NPH exposes thin sawing

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Jonathan Pendragon
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NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » January 13th, 2015, 11:30 pm

Past AMA president and actor, Neil Patrick Harris, guest starred on American Horror Story recently and played a magician. Within the content of the show was a very accurate expose of the Thin Model Sawing which Neil narrates. I only know Neil through my involvement with the Magic Castle. We both sat on the Innovation Committee, because of my relationship to West, I often found myself at functions that dealt with the club and building which, as AMA President, Neil also attended. In every instant I found Neil to be a very intelligent man with a high regard for magic. Thus my dismay at the expose on television.

I am not rabid on this subject. It is very complex and too often argued by bystanders, but this was... exact. I add this tentatively; if he had exposed multiple methods for Ambitious Ace, this board would have flooded with posts by now.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 13th, 2015, 11:40 pm

Ed Alonzo did the magic consulting for the show. I wonder if he does a Thin Model Sawing in his act?
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » January 14th, 2015, 12:27 am

I have not seen him present it, that doesn't mean it's not in his broader repertoire. Ed is a comic illusionist and sometimes I feel that the illusion takes a back seat to the laughs, which makes sense as long as you don't forget the magic, to me, this is forgetting the magic. There is a lack of respect within the magic community for illusion method and performance. I felt it most of my career.

The foot switch method exposed was developed in the late 20th century, hardly antique. The tuck is essential to all thin sawings, even mine. The model in the show is based on the John Daniel thin-sawing, which became the norm. Of interest, the original was built around Irene Larsen.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Terry_Holley » January 14th, 2015, 2:15 am

I agree with Jonathan. So the exposure goes "unnoticed" by the The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc., and the greater magic community in general? From looking at the Academy website I see that NPH is no longer President as I believe he was in 2012 . If he hasn't already, maybe Max Maven can speak to the issue, as the site states that he is presently on the Board of Trustees. It would be interesting to me to get the Academy's "official" take on this exposure, if there is one.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Max Maven » January 14th, 2015, 4:29 am

The lack of an official comment should not be misinterpreted.

The situation has not gone "unnoticed." It is under discussion. Until the show has been viewed by the members of the AMA boards (I, for example, have not yet seen it), it is obviously not viable for us to make an informed response.

Coordinating among fourteen people is not an instantaneous process. And Jonathan, the lack of comment has nothing to do with the subject of this exposure being a large illusion rather than some other type of magic. That allegation is absurd.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » January 14th, 2015, 5:39 am

Ya got the wrong guy, I am surrealist not an absurdist.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Max Maven » January 14th, 2015, 6:18 am

Then aspire toward Dali, not Dangerfield.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Terry_Holley » January 14th, 2015, 11:56 am

Thank you for the response, Max. I look forward to hearing more about it all. I believe the segment in question could have been portrayed without the exposure. It was a flashback to "The Masked Magician."

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » January 14th, 2015, 5:26 pm

There is nothing remotely funny about this, nor is my comment absurd. How are you as a Board of Trustees member going to deal with the next exposure when that person cites this incident and the and the credentials of those involved?

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 14th, 2015, 6:28 pm

What's to be discussed or thought about?

NPH unnecessarily and blatantly exposed the Thin Sawing, it was resolutely wrong of him to do so, and there is nothing to discuss.

The pundits at the Castle currently wringing their hands wondering what they should think about it (because it's NPH) should bluntly censure him and make an overt public statement expressing how resolutely wrong exposing magic to the general public actually is (and how it accomplishes NOTHING of value beyond the general public's oh so short thrill of finding out how a magic trick is accomplished).

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Marty Demarest » January 14th, 2015, 7:17 pm

For what it's worth, I was shown the episode by a friend who asked, "Is that how it's really done?" I answered honestly: "Not always." The discussion then changed to sawings that couldn't have been done that way because... Etc.

What I saw wasn't blatant exposure. I saw a television show. A horror/drama/comedy. It was nothing like the Masked Magician specials, which explicitly claimed to expose magical methods. The American Horror Story sawing was in the context of a drama, and I think that helped to cloud viewers' certainty. Moreover, the illusion served a dramatic purpose. It furthered the theme, the story and the characters. That's more than an illusion usually accomplishes in most magic shows.

