Strong Magic

Discuss your favorite books, authors, and tricks from Kaufman and Company.

Postby Steve Vaught » 11/30/02 08:57 AM

I have a COMPLAINT!!! This book is keeping me UP AT NIGHT!! I NEED MY SLEEP!! WHY are you publishing A book that conjures up such an insatiable desire to sit for hours imbuing each word, dripping with a better understanding of our art.
...OK this book Mr. Ortiz mentions "Endless Chain" and "Spelling Lesson". I am not familiar with either of these. Where can I go to get information on these effects?

Thank You,
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Postby Terry » 11/30/02 07:33 PM

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Postby Guest » 12/07/02 05:35 PM

I quite like this book too. Lots of well thought out advice on the real secrets of magic.

I go along with most of the book although I don't think it is perfect.

For one thing I wish there had been less derogatory digs at well known and in some cases legendary figures in magic. This lowered the tone and dignity of the book. There is such a thing as respect and I do think this was missing.

Another thing I wasn't keen on was the advice on handling of hecklers.
I felt that the psychology was bad. It is not a good idea to ignore or turn a deaf ear to the problem. "Turning on your deaf aid" I think Darwin termed it.This only makes matters worse.

There is a much cleverer way of handling this sort of thing. It takes ingenuity and a nimble mind coupled with a basic knowledge of psychology.
It is a much more difficult method than Darwin's
and takes a bit of skill. However the results are extremely beneficial and can turn the pest into an asset. Indeed he can turn out to be your best booster.

It would take too much space to explain what I have in mind and certainly takes a bit of practice and experience in handling people.

I think that one of the most overlooked things in close up magic is manipulating the people not the cards or coins etc;

If you can sum up the characters of individuals in your close up audiences and comprehend how their minds work you can apply your work to fit the sort of people you are working to. With a laughing fun person you can work in one way, with a quiet analytical person you work another way and of course with a heckler you have to work in another way still.

It gets a bit tricky (no pun intended!) when you have an assortment of these types in your group,as you surely will.

Nevertheless you work around this playing one person off against the other. It is a kind of cold reading the spectators without telling anyone's fortune.

It is never mentioned in magic books but I believe this is the REAL secret of being a good close up magician.

Please excuse my pontificating. I got carried away.

So endeth my sermon.

Postby Guest » 12/07/02 10:38 PM

Card trickster:

Please do continue; based on the bits of information and scattered throughout your well written posts, I'm betting you have some sound information to share based on more than book learnin'.

--Randy Campbell

Postby Terry » 12/08/02 06:24 AM

Both Don Alan and Eugene Burger address the "heckler" situation. Mr. Alan on his Steven's video and Mr. Burger in 'Mastering the Art of Magic' pg 31.

Card trickster gives some thought provoking ideas. Could the response to a heckler be dependent on the working environment? You may have a more "playful" clientel in a bar situation than a corporate dinner party?
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Postby Guest » 12/08/02 10:53 AM

Strong Magic is indeed a gem! I'm in the midst of reading it for the second time and I'll mostly re-read it several times over. It's one of those things that you have to consume slowly in order to fully appreciate. While I don't subscribe to everything Darwin says in the book, it does make you think about your magic. In my opinion, this is a must have for everyone who does close-up. Reading this book has made me a fan of Mr. Ortiz. Not comparing the two books, has anyone read Jamy's new book, Shattering Illusions? It's a killer! This too is a must read.


Postby Guest » 12/08/02 11:00 AM

Card Trickster,
Very good point! Richard, have you ever included an article in Genii about several ways on dealing with hecklers? I think it would make an interesting read. Perhaps getting comments from several top pros discussing methods of dealing with difficult crowds, hecklers, drunks, etc.. I'm sure most of us have had this experience at one time or another. I'm sure some of us have handled the situation very well and some us may not have. Just a thought.


Postby Bill Duncan » 12/08/02 02:47 PM

Here's another vote for an article about how various pros handle hecklers. The article about pros favorite "unknown" effect was a treat but this could be a really valuable article. More than worth the price of a subscription! :)

I still recall, almost twenty years ago, reading John Mendoza's book on theory Close Up Presentation. When I got to the section on handling hecklers I kept expecting him to turn it around and say "That's how you'd like to treat hecklers but here's how a pro handles the situation." but he didn't.

I was so offended that I sold my copy of The Book Of John
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Postby Guest » 12/08/02 08:15 PM

I think it would be a wonderful topic of discussion. I bet beginners would find it of particular value since I suspect they get more heckling than anyone else for various reasons and I am not necessarily referring to competence or lack of it.

