Mental Magic

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Pete McCabe » 08/27/01 06:13 PM

One of the factors that affects an audience's response to our magic is how meaningful it is to them. I know many magicians think meaning is irrelevant, but it does seem to matter to the audience, who consider many magicians are irrelevant.

There are only a few "magic" tricks which are in any way meaningful to the audience.
Miser's Dream or any trick where money is produced and/or multiplied, etc.
Card tricks presented in the context of poker or some other real-world game.

After that we have to stretch a bit.

Torn and Restored card is potentially meaningful if the card is valuable or irreplacable, but few magicians use this element in their presentations (Copperfield and Darwin Ortiz come to mind).
Many examples of card control (i.e. ambitious card or cards to pocket) suggest meaningful skills that could be used to cheat at cards.

But the vast majority of magic tricks have no meaning to the spectator and only in a small percentage of cases does the performer even try to provide one.

In other words, imagine performing Coin in Bottle and asking the audience if they wish they had the magical power you just demonstrated. Would they care? Why?

However virtually every "mental" trick demonstrates a power which the audience finds immediately meaningful and desirable. Who wouldn't want to be able to read another person's mind, predict the future, or control another person's thoughts or actions?

Maybe this is why the audience always seems more ready to accept mentalism as genuine than they do magic. Not because mentalism is in fact (given how little we know of the human brain) theoretically possible, but because we want to believe that it's possible. Who wants to believe that you could really put a coin in a bottle?

Perhaps if more "magicians" were to make their magic meaningful -- and by this I don't mean some pointless internal meaning like the kings and queens are going to find their mates but something meaningful to the audience -- perhaps then we wouldn't be having this discussion.

In the meantime I suspect several readers can provide examples of meaningful "magic" tricks beyond the few examples I have provided. I for one would find this subject very useful, as I have no intention of becoming a mentalist!
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Postby Tom Stone » 08/27/01 07:29 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
I know many magicians think meaning is irrelevant, but it does seem to matter to the audience, who consider many magicians are irrelevant.
There are only a few "magic" tricks which are in any way meaningful to the audience.


I think that meaning is important, but perhaps in a different way than what you mean.
The magic should be meaningful to the magician. That is the most important bit, and nothing else matters much. It is pointless to design effects to be meaningful for the audience, because since you are not them, so you'll just be guessing anyway. And guessing is not as good as knowing.

Miser's Dream or any trick where money is produced and/or multiplied, etc.
Card tricks presented in the context of poker or some other real-world game.
After that we have to stretch a bit.


Do an internet search for the name "Abraham Maslow", and you will find a bunch of pages similar to this page: http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/r ... aslow.html

The examples you name are all dealing with material needs, which is labeled as level 1 and 2 in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Since there are 6 more levels in Maslow's model of motivational theory, I guess that it wouldn't be too difficult to devise effects that have relation to the remaining levels, and therefore seem meaningful to the audience, if that is something that you insist on.

Torn and Restored card is potentially meaningful if the card is valuable or irreplacable,
Many examples of card control (i.e. ambitious card or cards to pocket) suggest meaningful skills that could be used to cheat at cards.

The same here. Your examples are dealing with material needs. But what if your audience all are rich? People who would give thousand bucks in tip to the pizza delivery guy?
Then a such T&R presentation would not make a big impression.
To be skilled in cheating at cards might also make a tiny impact, if you are performing for honest people without material needs.
But if you instead performed something that was extremely meaningful for you, you would have a bigger chance of making a great impression, no matter what kind of people the audience consists of.
A cheating demonstration would perhaps work excellent for any audience, if the presentation is that those skills are extremely important to you and your needs.

In other words, imagine performing Coin in Bottle and asking the audience if they wish they had the magical power you just demonstrated. Would they care? Why?

Why should you ask them at all?
What if the actors in a production of Hamlet ended their performance with asking the audience if they wished that they were princes of Denmark and have their uncles murdering their fathers?

That doesn't make sense.

Perhaps if more "magicians" were to make their magic meaningful -- and by this I don't mean some pointless internal meaning like the kings and queens are going to find their mates

Well, looking at the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs again, it seems pretty easy to convert your example to something that might be more interesting.
You have four couples at a table. Each couple selects a king and queen of the same suit.
You make up some story about a method to find out whether the current man/woman constellation really is the best one, of if they would be better off to trade partners with each other.
The kings are shuffled into the deck. The joker, representing the magician, is added just to spice up things. Then each woman cut their queen into the deck. And, fortunately, each queen ends up besides the correct match.
And as a final twist, the joker appears face up at the top of the deck, and the magician, with a sly smile, says, "Then all these must belong to me..." And the deck is turned over, and is shown to be all queens.

Well, perhaps not a great example, but that is all I could think of right now. It is at least more interactive and interesting. And it is at the third level in Maslow's ladder.