I thought the exposure honored the principles involved--which are both remarkable and durable. The whole thing was artistic, compelling and intriguing--and, heaven help us--it was also accurate. And let's not leave open the possibility that the exposure will set someone up for an "accident" later on, when the trick doesn't go as planned...

I think it's important to note that Neil Patrick Harris isn't exactly "one of us, one of us..." He is, above all, an actor. He didn't write the script, and he didn't direct the episode. He was an actor playing the part of a magician. And I think he did it better most magicians could. He shouldn't be censured for doing an outstanding job.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Terry_Holley » January 14th, 2015, 7:21 pm

Hello, Marty. I am wondering if you perform illusions?

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Marty Demarest » January 14th, 2015, 7:26 pm

Yes!

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 14th, 2015, 7:32 pm

I wonder why they exposed the real method rather than making up a fake method and exposing that. Then nobody would care.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 7:41 pm

Roger M. wrote:make an overt public statement expressing how resolutely wrong exposing magic to the general public actually is (and how it accomplishes NOTHING of value beyond the general public's oh so short thrill of finding out how a magic trick is accomplished).

I haven't seen the show mentioned in the OP, but I'd be really disappointed if the AMA made a blanket statement like this. It's simply a fact that certain kinds of exposure are good for magic -- great, even -- and I hope you're able to see this, because a lot of other people are. For Pete's sake, Gustavo Otero teaches magic tricks on his YouTube channel all the time, and he also does the video documentaries for Jornadas de Escorial. Even the 12 year olds teaching one another card tricks on YouTube is a gain for magic. You know the old saying: you don't really understand something until you are able to teach it to somebody else. They're trying to understand magic, using the medium they know how to use to communicate to others with similar interest.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 14th, 2015, 8:14 pm

Does an exposure which has no meaning other than "gee, this method is cool," do any good for magic? If that's the point, then exposing a false method is a better choice simply because it doesn't raise the ire of people in magic.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 8:29 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Does an exposure which has no meaning other than "gee, this method is cool," do any good for magic? If that's the point, then exposing a false method is a better choice simply because it doesn't raise the ire of people in magic.

I probably agree with you, but I haven't thought this through well enough to be sure. I do think Penn and Teller have demonstrated that a certain type of exposure for the sake of coolness does, indeed, make magic seem more cool. A situation as described in the OP feels different to me, but I'm not yet able to verbalize why. And, of course, I have no idea whether the situation described in the OP is what happened. There's already a pretty different description of the same event posted to the thread.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 14th, 2015, 8:41 pm

There's never a need to expose the actual method, it isn't appreciated or required by those watching on their TV's at home.

A pro knows better.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 9:04 pm

Roger M. wrote:There's never a need to expose the actual method, it isn't appreciated or required by those watching on their TV's at home.

A pro knows better.

You might just be venting on the internet, but if you want me to take your claim seriously that television audiences don't appreciate knowing actual methods, you're going to have to post concrete evidence to support your position. Frankly, I'm pretty sure what you said is not true -- and I'm able to back it up with viewer counts of television shows and YouTube channels. Audiences don't appreciate losing a magical moment, but they do appreciate learning gossip and secrets.

Kaufman's position was nuanced, and made me think. You're just issuing a kneejerk call to arms to guard the empty safe.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 14th, 2015, 9:23 pm

The point that Roger M. is trying to make, I think, is that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 14th, 2015, 9:52 pm

I was wondering how long it would take before some pundit rolled out the "empty safe" nugget.
I equate that one with how long it takes before someone writes "Nazi's" in a heated conversation about the police.

That you missed my point entirely is not my concern, and I make no effort to help you out.

Richard notes the intent of my post clearly, I've no agenda I'm attempting to further.

I'll repeat for clarity ... a pro knows better.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 10:01 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:The point that Roger M. is trying to make, I think, is that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.

I'm not interested in arguing with you, nor with the OP. (Roger M, though, is just blathering so far, imo.) But I am very clear about something that I think a lot of magicians are not: in 2015, privacy is dead, and this death extends to marketed magic "secrets." The way forward is not to protect the unprotectable, but to perform in unstereotyped ways. The untrivialization of performed magic is being forced upon us, whether we like it or not.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 14th, 2015, 10:04 pm

Aaron Sterling wrote:
Richard Kaufman wrote:The point that Roger M. is trying to make, I think, is that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.