I would certainly be intrigued to read Don Alan's and Eugene Burgers thoughts on the subject. I must confess that I have no idea what they are. I suspect, though that Alan's approach may have been a bit more aggressive than Burger's. I have no idea though so I had better stay quiet until I actually read what they have to say.

As explained, I have my own ideas on the subject but it would take far too much space up to explain. I will just say that it is based on disarming the heckler. Not just hecklers, either.

There is a "defensive resentment" factor in every member of an audience watching a magician. Some people manifest this characteristic more aggressively than others. Even in the person who is laughing and enjoying your work the factor is still present although to a lesser degree. The heckler is the other extreme and displays his "defensive resentment" more openly.

I will just say one thing. A lot of magicians encourage heckling by the arrogant attitude they display when they work. Sometimes prevention is better than cure.
Still, I have no time to go into detail. I would end up writing a book here if I get started on the matter.

Terry is 100% correct about different performing situations requring different techniques. I am mainly referring to impromptu close up magic but also to formal paid close up to a degree. Slightly different handling here because in a paid situation time tends to be of the essence.

When I was younger I used to perform in the roughest places imaginable. I used to do a cabaret act consisting of nothing but card tricks.
The venues were rough tough British clubs where you would be lucky to even get anyone watching you.Anyone that has worked these places will tell you how hard they were. Thankfully, I believe they have mostly died out now.

Full of drunks and hecklers. I handled them too gently at the time. Nowadays I would be a lot more aggressive.

However, this is for the stand up situation rather than the close up one. For close up work I am utterly convinced that the soft way is the route to go. Cunning rather than confrontation. I don't believe in ignoring the problem as Darwin proposes. If you do that people are aware that the problem exists and there is a tense performing situation.

To finish this I must relate to you a little conversation I heard involving Paul Daniels at a magic convention.
Paul had a little group around him hanging on to his every word. He was giving very valuable advice about this very subject.
I remember Ali Bongo on the outside of the crowd running around like a demented hen being highly displeased with Paul spilling the beans.
"Why is he telling people all this good stuff" Ali was lamenting.

Pauls advice as far as I remember was this (and bear in mind he was talking about these rough places that I referred to earlier) "Don't do what the books say and let them have a go at you a couple of times before responding. If you don't nip the problem in the bud at the very beginning they will all descend on you like a pack of wolves and tear you apart. You cannot show weakness. If you do they will sense blood." Of course these were not his exact words but it was something like that. He then went on to say that when he did the Chop Cup in cabaret (Yes, he did it in his stand up act!) various inebriates would shout out "you've got two balls!" Paul would then reply "How many have YOU got, superman?"

Hardly art but effective. Great advice for people that work in those venues. In North America I must say that audiences are much more polite although there will be exceptions.

Of course when you work stand up you have a microphone. No heckler can compete against you if you are the one holding the mike.

I remember Al Koran told me that if he didn't like the audience he would cut his act short and just walk off stage and leave them there. I did not find this advice helpful.

Again, I am not advocating the Paul Daniels approach for close up magic.This is a rough crowd cabaret approach.

Close up is different. Here I prefer to use the velvet glove rather than the bludgeon.

I had better stop otherwise this will indeed turn into a book. Or a chapter anyway.


Postby Guest » 12/09/02 10:03 AM

Card Trickster:

Write the book. I'll buy it.

--Randy Campbell

P.S. Better yet, contribute or write the article for Genii !

Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/09/02 10:20 AM

I'd love to print a good article about heckler control in Genii, but it would be tough to generalize in any way since each response would have to be based on the particular heckler's actions and suited to the individual performer's style.
On another note, even though I published Strong Magic, I strongly disagree with quite a bit of its content. It seems to be to be a book that is designed to teach people with no performing ability whatsoever how to reach a minimum level of acceptable performance. That is a laudable goal, and of use to many people.
Any person with talent and personality would do well to avoid most of the suggestions in Strong Magic.
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Postby Guest » 12/09/02 02:26 PM

I am amused to see a publisher giving a semi denunciation of his own book! Have you fallen out with Darwin lately?

I don't think the book is necessarily for people with "no performing ability whatsoever". Quite the opposite, in fact. I would imagine the people that would get the most out of it would be the people who DO perform well. They would appreciate the nuances better than the inexperienced.

I do have a couple of minor reservations which I have already mentioned. However, by and large it is a wonderful book and Richard should be proud he published it.