[ August 27, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/27/01 11:09 PM

BTW I should point out that I had meant to post my message in the thread on Gary Kurtz, but obviously I'm still learning my way around the Genii Forum.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/28/01 02:15 AM

I have the utmost respect for Tom Stone. We haven't met in person, but I think of him as a friend.

But I don't agree with him on this one at all.

The magic should be meaningful to the magician. That is the most important bit, and nothing else matters much. It is pointless to design effects to be meaningful for the audience, because since you are not them, so you'll just be guessing anyway. And guessing is not as good as knowing.


Sure, the more of yourself you can put into your magic, the better. But we see so many tricks that can only be enjoyed or even understood by a magician. This tricks are clearly being performed because they appeal to the performer. And so often, they are performed for non-magicians, to whom they have no appeal at all.

If I can demonstrate the ability to create money or make it multiply or increase in value, it will _definitely_ be meaningful to the audience. No guessing is required.

Tom may disagree, but I believe one of the magician's primary jobs is to determine what is most meaningful to your audience, and then present that very thing to them. This I believe is the primary job of any artist, performing or otherwise.


Since there are 6 more levels in Maslow's model of motivational theory, I guess that it wouldn't be too difficult to devise effects that have relation to the remaining levels, and therefore seem meaningful to the audience, if that is something that you insist on.


I don't insist on it -- audiences just like it so much much much more.

And I wasn't saying that it was impossible or even difficult to construct effects that are meaningful. I just don't see it very often in magic, even in a great many "classic" effects.

Your examples are dealing with material needs. But what if your audience all are rich? People who would give thousand bucks in tip to the pizza delivery guy?
Then a such T&R presentation would not make a big impression.


I must respectfully disagree most entirely. All the rich people I have known got that way because they are very driven to become rich. They would be the _most_ receptive to a valuable, irreplaceable item being destroyed and magically restored.

I wrote: Imagine performing Coin in Bottle and asking the audience if they wish they had the magical power you just demonstrated. Would they care? Why?

Tom asks: Why should you ask them at all?

You should ask them to see if they care. If they don't care, why are you doing the trick for them?


What if the actors in a production of Hamlet ended their performance with asking the audience if they wished that they were princes of Denmark and have their uncles murdering their fathers?

That doesn't make sense.


I'm not sure I understand your analogy.

But if you asked people how they would feel if they were in Hamlet's position, you will get an immediate and very strong response, precisely because the issues Hamlet raises -- the death of the father, possible betrayal by the mother, one's rightful position stolen -- these are all incredibly meaningful to any audience. That's why Hamlet is still performed several hundred years after it was written.

That's why so much magic can't even be recalled by the audience minutes after it was performed. It's much easier to remember something if it is meaningful to you.

You have four couples at a table. Each couple selects a king and queen of the same suit.
You make up some story about a method to find out whether the current man/woman constellation really is the best one, of if they would be better off to trade partners with each other.


Forgive me, Tom, but doesn't your excellent trick prove my point completely?

It's certainly a great example of the difference between a silly internal meaning (i.e. the kings are going to find their mates) and something that is meaningful to the audience -- their relationship with their spouse.
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Postby Tom Stone » 08/28/01 09:26 PM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
I have the utmost respect for Tom Stone. We haven't met in person, but I think of him as a friend.

Thanks! :)
But I don't agree with him on this one at all.

Great! This would be a lousy discussion forum if we all agreed. I'm busy right now, but I'll try to explain my view better as soon as possible.

[ August 28, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]
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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/28/01 11:40 PM

What an absolutely GREAT topic...


Pete McCabe wrote:
one of the magician's primary jobs is to determine what is most meaningful to your audience, and then present that very thing to them. This I believe is the primary job of any artist, performing or otherwise.

Well that would explain films like "Independence Day". Seriously, though, if internet traffic is any indication of what is meaningful to people (and it may be as it costs money and absorbs free time) then all magic would be about sports, current events and porn.


Pete McCabe also wrote:
But if you asked people how they would feel if they were in Hamlet's position, you will get an immediate and very strong response, precisely because the issues Hamlet raises -- the death of the father, possible betrayal by the mother, one's rightful position stolen -- these are all incredibly meaningful to any audience.

Not this reader... and I'm married to an English Professor. I find Hamlet boring as hell and it resonates not one bit with me. Now The Scottish Play that's another matter. But I suspect anyone named Duncan finds Macbeth compelling.


Pete McCabe is also rumored to have written:
If I can demonstrate the ability to create money or make it multiply or increase in value, it will _definitely_ be meaningful to the audience.

Your audiences don't really believe that you can do this do they? So what this implies is that "pretending" to create money from thin air is meaningful? I don't think so... or if it is what it means is kind of sad.


I don't believe that the trick has to be meaningful for the magic to have meaning. In fact a "meaningful" trick simply allows the performer to be lazy. Magic, like any performing art, is an act of communication, and what you choose to communicate is what matters and means to your audience. If you chose to use "Oil and Water" to communicate a simple science lesson rather than a more meaningful theme you can't blame the trick for the lack of meaning. The problem is that too often we approach our magic from trick to presentation rather than from theme to effect.