I'm not interested in arguing with you, nor with the OP. (Roger M, though, is just blathering so far, imo.) But I am very clear about something that I think a lot of magicians are not: in 2015, privacy is dead, and this death extends to marketed magic "secrets." The way forward is not to protect the unprotectable, but to perform in unstereotyped ways. The untrivialization of performed magic is being forced upon us, whether we like it or not.


You're arguing with yourself, as I have no interest in what you write.

I do however think you're in the wrong forum, and that you're somewhat deluded as to what this forum is all about.

That you think a Thin Sawing is a "marketed magic secret" clearly shows your experience level, and how seriously you're to be taken.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 10:23 pm

Roger M. wrote:That you think a Thin Sawing is a "marketed magic secret" clearly shows your experience level, and how seriously you're to be taken.
[/quote][/quote]
Thin Model Sawing is an illusion in the public domain, and it's explained in a variety of publications that can be torrented or bought for a few dollars on aliexpress. So not only is the basic secret for sale, it's for sale for less than five bucks.

Edit to add: To be clear, I pay creators for material. But please don't pretend that the world is different from what it truly is. Privacy is dead, and that will include more and more magic privacy.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Bill Mullins » January 14th, 2015, 11:09 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:The point that Roger M. is trying to make, I think, is that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.


That being the case, doesn't a false explanation do the same damage to the viewer's magical experience as a real one? If so, why bother.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Terry_Holley » January 14th, 2015, 11:16 pm

SPOILER ALERT! I just watched tonight's episode. The understanding of the methodology was a needed aspect of how they moved through the story, but they may have been able to pursue a different path if they had thought that exposure is "wrong.".

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 14th, 2015, 11:35 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
Richard Kaufman wrote:The point that Roger M. is trying to make, I think, is that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.


That being the case, doesn't a false explanation do the same damage to the viewer's magical experience as a real one? If so, why bother.


Bill, I'm not a believer in exposing magic effects to laymen in any capacity.

BUT - if some writer or producer decides they MUST show how a magic trick is done, a false explanation seems to be more in line with at least making an effort to continue to respect magic as a craft historically based on maintaining the secret behind the method.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby brianarudolph » January 14th, 2015, 11:38 pm

Marty Demarest wrote:I think it's important to note that Neil Patrick Harris isn't exactly "one of us, one of us..." He is, above all, an actor. He didn't write the script, and he didn't direct the episode. He was an actor playing the part of a magician. And I think he did it better most magicians could. He shouldn't be censured for doing an outstanding job.


Was he also an actor playing the part of AMA president during his tenure? Or have I been wrong all these years thinking that the AMA president is someone who holds the art of magic in highest regard and will both promote and defend the art appropriately in the world?

The illusion may have furthered the show's theme, but surely with a little thought another half-plausible method could have been created and "exposed" that would still allow for that future accident or other plot point per Richard's comments.

Many years ago as an Information technology professional when I joined the Association for Computing Machinery, I took an oath that covered my responsibilities as a member of the profession. It covered (and still covers to this day) a whole host of things including working with integrity and in nondiscriminatory ways, trustworthiness, honesty, honoring confidentiality and a responsibility to blow the whistle on those who would attempt to violate these tenets. At the time, I thought the parallels to magic were incredible.

Aaron Sterling wrote:
Roger M. wrote:That you think a Thin Sawing is a "marketed magic secret" clearly shows your experience level, and how seriously you're to be taken.
[/quote]
Thin Model Sawing is an illusion in the public domain, and it's explained in a variety of publications that can be torrented or bought for a few dollars on aliexpress. So not only is the basic secret for sale, it's for sale for less than five bucks.