With regard to heckling I would think that the best protection is your own competence. After all, if you do your stuff well there is less opportunity for interruption. If you perform fluently and as if you know what you are doing it will tend to dissuade the pest from tormenting you. Everyone likes to watch a master at work, even the heckler. If you are exciting and entertaining this will often be enough to quell mutinous spectators. On the other hand, if you are ill at ease and awkward, not only will you cause the audience to experience the same feelings, you will be inviting trouble, as sure as the sun rises in the east.

Your attitude is all important; if you are humble you will tend to make people like you and the more people like you the less heckling you will experience. Conversely if you are arrogant and superior when you work, you will attract confrontation like a magnet and well you will deserve it.

Contrary to what you might expect, a little heckling is good for you. It keeps you alert, on your toes and teaches you not to be too complacent. It will encourage you to practice; when the loud mouth says "I saw you switch that card" he's actually doing you a favour. Maybe you'll practice so hard that next time he won't see you switch it.

Anyway, you have a trump card. I will save it for another time.

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 12/09/02 03:24 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Any person with talent and personality would do well to avoid most of the suggestions in Strong Magic.

From the back cover:
Juan Tamariz says: "The book is readable, it's extremely clear, it's meaty, it's thrilling in it's intellectual adventure. And it's also, clearly, enormously practical. It makes you think. It enriches you as an artist (and therefore as a human being)."

David Williamson says: "A wonderful, wonderful book filled with practical advice. It should be every serious close-up worker's next purchase."

Paul Gertner says: "A thought-provoking analysis of the performance of close-up magic. Just reading it was motivating. I incorporated some of Darwin's suggestions into my presentations the same day I read them. Highly recommended to the serious student of close-up magic."

David Roth says: "A truly wonderful book about the technique of presentation. A fitting sequel to the Maskelyne and Devant classic
Our Magic. Every magician should read it."

Michael Skinner says: "Darwin Ortiz, on of my favorite performers, has done it again. This time, he has captured the essence of creative showmanship for magicians."

John Carney says: "At last, an open and frank discussion on the performance of close-up magic. Serious close-up performers should welcome this book with open arms. Study and learn."

Bob Read says: "I found your book fascinating -- but more important, bloody useful. I'd far rather know how to make my one card trick ten times more effective than learn ten new card tricks."

I'm curious these folks, who find the book practical, "bloody useful", and who have incorporated some of Darwin's ideas into their perfomances, have no talent or personality?

Also, I have never seen you perform, and I don't know how much experience you have performing, but I from what I understand, most of your career in magic has been spent writing and publishing -- worthwile contributions, to be sure, but not really something that lends itself to real knowledge on the performance aspects of magic.

Personally, I think there's a lot of good info in there. Darwin raises a lot of good questions, and when he gives his answers, he makes sure to note that they are just that -- HIS. Each reader is encouraged to think about the issues raised in the book and find their own answers.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/09/02 03:46 PM

I would be surprised if any of the people quoted on the back of the book actually read the entire book. Usually in those sorts of circumstances one calls upon one's friends for good quotes.
You don't seriously think that anyone quoted on the back of Strong Magic read the book and actually changed anything they do based upon its contents, do you? These are all professional people whose performing personas and styles are already completely formed.
By the way, I don't always agree with the contents of every book I've published written by someone else. I'm in business, and my business is to publish books I think will sell while maintaining some shred of dignity.
Whether I have been a professional magician or not is beyond the point: I have spent my entire life dissecting magic and magicians, finding out what makes them tick, analyzing it, and explaining it to others.
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Postby Guest » 12/09/02 04:37 PM

I like Strong Magic, and consider it a vital and important book on developing and understanding performing magic. It is not Scripture, however.

I like Richard Kaufman's descriptions, interpretations, illustrations, and profiles of magic, magicians, methods, and performance, and consider him a revolutionary force in the publication of magic books. His are not the Stone Tablets, however.

I believe rendering Darwin Ortiz's 350 page scholarly treatise on the art of performing magic as
a book that is designed to teach people with no performing ability whatsoever how to reach a minimum level of acceptable performance
is an absurd synopsis; Reductio ad absurdum. Darwin also has
spent [his] entire life dissecting magic and magicians, finding out what makes them tick, analyzing it, and explaining it to others
and is also an esteemed artist and author.

I would welcome (and buy) the Richard Kaufman rebuttal to Strong Magic.

--Randy Campbell

P.S. Richard, I will continue to believe the quotes on the back of all your books, no matter what you say.

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 12/09/02 06:30 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I would be surprised if any of the people quoted on the back of the book actually read the entire book. Usually in those sorts of circumstances one calls upon one's friends for good quotes.
Sure, you're gonna get your friends to give quotes for your book. If I was publishing a book, I'd do the same. If someone asked me for a quote, however, I know that I, personally, would actually read the book I'm supposed ot be commenting upon.