If you watch one of Daryl's video tape series where he demonstrates thirty-some card revelations you'll see what I mean strongly represented. What Daryl communicates is that he wants to have fun with his audience and not take things too seriously. That comes across even in a medium as dead as video tape with effects as meaningless as the location of a pair of selected cards behind his eyeglasses. That pleasant interaction is meaningful to the audience because what it communicates is roughly: "I want to have fun with you and I will try hard to do so."

That's a pretty meaningful communication... especially in these anonymous times where people gather unseen at keyboards.

[ August 28, 2001: Message edited by: Bill Duncan ]
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Postby Curtis Kam » 08/29/01 12:16 AM

This is rapidly becoming something other than the mental magic thread it started out as. However, I'm happy plunge ahead, so long as someone remebers to go back and clean up after we're through.

Re: Magic and Meaning, bravo, Mr. Duncan.

I believe magic has the meaning the artist decides to give it. It ain't just the props you use, or the basic effect achieved. It's how the performer interprets the effect that matters. Anyone wanna tell me that Rene Levand's "three bread crumbs" isn't meaningful if no one is hungry?

What about Mr. Levand's "Oil and Water"?

Neither of these pieces would exist if Mr. Levand had slavishly followed the popular notion that a magician should do only what someone with real magical powers would do.

Jeff McBride's Miser's Dream is wonderfully meaningful and memorable to any audience, but that has nothing at all to do with the fact that money is involved.

I will suggest just the opposite of the popular notion: a performance is not meaningful until it causes the audience to look beyond the literal meaning of what's happening on stage.

Thus, it really doesn't matter whether you're pulling money out of the air, or making little balls of bread appear. If that's all you're doing, you're not doing it.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/29/01 01:36 AM

I can't tell if people are agreeing with me or not. For example, Curtis Kam seems (to me) to be indicating that he disagrees with me.

Then he says:

Anyone wanna tell me that Rene Levand's "three bread crumbs" isn't meaningful if no one is hungry?


Isn't this exactly my point? Making food multiply is almost unimaginably meaningful -- hunger is universal, we've all been hungry. You don't have to be hungry at that time to know what it means.


Bill Duncan asks about the magican producing money:

Your audiences don't really believe that you can do this do they?


I'm sure they don't. Just like they don't believe Leonardo Di Caprio was really aboard the Titanic.

It's what the magician (or filmmaker, or pick your favorite art form) is _presenting_ to the audience. If the presentation is sufficiently real and sufficiently compelling, the audience can experience it for themselves.

This is the point of all performing arts, isn't it?


Perhaps I should point out that I am not saying that every magician should do the Miser's Dream exclusively because that is the only meaningful trick.

What I am saying is, how meaningful are the tricks you perform for your audiences? If they are not meaningful, why not? Why would your audience care to watch you, if what you present doesn't mean anything to them?

That's all.
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Postby Guest » 08/29/01 02:53 AM

I am not sure that I would say that the magic I do for my kids is "meaningful". I do find that they enjoy the tricks that they can relate to. I made a production box out of a Lucky Charms cereal box that, on the occasional saturday morning, produces 5 "free inside" prizes, one for each of my kids. This seems to be much more exciting than a bag that creates silks.

Conversly, my kids stare at me blankly when I do card tricks, as if to say, "Maybe card decks are nullsupposed to do that!" This could be attributed to my skill at cards, but I think it has more to do with the fact that they just do not play cards alllthat much.

I do like the suggestion (made in another topic on Card Tricks for Kids ) to use Pokemon Trading Cards. Anybody know of a good Pokemon strip deck? :)
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Postby Tom Stone » 08/29/01 08:42 AM

Originally posted by Pete McCabe:
Sure, the more of yourself you can put into your magic, the better. But we see so many tricks that can only be enjoyed or even understood by a magician. This tricks are clearly being performed because they appeal to the performer. And so often, they are performed for non-magicians, to whom they have no appeal at all.

That those tricks have no appeal is not because of lack of meaning, but a sign that the performer has lost sight of the real effect and believes that the method is the same as the effect.
Which happens easily.
I remember when I first started to play around with PhotoShop and POV-ray. I became so fascinated with the possibilities, and made a lot of images to explore each feature in the software. The result were very satisfying, and for a long time I believed that I had made good images, when in fact, they were lousy in all aspects except as a demonstration of the tools. That is, I confused the method with the effect.

To continue with the image analogy: If my audience doesn't respond to a new piece of art as I had anticipated, then I might do well to ask myself: "Am I displaying a great painting, or am I merely demonstrating the features of this new paintbrush?"
If I can demonstrate the ability to create money or make it multiply or increase in value, it will _definitely_ be meaningful to the audience. No guessing is required.

Yes, of course. But to be certain that the effect will have meaning to the audience, and avoid guessing, you are forced to find your themes at the base level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. And, as you yourself said, the number of effects are quite limited then.

