, so it's all about finding the right balance.

It's not something I invented, its been said by many before me, most recently by Mr. Richard Osterlind in his "essays". This is my concept, if you want to perform magic then perform magic for real - act as a magician. If we can't overcome our guilt of cheating or for some other reason feel awkward about playing the magicians role - then we can act as an entertainer, "cheater" a little like a magician or a hybrid in between - I just happens to believe that the spectator really wanted to experience magic - so I try to act accordingly (as a gentleman that is). As for the gentleman I can play the role, as for the magician - to play that role and making magic become real - thats a life long journey and I love every step. Sometimes I manage to make 1 trick real magic and I can see the impact - of course I'm striving to make my hole act magical - and thats a challenge.

That was a little long, but hey, thats what I believe in.
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Postby Guest » 06/30/05 09:19 AM

Originally posted by Nathan Coe Marsh:
You are right that Hollingworth's pause is comic (and entertaining)...but it is still an anti-contrasting parenthesis and therefore it still dilutes the impact of the magic
Are you sure you are not merely clinging too indiscriminately to one particular aspect of theory? I don't think that a dramatic pause (for whatever reason) is always an "anti-contrasting parenthesis" that "dilutes the impact of the magic." I don't support the use of theory to try to paint all real world situations as absolutes. There are no hard and fast rules in magic or any other art form. Just as there are valid rules that apply to most situations, there are great artists who can break those rules to good effect when they know what they are doing and why.

I just watched Tommy Wonder's ACR routine that L & L has just put out on a free promotional DVD. Technically his ACR is no better than anybody else's, but his showmanship is quite impressive. And you get to see an example of how effective such an after-the-fact pause can be. You don't see any of his audience members complaining about an "anti-climactic parenthesis."
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Postby Guest » 06/30/05 10:44 AM

Originally posted by Vraagaard:
This is my concept, if you want to perform magic then perform magic for real - act as a magician. If we can't overcome our guilt of cheating or for some other reason feel awkward about playing the magicians role - then we can act as an entertainer, "cheater" a little like a magician or a hybrid in between - I just happens to believe that the spectator really wanted to experience magic - so I try to act accordingly (as a gentleman that is). As for the gentleman I can play the role, as for the magician - to play that role and making magic become real - thats a life long journey and I love every step. Sometimes I manage to make 1 trick real magic and I can see the impact - of course I'm striving to make my hole act magical - and thats a challenge.
I can see your point. But it's not "guilt" so much that I personally shy away from acting like it's "real magic," with the "if I just snap my fingers" magical gestures, etc. I minimize the magical gesture stuff not because I feel guilty that it's not true, but because A. It is all so horribly cliched, and B. the expectation of today's audiences are different than they were a hundred, fifty, or even ten years ago. People don't "believe" in mystical, magical things today like they did in previous times. And it gets a little patronizing to have some goofy magician trying to make them pretend. They are going for that sense of astonishment, to knowingly be fooled in an entertaining way, and for a good theatrical release. So my approach is I'll do the "magical gesture" or the "magical pause" (as is the case in point) if there is a specific structural or thematic reason to do so, but not mechanically or "just because." Because I think great effects well present usually don't need to rely on that tired habit. "There needs to be a moment when the magic happens" is not a very well thought-out theoretical stance, and it is too weak of a justification to fall back on the stupid, habitual snap my fingers, wave my magic wand cliches.

For instance, in Twisting the Aces the "magical" motion of twisting the packet around like that is beautiful because it fits so perfectly with the theme of the trick, and helps the sense of theater. But you don't have to play it straight like it's a magical gesture. You can just do it and let the power of the effect itself work on the audience, and let them draw their own conclusions about it. Ultimately, that is what great art does anyway. It does not tell the audience what to think (i.e., "real magic" is happening in that instance), but rather it draws them in, resonates with them, and they have their OWN response to the performance.