Edit to add: To be clear, I pay creators for material. But please don't pretend that the world is different from what it truly is. Privacy is dead, and that will include more and more magic privacy.[/quote]

While Aaron certainly raises an important concern about the continual decay of privacy and that this will undoubtedly include more and more magical secrets being exposed over time, as magicians in a profession and art that largely relies upon privacy/secrecy (especially well known magic professionals in the field and officers of prestigious magic organizations) we are certainly under no obligation to be happy about, contribute to, or accelerate that death march. I don't care if your role is writer, director, key grip, or coffee gopher - if you are part of a professional magic organization you should at least make an effort to correct such (and the more prestige/star power/clout you have, the stronger and more adamant such an effort should be.)

At a public university where I worked, the salaries of all employees were public information by law. But that didn't mean that the university mailed/e-mailed the annual salary list to everyone who set foot on campus or lived within a 100 mile radius every year. Instead, an announcement was made the the information was available on request. Once requested, the steps to retrieve the information were cheerfully provided.

In the same way, if someone really wants to learn how the thin sawing works, is willing to pay for the plans and/or do the necessary research and sift through the various legit and less than legit explanations, more power to them. But just because I'm watching a show that features magic in the plot line or the life of Houdini doesn't mean that I should automatically be handed the inner workings of illusions still being used by many of today's working professional magicians. A classic example of doing it right is the "Table of Death" episode of Bill Bixby's television show The Magician. The audience thinks they're gaining insight into the workings of an illusion, but are still fooled (and thus magically entertained) in the end. And a magician could still perform the illusion without the pseudo-exposure affecting his or her livelihood.

One final point: given the time and expense involved in so many regards, I'm firmly convinced that an exposure hurts stage illusionists far more than parlor or close-up magicians. In general, the latter two can more easily toss tricks and apparatus and replace them with other effects and routines far more quickly and cheaply than can a stage illusionist.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 14th, 2015, 11:44 pm

I feel kinda bad, because I imagine my last post was probably jarring to read for some people. So I'd like to say this.

I recently agreed to invest in a show specifically because the illusions that appear in it are all new. So I'm not just talking on the internet. I'm taking calculated risks based on my analysis of the state of 21st century magic.

My point being: Even though I don't engage in it myself, I don't see (most) exposure as a problem -- certainly incomplete exposure of something in the public domain doesn't seem like a big deal to me. I see the lack of secrecy as an opportunity, as something that gives a competitive advantage to people who do something new. I suppose we'll see in a couple years whether I was right about this particular guess.

PS: Just noticed brianarudolph's post as I hit submit, and I appreciate the sensible tone. Thanks.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Bill Mullins » January 15th, 2015, 12:04 am

For What It's Worth (maybe not much):

IBM Membership: ~15000
AMA Membership: ~2500
Circulation of Genii: ~8000

Same Day Viewership of American Horror Story: ~ 3 million


Roger M. wrote:if some writer or producer decides they MUST show how a magic trick is done, a false explanation seems to be more in line with at least making an effort to continue to respect magic as a craft historically based on maintaining the secret behind the method.


I agree with Roger and Brian that as magicians, we have a responsibility to avoid exposure (although I'm not absolutist on the subject; Jason England's thoughts here are worth considering).

But what of the responsibilities of the showrunner, the director, and the writers of AHS? They have a responsibility to tell the best story they can, and if that includes exposure, so be it.
We don't know what dramatic purpose was served by their exposure, but I'll be it was for a reason more sophisticated than "I've got a secret that I'm busting to tell!" Some of us would prefer that NPH would have convinced them that the story would have been better served by a fake explanation (but like I alluded above, I'm not sure the audience benefits from it, nor am I sure that a future performer of thin-model is better off with an audience that believes in a fake explanation over the real one -- either way, their experience of magic is diluted).

And I don't think the thread title is particularly fair to Harris. He was but one person in a highly collaborative endeavor, and his ability to change something that he may have been unhappy about may have been non-existent. I took Max Maven's statement above to mean that it was improper to judge Harris based on so little actual knowledge. That seems wise, but coming from Max, what else would you expect?