You don't seriously think that anyone quoted on the back of Strong Magic read the book and actually changed anything they do based upon its contents, do you? These are all professional people whose performing personas and styles are already completely formed.
They may have well-established personas, but I don't think that a persona will ever be completely formed. Good performers are constantly examining their material and looking for improvements. They are looking for better ways to express themselves and find new ways convey their character to the audience. A good performer will never stop learning.

Also, Paul Gertner specifically stated that he incorporated some of Darwin's suggestions immediately. So yes, I do think that he, at least, changed something he did based upon the contents of Strong Magic.

By the way, I don't always agree with the contents of every book I've published written by someone else. I'm in business, and my business is to publish books I think will sell while maintaining some shred of dignity.
I don't expect you to agree with everything you publish, because you are publishing the material and ideas of others. The only person any of us needs to agree with is ourselves. We may be influenced by the thoughts and ideas of others, but ultimately, it is up to us to decide what we do and do not agree with. Books like Strong Magic are (in my opinion) simply guideposts, giving us things to think about and figure out our own answers.

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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 12/09/02 06:38 PM

Originally posted by Jim Maloney:
They may have well-established personas, but I don't think that a persona will ever be completely formed. Good performers are constantly examining their material and looking for improvements. They are looking for better ways to express themselves and find new ways convey their character to the audience. A good performer will never stop learning.
On the other hand...(here I go, talking to myself!)

Just because they have established personas, doesn't mean that they don't recognize good, practical ideas when they see them. They may not have implemented anything in the book, but that doesn't necessarily say anything. Maybe, in the process of developing their own characters and material, they have already utilized a lot of the ideas in the book. Maybe a book like this one would have helped them in their journey to discover their performing characters. I don't know. I do know that I respect all of the performers listed on the back of the book, the author, and the publisher. And I don't think any of them would put their name on something that had little or no value to the general magic public.

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Postby Pete McCabe » 12/09/02 06:54 PM

I think I read something about how a few years ago, Paul Gertner stepped back and took a long hard look at his magic, his performing style, etc., and decided to make some very fundamental changes. I believe this was related to the development of his "Ten Fingers" show.

I'm pretty sure I read this in Genii, in one of Richard's columns.

So, while it may not be an everyday occurence, even a very successful performer can decide to change on a very deep level.

I enjoyed reading Strong Magic but have not found myself refering back to it. To me it's full of a lot of great advice which is, if you approach magic as a branch of the entertainment business, will be really pretty obvious (Don't insult your audience, be professional, work diligently to improve every minute detail of your performance, etc.).

This is not to diminish Darwin's contribution; it's more a reflection of the rather low level of so much of magic that Strong Magic would be considered revolutionary.

Strong Magic is best at helping you see some of the really bad things that are so common in magic, so you can elevate your magic by eliminating them. (To pick an obvious example, the hot rod force).

It's also very good at helping aspiring magicians get a sense of the enormous possibilities magic offers, so they are not limited to the overwhelmingly mundane possibilities that so much of magic is content to explore.

So, while I don't doubt Juan Tamariz agrees with what Strong Magic is saying, I think Juan already knew it, whether he read the whole book or not.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 12/09/02 07:35 PM

Wow... this is a really depressing thread on so many levels.

First, I liked the book. I, also, couldn't put it down when I first read it. I liked the questions it posed... the way it made me think. Coming from a theatrical background, I relished the therories of linking magic with dramatic structure and principles, an idea that may be tired knowledge with seasoned professionals, but is not touted in magic shops, clubs or many lectures.

Second, to have a publisher trash one of his own books so harshly makes me think the whole industry is a complete sham or there is something going on between Mr. Kaufman and Mr. Ortiz. Why spend so much time and money and effort on something you believe is crap?

Third, the quotes on the back. I'm not a rube that just fell off the turnip truck, but is it true that all of the supportive quotes on magic books are completely made up? A total fabrication? I know dealer ads exaggerate (lie), and qoutes on books aren't going to be NY Times reviews, but come on!

I just read Harvey Rosenthal's intro to Jennings 67... is that a lie? What are we to believe?