I think the "real magic" stuff works with kids, but with adults today in the U.S., it just gets a little patronizing. Magicians, like all artists and performers, need to rethink old habits to see if they are still relevant.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 06/30/05 11:25 AM

Originally posted by scorch:
... Magicians, like all artists and performers, need to rethink old habits to see if they are still relevant.
Have you seen someone's eyes light up when you take a squeeker and touch your pen with your other hand? There is the magic. Go with it.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/30/05 11:27 AM

Scorch,

Where have I claimed that a dramatic pause is an anti-contrasting parenthesis? The pauses that are under discussion (Jennings and Hollingworth in specific videotaped performances) are not dramatic or emotionally engaging.

Further, by the nature of what we do (see my response below to Denis) anti-contrasting parenthesis -- on some level -- are always present in our work (cf. the tension between anti-contrasting parentheses and parentheses of forgetfulness in Ascanio's writing). This doesn't mean that that we accept their presence, we must work to eliminate them to the greatest degree possible.

You mention Tommy Wonder's Ambitious Card...one of the reasons that his routine is as powerful as it is is the way that he has worked to eliminate anti-contrasting parentheses...a great example of this is the face-up phase of the routine...Wonder cleanly puts the card into the deck face-up...now he needs a laugh line to cover the pass -- thus inserting a potential anti-contrasting parenthesis...Wonder now shows the top and second to top cards of the deck -- re-establishing the initial condition -- and then immediately reveals the final condition...isolating the moment of magic

Wonder could have shifted the face-up card directly to the top of the deck just as easily...but the impact would have been far diluted..the joke would be inserted between the last show of the initial condition and the first display of the final condition...by choosing to have it travel second from the top via the paint-brush change Tommy has chosen an approach that, among other things, allows the moment of magic to stand out in high relief

Tommy's performance in this video also illustrates the difference between the expert use of the dramatic pause and the empty pause of Jennings' performance. Tommy doesn't just sit back and count off an arbitrary number, he is riding the wave of expectation created in the particular audience that is in front of him. He lets expectation reach its highest and most intense point, and then -- and not a second later -- he reveals the climax.

Now, is there tension between the uses of the pregnant pause and the crisp streamlining of an effect to eliminate anti-contrasting parentheses? Absolutely. But both are tools that, when thoughtfully applied, enhance the experience of magic...an effective performer will use both at different times -- consciously choosing the one that works best for the particular act of magic in question.

best,
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Postby Curtis Kam » 06/30/05 02:41 PM

Those of us who were lucky enough to spend time with Larry Jennings, and even to have discussed this very routine with him, know that he was a most thoughtful performer and as deeply concerned with the presentational aspects of performance as he was with the mechanics. I can assure you that the long pause in the O & W routine was neither "arbitrary" nor "empty", despite Mr. Marsh's claims to the contrary.

The pause was intended to be, and was, "dramatic". This is as one would expect, since, (again contrary to Mr. Marsh's opinion) Larry Jennings was an "effective performer" who, after a lifetime of experience in entertaining with card magic, made the "conscious" choice to pause that long, at that moment. In so doing, he expressed himself as a performer, lent gravitas to what can easily be mistaken for trivial, and as Darwin Ortiz is wont to say, "made them care, then made them wait."

If that pause seemed a little long to you, Mr. Marsh, so be it. You would not, or perhaps could not, have held the audience's attention as long. That does not mean that Larry Jennings' presentation was as thoughtless, arbitrary, empty and ineffective as you seem to assume.
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Postby Denis Behr » 06/30/05 03:02 PM

Originally posted by Nathan Coe Marsh:
(see my response below to Denis)
Did I miss it or was it the last paragraph?
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Postby Guest » 06/30/05 03:22 PM

Maybe an extra long anti-climatic parenthesis?
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Postby Guest » 06/30/05 03:28 PM

Nathan,

Which of Ascanio's writings discusses the theory that you're referring to? Maybe if I can read it myself I can understand more exactly what you're referring to (and in doing so, I'll probably just end up agreeing with you).
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/30/05 03:36 PM

Curtis,

I have a tremendous respect for the work of Larry Jennings -- this does not mean that I agree with every decision that he made in every piece that he performed.