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby John McDonald » January 15th, 2015, 1:34 am

This illusion is one of my favourites. I agree with the posters above and have only one thing to add to the conversation regarding NPH's possible innocence. As someone on the show who is only a guest. Is it possible he was unaware of exposure? Did he know how the illusion was to be portrayed? Did he do his segment? Did the producers exposure. I haven't seen the show so apologise if this seems naive.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Terry_Holley » January 15th, 2015, 2:10 am

Interesting that I just finished watching a 1981 episode of "Hart to Hart" starring Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers that Harry Blackstone Jr. appeared in as an evil magician. At the end, one of the other characters named "Max" (can't remember the actor) performed a card trick where he found the chosen card in the deck. As he walked away from the deck, the kicker ending was that Wagner picked it up and showed all the cards in the deck to be the same! What was Harry thinking? Same issue here as with NPH? I mean it is a legitimate concept. Ready, set, go!

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Jeffers » January 15th, 2015, 2:54 am

Terry_Holley wrote: (can't remember the actor)


Lionel Stander

Image

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 15th, 2015, 8:16 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:... that the TV viewing audience does not know the difference between a real method or fake method. They only know what you tell them.


So they could has well have claimed it was the assistant's nail polish that makes the trick work? Perhaps some folks have truly naive and ignorant imaginary audiences.
Siri - sawing in half box. There's one craig's list within a half hour drive.

About that "empty safe" - really? sure you're looking at the right safe?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Ted M » January 15th, 2015, 9:19 am

Generally speaking, audiences won't know (or care!) whether the method used in the show was real or fake unless it's publicly confirmed by angry magicians drawing attention to it.

A once-prominent grand illusionist posting explicit confirmation on a public message board might not be the smartest move. An angry public statement by a magic organization would also point a blinking neon arrow at something that would otherwise be seen and forgotten.

I didn't even watch the show, but suddenly I'm feeling confidently well informed about this illusion's workings. Way to go.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Henderson » January 15th, 2015, 9:34 am

Aaron, if you "don't want to argue" don't post stupid things. Otherwise what you are really saying is "I'm going to post stupid things and put my fingers in my ears (or over my eyes to be more accurate)" and dismiss other when they sensible correct my nonsense.

You demand Roger show evidence of his claim regarding televised audiences feelings, yet you make the HUGE claim that the teaching of magic by 12 year olds on YouTube has been good for magic. How about some hard evidence to back THAT one up? Let's begin with your objective proof of what is 'good'.

More importantly, your claim that they like gossip may be true but you ignore the implications - what you are advocating trivializes magic. It reduces it to method. And if you truly believe that magic should move beyond its tired presentations as you suggest, you may consider changing the attitudes and values we embrace and communicate as a starting point - otherwise you get no where.

You claim the thin model is public domain because some idiots have put various descriptions on torrent sites. By that logic game of throne and the new hobbit movie are public domain. By that logic those precious new illusions you invested in WILL be public domain the moment one idiot sends them to the world.


Oh I forgot. You don't want to argue. You want to tell everyone they are wrong by making baseless claims and jumping into your escape pod.

how old are you Aaron? because I don't believe you have any real world experience and your depth of thinking is too egocentric and shallow to suggest you have lived many years.

Also I would leave out the 'I pay creators' line. A little too much like "lots of my friends are black."

Now - to the issue of the exposure.

Knowledge of secrets is only destructive when that knowledge
closes people to the experience of magic, either immediately or in the long term. At least two factors play into this:

Values. When people believe that the most important aspect of a trick is its secret, we contribute to this closing. This is our fault because to most magicians the secret is the most
important part of a trick and it is not surprising the lay community has picked up on those values. This is good for neither magicians nor audiences as it misplaces our attention from the important goal of any art: how do we make our audiences feel.

Attitudes/education: (which stem from values). every art benefits from an informed viewership, even magic. And yes, knowing secrets can help an audience appreciate magic. The key is the attitude. For example, the masked magician took the stance that he was trying to push magicians to create new material but made statements such as "whenever you see a trick like this it is done this way." Likewise when presenting the zig zag the commentary ran "can you believe how you were fooled by something so simple?" the tone suggested simple meant stupid. This closes people to the experience of magic - I have seen it first hand.

But change the first claim to a more accurate "this is the most basic version but great magicians have decided new and innovative ways to create these illusions" and now the audience is better poised to appreciate magicians who do exactly that. Merely change the tone of the second sentence and have it read as a testament to the genius of the man who was able to take something so simple and turn it into a work of amazing magic, and now instead of closing people to the experience of magic we are opening them.