Isn't it more interesting to search for themes at higher levels? Looking at Maslow again, we might look at the seventh level:
"7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one's potential"
Well, a theme like "artistic growth" would correspond to that. But how could I use that theme if I'm trying to create something that is meaningful for the audience? Well, I can't. I am not the audience, and it is impossible for me to even guess what kind of artistic growth they are searching for.

What I CAN do however, it to illustrate my own desire for artistic growth. To display something that is extremely meaningful to me. That is much more easy, and I'm sure that there are an audience for a such display.

When I was 15 I bought a thing called "The Pom-Pom Stick", an effect similar to the Chinese Sticks. I devised a corny presentation for it and put it into my act.
But as the years passed, my taste for magic evolved, and slowly I began to despise this effect. But, by then it had became a such surefire tool to get laughter, and I had nothing equally effective to replace it with. A while later, the despise turned into hate. Why couldn't I just throw this piece of junk away? Well, I didn't dare. It had been with me for so long, that I didn't feel safe without it.
That was when I still thought that I should care about what the audience wanted to see.

Like other stories, this one also have a turning point: One day, in an outburst of frustration, I whipped out the stick from my bag and shouted "I hate this piece of crap". Then I did the routine as usual, but with a clear display of contempt, as I explained everything that I hated about it. I asked the audience why they laughed, and I blamed them for forcing me to perform it.
The result was surprising, the response was ten times stronger than usual.

I learnt a lot that day.
What had been a piece of fluff, puzzling eyecandy with a collection of bad one-liners, was transformed into a honest display of my frustration over my lack of artistic growth.
And they found it extremely funny that I stood there and blamed them, total strangers, for being an obstacle for my desire to perform good magic. And the more frustration I displayed, the more they laughed.

And it showed me how ridiculous my thoughts had been. I had kept the piece in the act because "they want to see it". Of course they didn't. They wanted to see a good performance. And when it comes to the definition of a "good performance" I can only rely on my own opinions. Therefore, I say that it is useless to care about what the audience want to see. It is much more interesting, for me as an artist, to create something that I want to show them.

Epilogue: About six months later I had learnt enough to get the confidence to remove the effect from the act, and I smashed the prop to bits with a hammer. It was very satisfying.

Tom may disagree, but I believe one of the magician's primary jobs is to determine what is most meaningful to your audience, and then present that very thing to them. This I believe is the primary job of any artist, performing or otherwise.

As you predicted, I do disagree. :)
That would be true, if we view the audience as a customer to whom we want to sell something. I don't share that notion, nor do I like it. I view the audience as an audience. I don't give them what they want see. I give them something that I want to show them.

As an example, the thing that people talks most favourable about in my act is the final piece. The whole act is rather playful and humourous, but since I'm a believer in contrasts, I end with a piece that is performed in total silence. It is a rope routine, and when I perform it I try to display my deep, serious and passionate love for my art.
Can you think of anything that is more meaningless to the audience? That I, a total stranger, is in love with something that is so abstract that they doesn't even consider it to be an art?
Yet, I get standing ovations almost every time. Why is that?
The funny thing is that it seems to resonate with the spectators feelings for things they feel passionated about themselves. I've had dancers comment that piece with "..it was almost like a dance.". And actors have commented on the dramatic qualities. etc.
None of those responses would have appeared if I instead had tried to create something designed to be "meaningful" to the audience.
I wrote: Imagine performing Coin in Bottle and asking the audience if they wish they had the magical power you just demonstrated. Would they care? Why?

Tom asks: Why should you ask them at all?

You should ask them to see if they care. If they don't care, why are you doing the trick for them?

The whole premise for this question is wrong. I'm not a salesman, and they are not customers. If I was a painter, and a total stranger came up to me and asked me to draw an image of a crying child, I would respond: "Do it yourself.", unless I myself found that motif interesting to explore (or if I was broke, but then that person would be a customer and not an audience).

If I perform Coin in Bottle, it will be because I find it meaningful. How could it be in any other way? The only way to ascertain whether the spectator care about it or not is to actually perform it first, and that will not give you any knowledge at all about what the next spectator's opinion about it will be.

If the focus is on designing things to be meaningful for the spectator, your performance will easily be vague as you are dealing with the unknown and have to rely on guessing, because you are not that person.
And if you try to get around the guessing, by asking the spectator: "Do you find 'Coin in Bottle' to be meaningful", he will answer "Huh?". For him to understand your question, you must perform the effect first, and after that his reply is useless to you, because the effect has already been performed.

No, the easiest way to give a strong and clear performance is to perform effects that are meaningful to you as an artist. Basing it on your own thoughts and opinions is better, because then you will be knowing instead of guessing.

Then we had the card trick example:
Forgive me, Tom, but doesn't your excellent trick prove my point completely?

It's certainly a great example of the difference between a silly internal meaning (i.e. the kings are going to find their mates) and something that is meaningful to the audience -- their relationship with their spouse.