How sad.... :(
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/09/02 08:12 PM

My feelings about Strong Magic have been no secret to my friends since the day it was published.
If you know a publisher who thinks every one of his books is superb, then you know a publisher who hasn't published a book!
When a publisher has an author under contract, the publisher is obligated to publish any book the author brings to him in order to keep him under contract. I published Strong Magic in order to get Card Shark. As it turned out, Strong Magic has far outsold Card Shark.
I like Darwin Ortiz' tricks very much and am very proud of both Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table and Card Shark. I'm sure his new book is very good. His ideas and theory about the construction of card tricks is excellent, but his ideas and theory about the performance of magic are best applied only by those with limited natural performing ability.
As far as the quotes on the back of Strong Magic go, the author will often send a draft of the book, or just a few chapters, to someone he wants a quote from. The performer, who really has little free time (like most of us), will usually read only a part of the manuscript. This is standard practice. (And in the "real" publishing world, those quotes will frequently come from other authors under contract to the same publisher.)
Frankly, I don't see what the quotes on the back of Strong Magic have to do with Harvey Rosenthal's introduction to Jennings '67. It is possible, of course, and it has happened, that introductions have been written by people who have never seen any of the book they are introducing, but they are acquainted with the person who has written the book, and the expertise of that person.
There's nothing sad about it--that's the way business works.
As someone who has been through the rigors of an acting conservatory and trained in the professional theater, and who has performed many thousands of hours of close-up magic (though not in paying venues), I found most of Darwin's ideas in Strong Magic antithetical to the performance of good magic.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/09/02 08:24 PM

While I don't agree with everything Richard has said, I'd like to point out an interesting anecdote regarding one of Mr. Ortiz's "case studies" from the book:

While I was reading it, I was delighted to come across a (positive) case study that focused on a good friend's routine. I read it and found it to be an interesting piece of in-depth analysis: why the creator of the routine did this and why he did that, etc. I called my friend and asked him if he knew that he was part of Strong Magic. He was not aware of the fact, so I read to him Mr. Ortiz's analysis of the routine. My friend said, "Hmmm; I just thought it was funny."

I liked Strong Magic. I thought it was a very well written book, whether or not I agreed with everything Ortiz wrote (I don't believe that he expects everyone to agree 100% with him). Its strength, however, lies not in its contents: It lies in the fact that it makes you think about your magic beyond its mechanics. I think that is a most admirable quality for a book to have.

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Postby Guest » 12/09/02 08:51 PM

Dang, Richard, it says you've posted 1900 times!

No wonder "Jennings Takes It Easy" is still on the boards.

And of course there's that little project called "Genii" and the other little project called "Emma."

-- Another Emma's Dad

Oh, and D: Don't forget, genius often doesn't recognise itself; describing a great performer's instincts, the complete workings and analysis of success, will no doubt be prolix.

Postby Dave Egleston » 12/09/02 09:27 PM

First of all: I don't like when someone tries to be dumber than me!
A testimonial is different than a forward/introduction. Read the testimonials of some of the 2nd level novels being written today - You'll see authors like King - Clancy - Grisham - "talking" about new authors we've never heard of but I'm sure you'll see a monetary interest in the book their talking about -

Mr Kaufman doesn't run a nonprofit bleeding heart corporation - This is a common belief held by many people who see a person in charge of an entertainment or "Hobby" driven industry - We are trying not to lose our butts doing something we love - If that means publishing a book with contents that are opposed to the publishers opinion - There's the mortgage
Think for just a moment - It's a book of opinions - one person's opinion - if it were everyone's opinion - kind of a waste of time to write it

Mr Stinett writes about one of his friends routines being showcased in STRONG MAGIC - Mr Ortiz carefully dissected it came up with several little nuggets that he believed this performer put into the construction of his routine - And the performer snickered and said - he just thought it was funny (I believe he meant the routine)- I believe this speaks to Mr Kaufman's statement about natural acting ability.

I've read STRONG MAGIC and think there are many salient points worth considering for a person like me - A Stanislowski student? probably not.

And if we get in a real rut about performing - There's always Ronnie B.

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Postby Bill Duncan » 12/09/02 11:58 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I published Strong Magic in order to get Card Shark. As it turned out, Strong Magic has far outsold Card Shark.
...but his ideas and theory about the performance of magic are best applied only by those with limited natural performing ability.
Well, both of those things make a great deal of sense, in hindsight. Most consumers of magic books aren't professional performers and most don't really need to learn any new tricks. So since Card Shark is full of tricks and Strong Magic is full of advise it seems that consumers are buying what they need. That in and of itself seems pretty amazing.

Further, since most magic book consumers aren't schooled in theatrics and most people don't have "natural performing ability" it follows that Strong Magic is a better value in that it provides what those consumers need, and perhaps want.