Our experiences as audience members are deeply subjective. There is no way for both of us to watch the same performance and know that we are experiencing the same thing. All I know, is that in watching Larry perform this particular piece on this SINGLE occasion I definitely waited...but I did not care...

This pause was certainly a conscious choice of Larry's -- I have never argued otherwise. I have argued -- and I believe with good reason -- that in this context it may be an incorrect choice.

I make this argument not to denigrate a past master -- but to try to understand the difference between what is working and what isn't, as determined by the most fundamental tool availible to me: my response as a sensitive audience member...

Larry Jennings was an extremely thoughtful performer who produced very elegant magic. I, personally, owe a tremendous amount to him. To presume, however, that we ought to only learn from the successes of the dead masters is to render impotent the real force of their experience and genius.

Implicit in Mr. Kam's post are two inductions that I vigorously deny:

1. I believe that the length and manner of Larry's pause was a mistake, therefore I believe that he is a "thoughtless" and "ineffective performer." Of course not!

2. Larry's pause made me wait, but did not make me care; therefore I must not be able to hold an audience for 5-6 seconds. Again, the argument is destroyed upon being made explicit.

William Harvey in Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus, 1628 (trans. Kenneth Franklin):

For true philosphers...never find themselves so sage or so full of wisdom or so abounding in perception but that they cede place to truth from whomsoever or whensoever it comes. Nor are they so narrow-minded as to believe that our forebears have passed on to us any skill or knowledge so complete in all respects and perfect that nothing is left for the industry and diligence of others to accomplish
To only learn from the successes of the dead is to kill progress. Human achievement is made possible by the eternal conversation between the living and the dead across centuries. This occassionally means, unfortunately, contradicting geniuses.

In order to understand who we are, we often have to define ourselves in opposition to those who have come before. This is what forces us to confront the fundamental questions. "I believe that this choice is wrong...but why? What does that say about what I, Nathan Marsh, believe that magic is and how I ought to construct my magic to conform to those goals."

It is precisely because those who have come before us have worked so hard with such tremendous gifts that, when we find ourselves in opposition to them, it frequently brings out the best within us.

In the millenia that separate us from him, much of Aristotle's thinking about the natural world has been convincingly refuted. Nonetheless, his genius far outshines that of the vast majority that have contradicted him. Without being forced to oppose thought of such quality and depth, those who came to oppose his views would never have reached the heights that they have. They all stand firmly upon his shoulders and, with a tiny number of exceptions, his work is far more worthy of our time than theirs.

I did not, unfortunately, have the oppurtunity to spend time with Larry...but I do find some hints in the work that he has left behind that such a view of progress wouldn't be terribly incommensurable with his own. For example, he was more than comfortable in pointing out (in a book about Vernon no less (Vernon Chronicles I)) that he felt that Vernon was reading quite a bit into Erdnase that was never intended. Given this, I think he may have been amenable to the view that we can disagree without believing that the parties with whom we disagree are "thoughtless" or "ineffective."

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Postby NCMarsh » 06/30/05 03:37 PM

Denis,

Did I miss it or was it the last paragraph?
It's still in my word processor -- you've raised some important questions and I don't want to throw out a casual reply.

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Postby NCMarsh » 06/30/05 03:44 PM

Nathan,

Which of Ascanio's writings discusses the theory that you're referring to? Maybe if I can read it myself I can understand more exactly what you're referring to (and in doing so, I'll probably just end up agreeing with you).
The Structural Concept of Magic...it has been recently translated into English and is availible from many dealers -- it is also an EXTRAORDINARY work...

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