Sure, that might possible be meaningful to the audience. But I didn't get that idea from guessing about audience's thoughts.

I looked at your example. I associated the word "mate" with "spouse" and then I started to think about my last relationship (which ended bad). I started to think that it was a pity that there wasn't any method to find out whether we really were suited for each other before I had invested that much emotions in the relationship.
From that, it was easy to think: "What if I had invented a such method?". That would certainly be something that I would find interesting to show an audience. And then the rest of my suggested effect came by itself.

Had I tried to create an example designed to be meaningful for the spectators, I would still be sitting here guessing.

(Btw, I think that the method in Dean Dill's "The Money Cards Too" in Channel One (Issue 1, Vol. 1) could be used with some small adjustments. I can't find that issue right now, but I think that the basic principle is by Nick Trost. Please correct me if I'm wrong).

-Tom Stone

[ September 02, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]
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Postby Bill Duncan » 08/29/01 02:38 PM

Originally posted by Tom Stone:

When I was 15 I bought a thing called "The Pom-Pom Stick",
...I devised a corny presentation for it and put it into my act.
...slowly I began to despise this effect.
...One day, in an outburst of frustration, I whipped out the stick from my bag and shouted "I hate this piece of crap". Then I did the routine as usual, but with a clear display of contempt, as I explained everything that I hated about it. I asked the audience why they laughed, and I blamed them for forcing me to perform it.
The result was surprising, the response was ten times stronger than usual.



I LOVE LOVE LOVE this story. The Pom Pom Prayer Stick was and is a very odd and oddly engaging piece of magic. It was fun to demo in the magic shop because you were asked to do it and so didn't have to justify it.

I'm sorry to hear that you removed it from the act after finding such a wonderful presentation for it. Perhaps one day after the healing occurs you'll be able to return to it.

In the meantime would you mind if I stole the theme for the next time I find a trick that sucks, but that I really want to do?
;)

[ August 29, 2001: Message edited by: Bill Duncan ]

[ August 29, 2001: Message edited by: Bill Duncan ]
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Postby Guest » 08/29/01 03:26 PM

Glad to see there is more than one long winded Tom here :)

Seems there is a pitfall here I know too well.

It would seem Tom thinks:
Pete wants to do things meaningful to his audience yet not caring a bit about the meaning to Pete.

It would seem Pete thinks:
Tom wants to do things that are meaningful to Tom, caring not a bit about the meaning to the audience.

I dare say neither person's concept lives in such a vacuum.

Drama is what creates interest. Meaning to the performer allows him to accurately communicate drama. Meaning to the audience is, generally, drama...accurately communicated.

When a performer is disinterested (just phoning it in) it shows and his audience may easily loose interest. Tom has arrived at an interesting thing. Audiences will become interested in anything a performer devotes his full and accurate attention to, ie cares about...something of meaning to him.

Hence, the Evil Pom Pom Stick was great drama for them. there was inner conflict, outward conflict, and real emotion behind the presentation.

So, Tom, I charge that you do perform with the intent of giving the audience something of meaning to them. That "something" you have found is a presentation which is meaningful to you.

That has a great by-product. When one tries too hard to give a specific meaning to the audience, one can sound "preachy". When the meaning is more vague, it is adapted by the audience making it more personal and more memorable.

Thanks for reminding me of that function of art!
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Postby Tom Stone » 08/29/01 03:56 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
I'm sorry to hear that you removed it from the act after finding such a wonderful presentation for it. Perhaps one day after the healing occurs you'll be able to return to it.

Nope. I'll not fall in that trap again.
I have other items that are sufficiently crappy, and I don't need to add yet another one. :)
In the meantime would you mind if I stole the theme for the next time I find a trick that sucks, but that I really want to do?


Sure, use it in any way you want. Although, wouldn't it be better to do something that is good instead?
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Postby Guest » 08/29/01 03:57 PM

[QUOTE] I do like the suggestion (made in another topic on Card Tricks for Kids) to use Pokemon Trading Cards. Anybody know of a good Pokemon strip deck? [

Cosmo, Gary Plants makes them, but hates to admit it.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 08/29/01 06:58 PM

Dear God -- two Toms on the same forum with me. This could really eat into my free time.

Without rehashing the details of Tom Stone's well-thought-out response, I must say that I think Tom Cutts is quite right.

I love Tom Stone's presentation for the Pom Pom Sticks. And I suspect that the audience did because the idea of doing something you don't like because you have to is something that everyone can relate to.

So I have no problem with Tom's philosophy of starting with what's meaningful to the performer, because so much of what has meaning to us will have meaning to the audience. (As seems to have happened with Tom's "test your mate" effect.)

As long as we can both agree that what we do should have some meaning to someone, then I'm happy to leave it at that and move on to something more interesting, like when is the new David Blaine special coming out so we can all claim how much better than him we are.
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Postby Guest » 08/30/01 09:23 AM

I'm finding it fascinating to be simultaneously following this thread while (finally) reading the recent "In a Class by Himself -- the Legacy of Don Alan".