I found Strong Magic to be a worthwhile investment of my time. It was more interesting to read than Magic And Showmanship and nearly as useful.
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Postby Randy Naviaux » 12/10/02 02:05 AM

Dear all,

Being an unknown in the magic world and having what I consider to be no real natural talent leads me to the conclusion that I should say something:)

When I finished reading 'Strong Magic' it became clear to me that what Mr. Ortiz was doing was providing tools to carry out one mission: Take out what did not contribute to the effect and put in what did. (The 'effect' being whatever message you were trying to communicate; and hopefully trying to communicate in an artful way.)

As such this book was perfect for me. If I was a full-fledged professional I'd probably not only know these rules but also how to succesfully break them.

Mr. Kaufman - I don't see how your comments helps the fraternity. If you feel this book is only helpful to individuals whom have sub-par performing skills so be it. (But it makes me feel rather stupid to be told so by one of the individuals that I have looked up to for many years.)

Look at it this way: Any person recommending this book is basically saying that your skills are so in need of help that even this book could at least help you to get to the bare minimum but no further.

If I had read your comments first I probably would not have bothered reading it. (It was recommended to me by Paul Vigil of "Show me your t!&s" fame.) His performing skills are top notch in my humble opinion.

I'm going astray here. You are a heavyweight in our industry and should take care in what you say. As everyone's mama says, "If you don't have anything nice to say then keep your darn trap shut!"


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Postby pduffie » 12/10/02 03:28 AM

To wonder why Richard published a book that he considered below par, is not to understand publishers and their contracts.

When Darwin signed a contract with Richard, he would have legally committed himself to offer Richard first refusal on his next book. If Richard had refused to publish Strong Magic, Darwin would have been free to take it to another publisher.

Then, the new publisher would have Darwin sign a similar contract, thus securing the rights to first refusal on Darwin's next book - in this case Card Shark.

It's interesting that Strong Magic received truly negative reviews in all major magazines at the time of publication. Some of these reviews appeared deliberately vindictive to me. Nonetheless, a good review was a rarity. So rare, I don't remember reading one.

Personally, I felt the book was interesting. It did not deserve the trashing it received from magazine critics. But I fail to understand why some people consider it a classic work.

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Postby Guest » 12/10/02 05:46 AM

Strong Magic is my favorite book hands down. I think it is filled with practical advice for the working magician.

Although at the time of the quotes, it is likely that the magicians that were quoted only read part of the manuscript but I do know that many many magicians have read the entire book since it has been published and have complimented Darwin on his work.

I don't agree with 100% of what he says because my style of performance differs from Darwin's. (I also have different views on handling hecklers but I have had experience in doing this when I did comedy and when I played in bands in college), however I found his book to be a great guideline for my own routines. I learned quite a bit from Strong Magic and I am confident that my magic is much better than it was before reading the book.

I also believe that some of the reviews that trashed the book did so out of pure jealousy. I also did not care what some of the magic critics thought anyway because in the same breath, they would praise books that would be better suited as bathroom stock (although Charmin is more absorbent). Needless to say, I am not necessarily interested in adopting their standards.

Some people didn't like it because they took criticisms personally.

Although I have had plenty of experience entertaining people in other avenues (like music), I believe that Darwin's book contains some of the best advice given in making your magic strong enough to entertain an audience.

Granted it may not be for everyone.

Postby Guest » 12/10/02 12:57 PM

I know what Richard is up to. I see through it with my great insight and perspicacity. I don't know what perspicacity means either but I wanted to use a big word to sound intellectual.

Richard has made derogatory remarks about his own book so that you will all comment and argue about it thus drawing attention to it and he can sell even more. Those people who do not have the book will now buy it to see what the fuss is about.

I have a suspicion that if the author was anonymous the book would get better reviews. I am beginning to suspect a personality issue here.

I must admit that I have not read the book as thoroughly as I should. However, what I have read seems to make perfect sense. There is a slightly arrogant tone throughout the work which can put the reader's back up a little. However, that is no concern of mine. I am only interested in the information that is imparted.

The information seems to be very good indeed and in some cases even excellent.

Since this fuss started I thought I would go back and have a closer look at the book. I do believe it is an important work.

Perhaps it would be a little easier to appreciate Richard's point of view if he would state a few of the specific points on which he disagrees with the book.

That should engender a bit more fuss and I think it will help sales a bit. Just trying to help.

Since I am in a nitpicking mood I did look at the patter that Darwin uses in one of his tricks, I think the homing card thing.It was there in the book.

It did seem a bit long winded. I have often thought that you can overpresent a trick as well as underpresent it. I have an intuitive feeling that if the words were cut in half and the action happening a bit more rapidly the trick would be strengthened. Still, what do I know?

I have not written a classic book on presentation
as I believe Darwin has despite my nitpicking about his longwinded patter.