Now in magic world JPendragon hits a point many overlook.

When someone explains a method I want to know, it's education. (magicians helping magicians) When someone explains a method I ACTUALLY USE, it's exposure. We do hold a double standard. That's why it's so easy for young Aaron to dismiss an illusion as public domain. But pendragon is correct, had they exposed a change bag or double life the forums would be lit up like a green CHRISTMAS tree.

finally, re teaching it's even simpler. Ask yourself, given the resources of the student and the time we have together can I be reasonably sure that they will leave with the ability to begin mastering this material, and understand the tool they now have ? If they want to know how the sawing works but don't have a saw or a theater, then its exposure. If they do, then it's teaching. I, personally, do not teach young people the key card or cross cut force because while they can perform those easily, I am not always sure they can truly understand the tool they have. But the latter is a personal choice.

So, did this tv show open the parenthesis for magical experiences or close it?

From the description it sounds like the latter in which case it is exposure.

Aaron Sterling
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Joined: December 21st, 2014, 1:42 pm

Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 15th, 2015, 10:29 am

Hi Brad Henderson,

I might not respond to all of your points, because I think it would be harder to read with quotes than without, but here's an attempt.

Thin Model Sawing is in the public domain because of how intellectual property law is written, and that's the sense I use the term in. The explanation of the method is also easy to find. Let's say someone types into Google, "how do you saw a lady in half." One of the first hits is a site that categorizes multiple illusions, including methods to saw a lady in half. That site mentions that details to Jarrett's method can be found in The Complete Jarrett. I just checked, and you can buy The Complete Jarrett on aliexpress for $2.35. I will PM you the link if you like.

Game of Thrones is not in the public domain, but there's no doubt in my mind that the MPAA and RIAA are mishandling their interests by treating piracy as a legal problem instead of as a customer service problem. Gaming companies that focus on providing a better product than what is available for torrent have reduced their piracy significantly. That's a topic that doesn't relate directly to this thread, but it's important to bear in mind that relying on 19th century legal rights may not be the optimal business decision in a 21st century world.

Back to magic exposure: the strategy I suggested to avoid damage from exposure may also increase a performer's legal protections. Doughtery, in his chapter in Law and Magic, points out the possibility of gaining copyright protection for an act by combining together multiple units that are not themselves protected, but in combination they would be. Unstereotyped presentation, unique characterization, etc., all add up to greater likelihood of copyright protection. (BTW, TMS is in the public domain because of patent law, not copyright.) IANAL but I've done research and had a long talk with a specialist, and my understanding is that while there are a lot of interesting possible protections for magicians, this area is essentially unexplored: Rice and Teller are the only two cases since 1974, when the current copyright law went in. And the Teller case isn't super helpful, because Dogge didn't mount a counterargument.

As an aside, exposure of an illusion that is not in the public domain probably does not violate the law, see Harrison vs. SF Broadcasting (the masked magician lawsuit).

Your point about the value of a magic secret is an important one, I think, because that's *exactly* what is no longer true. Both magic dealers and performers have long relied on the "fact" that "the secret is part of the value of the trick." As the 21st century strips that away, other aspects of the trick will become more important. Is it angle proof? Does it allow for instant reset? Does it have a strong climax? Open handling? And, perhaps most importantly in a market moving to video download, is it well and thoroughly taught?

I'll decline to respond to your questions about my age, etc. I prefer to post on the internet without giving credentials, so my words stand or fall on their own. I might change that policy in 2015, because of a few things coming down the pipe, but in the meantime, I'm fine with you thinking I'm 14 years old.

brianarudolph
Posts: 391
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby brianarudolph » January 15th, 2015, 11:36 am

Bill Mullins wrote:But what of the responsibilities of the showrunner, the director, and the writers of AHS? They have a responsibility to tell the best story they can, and if that includes exposure, so be it.
We don't know what dramatic purpose was served by their exposure, but I'll be it was for a reason more sophisticated than "I've got a secret that I'm busting to tell!" Some of us would prefer that NPH would have convinced them that the story would have been better served by a fake explanation (but like I alluded above, I'm not sure the audience benefits from it, nor am I sure that a future performer of thin-model is better off with an audience that believes in a fake explanation over the real one -- either way, their experience of magic is diluted).