I'm liking the book -- apart from the publisher's "padding-trip". But more relevant to the present discussion, one finds that Mr. Alan single-handedly brought close-up magic into its own using totally meaningless magic.

Sorry, Pete: Mr. Alan was brilliant exactly because his instincts told him that fun was more important than meaning. And he was right.
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Postby Guest » 08/30/01 12:04 PM

Fun may have been more important than meaning, but no more. There was no fun back then, just mostly puzzles. There is mostly puzzles and fun now, little meaning. The time has come to be (more) meaningful as performers.

It is just a cycle. Light entertainment is the commonplace craft. Meaning is new and entertaining art.

Look at Improv. It used to be sight gags and physical comedy. Then it grew into more cerebral comedy. Now it is full length more serious dramas.

The cycle of society's interest. Catch it!
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Postby Tom Dobrowolski » 08/30/01 12:40 PM

Why can't the meaning BE fun?
It worked and works well for Don Alan, Jim Ryan, Matt Schulien, Johnny Paul, Clarke "Senator" Crandall, Karrell Fox, Tom Mullica, Jay Marshall, Tommy Cooper, Tomsoni, Mac King, Michael Finney, Bill Malone, Lennart Green, Trevor Lewis, Fielding West,Jay Sankey, etc.
Magic should be an escape. What better escape is there then to loose oneself in laughter and fun for awhile.
:D
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 08/30/01 01:27 PM

Ah, yes...the topic of Magic-and-Meaning and Meaningful Magic can be meaningful or meaningless itself, depending...

Must we posit the obvious and add, "Well, that all depends..." and then add a breezy quodlibet about the importance of Context?

Yep. It's irresistible.

But...

Magicians such as Don Alan and the entire Windy City Gang plied their trade in barrooms--places where working stiffs, no doubt fed up to their ears in the "meaninglessness" and "absurdities" of their everyday lives (or jobs), went. They stopped by taverns for some respite and laid-back R & R. They wanted to grunt and guffaw as they sipped or quaffed some brewskies. They were looking for (as Don Alan liked to say) "just good fun."

So...

...the meaning, motivation and significance of the gussied-up puzzles and cute, tricky tricks that Alan, Schulien, Ryan, Everhardt, Paul, and Crandall performed, in part, were to make "meaninglessness" (with a lower-case "m")amusing. Really amusing.

Hey, guys, watch this wonderful, wind-up bird find your card while blindfolded! Can you follow the little ball under the cup? Geesh! Look at these dice stack themselves? Omigod! Your cigarette seems to pass through your quarter! Isn't this stuff weird, ridiculous, and unexpected?

Is it meaningful?

Beats me.

But it makes me laugh a lot.
Yeah.
Gimme another beer, Joe.
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Postby Guest » 08/31/01 03:54 AM

Fun and meaning don't have to be mutually exclusive.

OK in working class terms :D

Fun = Budweiser
Meaningful = A dark luscious Howell Mountain Cab. which is ten years old.

People are able to enjoy the effect of "fun" while experiencing a little bit more; like something engaging, even if only lightly so.

BTW I'm not sure something that is meaningless to you can be fun. See women and The Three Stooges.

Even "mindless fun" has the meaning of being mindless. Something it sometimes works hard at being.

Point being; if you haven't worked at being fun (studied comedy and humor), then you are just throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping some sticks and you can call it fun.

Not to say that anyone specific does that but I have seen plenty of magic so presented. It is repulsive and induces a near catatonic state in its unknowing victims.

Much like this post :eek: :)
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Postby Brian Marks » 09/01/01 12:23 AM

Im fascinated by 2 things here:

1. Magic and Meaning has some how come out of a thread on mental magic.

2. Some people's are writing books for replies.

Do the magic and have fun doing it. THat is why I perform magic and thats why the audience watches!!!!!!!
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/01/01 04:26 AM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
Im fascinated by 2 things here:

1. Magic and Meaning has some how come out of a thread on mental magic.


Well, it is just like Tony 'Doc' Shiels said in his Cantrip Codex: "ALL magic is mental".

That quote is just breathtaking!

Do the magic and have fun doing it. THat is why I perform magic and thats why the audience watches!!!!!!!


That is certainly a good and valid approach, but trust me, it is even more fun if you can choose from more than one approach.