I am merely pontificating here on an internet newsgroup. Talking about being long winded I had better stop now. I am becoming a bit like Darwin Ortiz.

Postby Guest » 12/10/02 01:12 PM

Actually I have seen Darwin present his version of the Homing Card and it plays very well, and it definitely doesn't seem like it is as long as it reads. He also performs the effect very well. His cardwork is coming along quite nicely.

"I am beginning to suspect a personality issue here."

I agree wholeheartedly. This unfortunately seems to play a part in some of the reviews.

I think you will find more value in Strong Magic than you will from the majority of the books out there. Even if you don't agree with Darwin, you will have a better understanding why you don't agree.

Postby Guest » 12/10/02 01:46 PM

You are probably right. I have heard that he goes over very well when he works.

I think the overuse of words tends to be an American thing. No disrespect, of course but I have noticed that American performers tend to be a bit more wordy than their UK counterparts. In fact this was actually pointed out to me by a legendary old variety performer who was a headliner in the old days.

One thing that did amuse me in the book was Darwin's arguing with extracts from Michael Close's published opinions. I suspect Darwin was quoting out of context but the gist of the argument was this. Michael was saying that the performer should really be in the background and let the magic speak for itself. I call this the "window theory" In other words a good window doesn't draw attention to itself-it just lets the light in.

Darwin did not agree with this at all. He believed
(as I do) that the personality and persona was the more important thing to emphasise.

I am not here to argue the various sides of this debate. I am simply here to record my amusement that neither performer practises exactly what they preach.
Michael seems to emphasise himself more than the trick and Darwin seems to emphasise the trick first and foremost.

In other words both of them adopt the other's position and don't follow their own advice particularly!

Still, that is the privilege of writing books.
Perhaps I should write one of my own. I could then advise without having to actually follow any of my own advice!

That is why books are better than videos. You can get away with not having to practice what you preach!

Postby Pete Biro » 12/10/02 02:22 PM

I haven't read the book and probably will not.

However, I do believe it is ALL THE PERFORMER. (Speaking of magic for laymen)...

A great case in point was the Dealer Shows put on by Karrell Fox and Duke Stern at Abbott's.

They could take ANY TRICK and fiddle with it a few minutes and PRESENT IT in an very entertaining way... because they were very funny, naturally funny, guys.

Close up, to me is the same way. I used to, but don't anymore, worry about fooling magicians. Now I take the old stuff and just sell the whee out of it with personality bits, and appear to be having a great amount of fun myself.

The folks leave feeling good and believe I am a really good magician. (I don't have the chops of guys like Ortiz or Close, but I don't worry about it).

Ramble ramble ramble... gotta run, time to get the Christmas tree up! :p :D :p
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Postby Guest » 12/10/02 02:40 PM

It is of course an asset to be funny if you have the knack.

However, you can still be an entertainer without cracking a single joke.

I certainly believe that the entertainment comes first, always first. The mystification, though not unimportant should take second priority.

Interestingly enough Darwin quotes Rene Lavand with great reverence who seems to imply the opposite. Something about "amazement always coming before amusement"

I must say that I am amused AND amazed at all the fuss this book is causing.

Postby Jeff Eline » 12/10/02 03:29 PM

Originally posted by Dave Egleston:
First of all: I don't like when someone tries to be dumber than me! A testimonial is different than a forward/introduction.
I'll try not to be dumb... but I realize there is a difference. However, there are similarities too. Both are written by friends or peers. Both usually heap praise on the author. Both can be used to sell the book.

If Richard says the testimonials on books are false, it's not a huge leap to question if the introductions are fabricated too.

Hope that wasn't too dumb!
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Postby Scott » 12/10/02 05:40 PM

There is much wisdom written in this thread, and I can't offer any of that, but I can say that I am not a professional magician, nor will I ever be(Mom always told me to set my standards low because they'd be easier to hit). Having said that, from my standpoint, I learned a tremendous amount from this book. Yes, I found Darwin's perspective arrogant at times, and I've personally met him and seen him lecture and work the crowd afterwards, and I don't find him one of the most entertaining people to watch. His magic was, however VERY strong (I thought) and his points were great. I learned a lot from him by watching him. I also learned he's not someone I would want to model myself after for presentation.

But, what the book did do for me was to make me think about my magic. I have changed so much of what I do, and I personally can see the difference in the reactions I get from people. The reactions are far stronger now than they ever were before, and the only thing I did was analyze every aspect of the routines I do perform. I took out things that didn't matter and would often confuse the spectators, things I had done for years and never understood why people didn't "get it" when I did certain routines. I knew something was wrong, but I never knew what to do about it. I'm often complimented by fellow magicians on my routines now, and I find people with far more magic experience often ask me to critique their routines and help them make it more powerful (all hobby magicians).