And I don't think the thread title is particularly fair to Harris. He was but one person in a highly collaborative endeavor, and his ability to change something that he may have been unhappy about may have been non-existent. I took Max Maven's statement above to mean that it was improper to judge Harris based on so little actual knowledge. That seems wise, but coming from Max, what else would you expect?


While the show runners, directors, and writers of any show have a responsibility to tell the best story that they can, I do not automatically accept that if that plot line includes exposure that it must entail the exposure of an actual illusion used by many magicians to earn their livelihood. Scripts are constantly being rewritten even in the midst of production. Entire scripts are also frequently written and then completely scrapped. This is nothing new. Scripts are also generally made available in advance. Did NPH accept the role without reading the script and then not read the script until minutes before shooting the scene? Or was some kind of career pressure from above put on NPH to just go with what was on the page and not cause any kind of stir? Anything is possible. Perhaps one day we'll find out.

If the plot calls for someone to show a phone number on screen, somehow it's never the home phone number of the producer, the director, the actor or the writer that's shown - they go with an obviously fake xxx-555-xxxx number or some such 99.9% of the time. If the plot revolved around poisoning someone by seeding a glass with an undetectable chemical that reacts with ingredient #6 in Coca-Cola (conveniently a show sponsor), you can damned well bet that the list of ingredients in Coca-Cola shown on the show would not be the actual formula (Talk about a secret in a locked safe ... I wish magic secrets had 0.00001% of the security that Coke has for its recipe.) Of course, if Coke wouldn't agree to sponsorship or at least product placement, they'd just change it to "Ultra Cola" or some such and have the art department whip up some cans and posters featuring this fictitious brand.

So if the requirement for the show was to find an illusion that could cause serious harm or death to a human being if it was actually performed (or mis-performed) in order to foreshadow an accident using it later, what are the show runners' options? Either design your own never-before-seen illusion with a plausible explanation and expose that, or go get an actual illusion people have seen before (and that many magicians still perform in their acts) and expose it. The former would take some extra work and dare I say creativity and time on the part of the show runners. But the latter is more expedient and likely cheaper in terms of the show's overall budget. The former would have that same air of a '555' phone number about it when shown on screen, but the latter is exposing something REAL. Which is more interesting to an audience? I'll bet that's why the decision was made.

And what about Ed Alonzo's role as magic consultant/advisor for the show? Shouldn't he have known better? Or did they sneak this in on him after he was done? Had I somehow been kidnapped and forced to be magic consultant for such a show. I would have at least had the wherewithal to run to someone like Jim Steinmeyer and say "Look, I've got this problem: I'm working for a show that needs to expose some kind human body mutilation illusion in the same vein as a sawing a person in half or a Zig-Zag. The reason is that later in the show, there's going to be an accident because the illusion wasn't performed correctly (or was purposely tampered with to malfunction, etc., etc.) So Jim: can you create a "slum" illusion for our show that meets our needs but at the same doesn't really expose any of the secrets being used by magic pros today? It doesn't even have to work - it just needs to be plausible enough in the context of the script. Can you help us?"

Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 843
Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » January 15th, 2015, 12:13 pm

A NOTE ABOUT THREE P’s
January 15, 2015

It’s noteworthy when certain “threads” quickly unravel and spool out. What is it about the topic of “exposure” that always hits nerves? What I don’t hear, however, are opinions regarding solutions, if there are any? In the immersive, virtual world where privacy now seems to be an anomaly how can magic “secrets” ever be safe? We’re like goldfish in a transparent bowl. Transparency is now a watchword and the three P’s (privacy, piracy, and prying) are part of the tumult and shouting.

Alas, I’ve exposed hundreds of secrets in books that were meant to be semi-secret but are now “out there” in the Commons, scattered by Bit Torrent and YouTube and the Wide-World Web.

What now?

Faites vos jeux!

Jonathan Townsend
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Location: Westchester, NY
Contact:

Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 15th, 2015, 12:41 pm

As I read it the question was about NPH being part and party to exposure. Unusual feathers ruffled. The usual ones - meh
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time


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