P.S. Be careful with the exclamation marks, or I will have to quote Terry Pratchett for you :)

[ September 01, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]
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Postby Guest » 09/01/01 12:24 PM

I've learned something over the past couple of years. Many magicians can do the same stuff that Don Alan did, but they'll never get the response that he did. Why? Because people didn't care about whether what he did was meaningful or fun, they wanted to see Don. There was something about what he did and who he was that they liked. The same goes for Max Maven and Eugene Burger and David Williamson, and...I think we get the point. As I've learned this, my performances have gotten much stronger and the bookings much more frequent. People aren't interested in magic, people are interested in...people. As a performer, I share with my audience a lot of fun, struggle, stories, etc., but I've found that when I started concentrating on being an engaging performer, the audience couldn't care less if I was spinning a plate on a stick if I was entertaining at doing it. People are looking for someone they can relate to; someone who they can identify with. When I started seeing that, and putting that into my performances, BOOM! The response from the audiences was incredible!
I don't think this has to be the case in everything, but it seems to be that way in most every other aspect of life outside of magic.
Just my thoughts on it..
Rick :)
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Postby Guest » 09/01/01 12:37 PM

Sorry if my last post was a little rambling. I'm on pain medication.
I hope the basic idea came across. OH look, a purple bunny just hopped on my bed!
Rick :eek:
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Postby Brian Marks » 09/01/01 02:01 PM

I got news Rick. All the names you mentioned, the audience thought they were fun to be around.
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Postby Guest » 09/05/01 12:11 AM

Medication is done!
Thanks, Brian. As I've been in magic for a little while now, I've noticed something. I have learned more from watching magicians for the small things they do to entertain an audience, rather than the whole picture (what tricks they did, how can I use that patter, etc).
Entertaining an audience is about feeling for an audiences' needs, and meeting them.
Rick
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Postby Brian Marks » 09/08/01 02:16 AM

I think were saying the same thing. However I am also a stand up comic. This is much tougher. No magic props to hide behind. Immediate feedback on your act and it must be totally original. Everyone always reacts to magic but not always to just stand up comedy.
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/08/01 11:41 AM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
I think were saying the same thing. However I am also a stand up comic. This is much tougher.


That can't be true. Surely magic is just as tough as stand-up comedy, if not more?

Everyone always reacts to magic but not always to just stand up comedy.


I guess that you might have a point if you compare a mediocre magician with a mediocre comedian. It is easier for the magician to hide his incompetence behind his props.
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/08/01 11:53 AM

Originally posted by Rick Green:
Entertaining an audience is about feeling for an audiences' needs, and meeting them.


A few questions.
What is their needs?
Can you meet all those needs?
If they don't care enough about their needs to meet them themselves, then why should you care?
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Postby Guest » 09/08/01 08:58 PM

He might be referring to what Keith Johnstone calls "not being clever, guys"

The audience knows what they want. The performer for what ever reason doesn't know so, s/he is trying to be clever.

You come to a cave...go inside. It's what the audience wants. Don't search around or discuss what might be inside...go in.

I am pretty sure you are already aware of this, Tom, as you added to the Impro book thread. Just a thought about what might be meant.

My card is gone...find it. Don't gossip, or hedge, or discuss. Find it. That is for the magi who aren't familliar with the Impro phrase, "go into the cave".

That is my sense for what an audience wants.
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Postby Guest » 09/08/01 09:34 PM

Originally posted by Tom Stone:
It is much more interesting, for me as an artist, to create something that I want to show them.

[ September 02, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]



I completely agree with Tom Stone. when we perform to please an audience we are closer to a prostitute than to an artist (I guess prostitutes make more money than an artist, or at less easy money, and I like money, we all need money)
-The plants head to the son, that is call “tropismo”; Osterwa talked of “audiencecotropismo” the maximum enemy for an actor.- (I think is Funny)
I also agree with Bill Duncan this is a great topic all together.

[QUOTE]

[ September 08, 2001: Message edited by: Alfonso Rios ]
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/09/01 07:37 AM

Originally posted by Tom Cutts:
He might be referring to what Keith Johnstone calls "not being clever, guys"

True, that's a possibility. Thanks.
My card is gone...find it. Don't gossip, or hedge, or discuss. Find it. That is for the magi who aren't familliar with the Impro phrase, "go into the cave".

That is my sense for what an audience wants.

I'm more on the lines of Johnstone's "Fastfood Stanislavsky".
If following the main opinion in this thread, then it is difficult to "give someone a bad time", as that doesn't exactly pop up in the head when focusing on "what the audience wants".
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Postby Guest » 09/09/01 12:17 PM

Tom,
In response to your question, I'm not saying that it is our job to psychoanalyze the audience and meet their needs. What I am saying is more on a small social scale.
Let me give you an example. People want to feel involved. In magic, we always state "let the magic happen in their hands". Audiences become more involved if one of their own is brought into the show..i.e., using a spectator on stage with you. People want to laugh, cry, feel emotion. I want them to do that in my shows (for the right reasons). What I'm against is the thinking that a lot of amateurs have which is "people want to see my card/coin/whatever tricks". I don't believe they come to see the trick. I believe they come to see the Performer.
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Postby Guest » 09/09/01 01:01 PM

Tom Stone,

What if we came up with fastfood Marlo and fastfood Vernon lists, etc. Interesting.

We should also have lists for the archetype mages Hero, Victim, Witness, Bystander...

Hmmmmm...

Rick leads me to an interesting idea. Especially as close-up performers our job is to take the audience into the cave with us. Not metaphorically but literally.