I personally think that the sleights of hand, and utilities and gaffs are not the real secrets of magic. To me, the real secrets of magic are knowing how to make your magic more impactful, and applying misdirection and studying people. All of those are things seldom talked about in the magic community in public, and it was great for me to be able to read something that touched on those, and other, subjects.

I took a lot from the book, but I also left a lot in it (mainly the ego).
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Postby Guest » 12/10/02 08:30 PM

Someone here mentioned "Magic and Showmanship" by Henning Nelms. It may be sacrilege to say so but I have always hated this horrible book.

The trouble was that when I was younger I took the book quite seriously but found it just didn't fit me. I couldn't relate to the advice at all. For 6 months or so the book made me quite ill as I tried to apply the concepts.

Harry Stanley the famous British magic dealer cured me when he borrowed my book. When he returned it to me he told me that the book was all padding. After I investigated the book further I was horrified to find that the author had never done a show in his life!

I like Strong Magic as I have said. However, I believe the greatest advice I have ever read on presentation and showmanship is in the back pages of "Expert Card Technique"

The first few pages of the chapter on Presentation is particularly valuable where it advises on creating a character that you become known by.

I don't think I have ever done a single trick out of "Expert Card Technique" but it is one of the most valuable books I have simply because of this chapter.

Postby Guest » 12/11/02 12:04 PM

Whether or not you agree with Strong Magic I think is beyond the point of its value within the place of magic literature. I am hard pressed to name another book that presents an original analysis of magic from a qualified performer (the original and qualified stipulations eliminate henning and nelms, and fitzkee).

There seems to be a common sentiment among magicians that for something to be correct a majority has to accept it. Taking an example from the theatre, look at Peter Brook's production of Marat/Sade. It's an amalgalm of theories from numerous theatre theorists of the past, but is made new through the synthesis presented by Brook. While I don't expect anyone to have the ability of Brook, I think he does serve as a representative example of how one should proceed. Read what you can, and take from it what you want.

Not to disparage you Richard, but dissecting and doing are two entirely different things.

Many people have said that what Ortiz says is, at points or overall, obvious. I don't think it's possible to disagree with this. On the other hand, if you were to read books by major theatre theorists, at times you would find their points obvious. But the fact remains, they wrote them down and the readers didn't.

We can all argue about the value of Ortiz's book, but at least he acted and organized his ideas. There's something of value in that.

Postby Guest » 12/11/02 12:22 PM

All this talk about theatre is giving me the heebie jeebies. I seem to remember the Henning Nelms book was full of theatrical talk.

It may be heresy to say so but I am not one of those magicians that nod wisely and say that it is important to follow the rules of the theatre when performing. I do NOT think drama lessons and theatrical direction are a good thing.

I can always spot a magician who has had acting training. They are usually awful performers for a start. They are always overloud and artificial.

I know I am wrong but I don't care. I am not a fan of following the pack. Just because the majority say something is so doesn't mean that it is.

But to the point of this post. I CAN think of another book in the Darwin class. In fact in some ways it may even be better. It is utterly brilliant although I will admit there is some awful theatrical talk in it.
"Our Magic" by Maskelyne and Devant has some brilliant insights in the second part of the book. I think there is a Dover edition with only this part. It is called "Maskelyne on the performance of magic"
The bit that amuses me is that Devant was a better performer than Maskelyne but yet it is the later who writes the part about presentation. Probably a case of "do as I say, not as I do."

Postby Guest » 12/11/02 12:38 PM

I guess you have me with our magic, it didn't come to mind.

While I don't advocate the study of theatre benefiting magic, because I think they have little to do with each other, as did Orson Welles, I do adovcate the adaptation of theatre theories and practices to magic. In fact I think some theatre theories are more adaptable to magic than they are to the theatre.

Postby Guest » 12/11/02 12:55 PM

Your last sentence has amused me mightily.

Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/11/02 03:02 PM

Originally posted by Aaron Shields:
...While I don't advocate the study of theatre benefiting magic...
I seem to recall a quote from Robert Houdin on this subject. "A magician is an actor playing the part of a Magician". I would be hard pressed to disagree.

The acting side of the performing arts are fundamental to our craft. Likewise the stage/set design, sound, lighting, musical and basic dramatic (writing) aspects are things we can learn from.

While not a fan of the full acting program curriculum at school, I did hear about many things that seemed to make a difference in the works performed, and allowed me to have better discussions with the actors.

While ignorance may be bliss, it can become inconvenient for you and others.
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