That is what mentalism does practically by definition. It makes an audience member a party to being in the cave by being a vital part of the routine. Heck, part of the cave IS the spectators' minds.

Interesting way of putting it.

[ September 09, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Cutts ]
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/09/01 03:22 PM

Originally posted by Rick Green:
In response to your question, I'm not saying that it is our job to psychoanalyze the audience and meet their needs. What I am saying is more on a small social scale.

But isn't that resulting in rather shallow and superficial material then?

People want to feel involved.

I'm not sure that Kitty Genovese would agree :)
People want to laugh, cry, feel emotion.

They also want to know how the effects are done. Should we expose the methods then?

If people wants to cry, then all they have to do is think on all their bills. No assistance from me is necessary.
To design something that hopefully will create a such impact is bound to become plastic and superficial.
What I CAN do however, is to perform something that is so beautiful that I myself cry. That will have a much bigger, and more true, impact.
I don't believe they come to see the trick. I believe they come to see the Performer.

I couldn't agree more.

All that I'm saying is that material designed to please the audience will be shallow and one-dimentional. I prefer material that have many layers.
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/09/01 03:35 PM

Originally posted by Tom Cutts:
Rick leads me to an interesting idea. Especially as close-up performers our job is to take the audience into the cave with us. Not metaphorically but literally.

Since "going into the cave" is an expression tied to Keith Johnstone's works, people might find it useful to have a magic reference.
Since all serious students of magic own the two volumes of "Books of Wonder", those interested in this discussion can look up the essay "Secondhand Drama" on page 32 in the second volume. The third example that Tommy Wonder gives in that essay is the same as "going into the cave".
That is what mentalism does practically by definition. It makes an audience member a party to being in the cave by being a vital part of the routine. Heck, part of the cave IS the spectators' minds.
Interesting way of putting it.

It sure is, and it's not limited to mentalism.
Tony 'Doc' Shiels said it even better in his Cantrip Codex:
-"ALL magic is mental"

[ September 09, 2001: Message edited by: Tom Stone ]
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Postby Guest » 09/09/01 06:14 PM

"ALL magic is mental"
Would t'were...
Too much magic has become sitcom entertainment at its worst.

I agree that if you are truly moved yourself, you have a better chance at moving your audience. If you do something that moves only you then your audience's emotion is only in the observation of your emotion. A somewhat less efficient vehicle yet, one that might guarantee you are not being superficial or hollow as a performer.

I don't understand Rick's post to mean we are the validators of our audiences' existence on this planet. Is that the take you are getting?

I think he is saying the audience has come for some little drama, give it to them. I think we are all in agreement on that point. We just happen to arrive there with different emphases.

We all probably believe that both performer and audience must care to some degree about what is going on. It is that degree that helps create the texture between performances.

Tom Cutts
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Postby Tom Stone » 09/09/01 07:35 PM

Originally posted by Tom Cutts:
I agree that if you are truly moved yourself, you have a better chance at moving your audience.

Exactly!
Each audience is different, and it is impossible to know how they will appear until the show begins. And by then it is a bit late to custom design something for them. Therefore, I'm forced to keep it at a shallow level to make sure that it will be effective for all audicences.
Or.. I can do something that I feel is important, that means a lot to me. Because I am always me, it is easier to create something with more layers, something that is really pleasing to me, something that I can be proud of, something that I desire to show others.
The audience may love or hate it, but they will not be able to ignore it.
I don't understand Rick's post to mean we are the validators of our audiences' existence on this planet. Is that the take you are getting?

No, not really. I'm stretching the comments as far as possible, because I think that this discussion is much more interesting and fruitful when dealing with extremes. Don't you agree? :)
I think he is saying the audience has come for some little drama, give it to them. I think we are all in agreement on that point.

Perhaps... although why not experiment with taking it as far as possible? Why be satisfied with meeting the expectations when you can surpass them? Why giving them what they want, when you can give them something that they didn't know they wanted? Why aim for trees when you can aim for the stars? Why trying to be a generic magician when you can be unique? Why should I be satisfied to be refered to as "the magician", when I can be refered to as "Tom Stone"?
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/09/01 09:20 PM

From Tom Stone
"I'm not sure that Kitty Genovese would agree ;) "

I've often been accused of insensitivity, especially when trying to be sarcastic, or make a joke, but wow. This is a little over the top.

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Postby Tom Stone » 09/09/01 11:08 PM

Originally posted by bill mullins:
From Tom Stone
"I'm not sure that Kitty Genovese would agree"

I've often been accused of insensitivity, especially when trying to be sarcastic, or make a joke, but wow. This is a little over the top.


Sorry Bill,
I'm still not quite familiar with american humour, and since Jay Leno and Letterman frequently makes casual one-liners about the death penalty, I thought that this would be in the same vein. Especially since I thought that the reference would be rather obscure by now.
I'm still not sure why it didn't fly like Letterman's and Leno's jokes. Can you point out what I've misunderstood?
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