NPH exposes thin sawing

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Bill Mullins
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Bill Mullins » January 15th, 2015, 12:47 pm

brianarudolph wrote: 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.


You don't accept it. But you are part of a magic community. The taboo on exposure is something we impose on each other, and the only way to enforce it is to ostracize from the community those who violate it.

People who produce TV shows aren't part of the community, so ostracizing them doesn't do any good. For the most part, they don't recognize any obligations to magicians to protect secrets (and why should they -- we do a crappy job of protecting them ourselves). Their idea of secrecy is Trade Secrets, when you receive something in confidence only after signing a contract with teeth that requires you to keep your mouth shut (I've heard that Copperfield uses this method). We publish, lecture, teach, and sell to anyone with a buck things that we call "secrets" but which clearly aren't.

I posted the numbers above to make a point. 3 million viewers enjoy a show with a secret in it. A few thousand magicians might think otherwise, a few hundred might say so on internet forums, petitions, etc., and a few dozen may actually have their livelihoods affected. Any taboo on exposure simply isn't a consideration in that environment.

If I were a producer and Ed Alonzo or Harris said there's a problem with exposing the secret of thin model sawing, my first response would be "what secret -- it's on youtube", and my second would be "thanks for your input, decision is made, we are moving on". There wouldn't be a third (and I might well have a new magic consultant and actor). Alonzo's and Harris's jobs are to produce the script and tell the story, not to represent the interests of a small fringe element of the audience. If doing so offends their personal sense of ethics, they are free to refuse the job.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 15th, 2015, 1:10 pm

Jon Racherbaumer wrote: What I don’t hear, however, are opinions regarding solutions, if there are any?

I have an opinion here, and you might like it. Part of the way forward is to inspire young people with a reverence for the history of magic. Again, this isn't just an intellectual position of mine: I recently agreed to co-create an occasional YouTube series about the history of magic effects. (The project you were kind enough to help me on a few weeks ago is unrelated.)

One of the things we're looking at as a topic is the lota bowl, because I already did research into it for design of a show. And all kinds of exposure questions have come up. The preColumbian "Spooner/McEwan" lota is essentially the same structure as a modern magic prop. Would I be committing exposure if I told an animator to illustrate a cross section of that vessel, and discuss the mention of similar vessels in the Popol Vu, and that finding this object helped support what magic historians were guessing from the writing? Or is it appropriate to contrast a lota with a diaciometer, and show how Sharpe suggested the two principles might be combined? None of those are rhetorical questions to me, and shrill insistence to "never expose ever" doesn't aid my decision making process in any way.

Main point: teach people how much work -- sometimes centuries of work -- went into constructing techniques that are now "obvious" and easy to find. And, more importantly, convey the understanding that "you could build on history and create the next new thing," so that people who are currently marginalized have a seat at the table. There, Brad Henderson and I might have a point of agreement, on the importance of treating the art, the science, and the audience with respect.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Henderson » January 15th, 2015, 1:31 pm

I am happy we have a point of agreement on an approach to changing perceptions but I diagree that the important aspect of any magic effect is how it resets or if it is angle proof. These are technical behind the scenes considerations which again priveledge magicians values and not those of the audience.

the magic marketplace dictates that we sell things that magicians like. That is not always what real people like. Most modern magic tricks are only interesting if you already know the way in which the previous incarnations work. They serve the values of magicians interested more in pleasing themselves than their audiences (though most often that audience is other magicians.)

and let's not confuse what is good for magic with that which is legal to do. That gets us no where.

I would hope we were interested in adopting practices which are best for our art - not just what we can get away with. Thanks for the legal name dropping. perhaps one day you will see the Forrest beyond those trees.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 15th, 2015, 2:09 pm

Aaron Sterling wrote:...
One of the things we're looking at as a topic is the lota bowl, because I ...the importance of treating the art, the science, and the audience with respect.


see recent post about origin of the item/prop. source article here: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/10/secrets ... _bathroom/

okay back to the pantry of other people's "secrets".
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 15th, 2015, 2:34 pm

NPH's Oscars commercial is, for lack of a better description, an illusion (one of forced perspective with a twist). One wonders how he would feel if it were "exposed."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6c4ipZtw78&app=desktop

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Aaron Sterling » January 15th, 2015, 2:50 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:see recent post about origin of the item/prop. source article here: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/10/secrets ... _bathroom/

Thanks for the link. I hadn't seen it. In case you're interested, the most respected academic source is the paper on trick vases by Noble, which is apparently more accurate than the writeup in the Guillemin book. I haven't compared it to Sharpe yet, but Sharpe's citations appeared before the Noble paper, so there may be some inaccuracies there too.

At this point, I'm wildly off topic, so I apologize to the OP, and I'm off the thread.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Henderson » January 15th, 2015, 3:34 pm

uh huh.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby houdinisghost » January 15th, 2015, 5:21 pm

I missed the show. I saw John and Irene Daniel perform the thin sawing. I saw the first pirated version performed. I remember when the masked magician exposed it -- I didn't see that. But, Jonathan Pendragon came up with "Clearly Impossible" and Neil could explain the thin sawing to me in detail -- and if I watched that crap I could have seen the masked magician expose it -- and "Clearly Impossible" still fools me every time. /the educated mind can still be tricked. You know, Muhammad Ali was kicked out of the Academy of Magical Arts -- not the building, the club -- and he only exposed magic to a few people at a time -- or did it he expose on TV -- I hope not.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby brianarudolph » January 15th, 2015, 6:16 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:
brianarudolph wrote: 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.


You don't accept it. But you are part of a magic community. The taboo on exposure is something we impose on each other, and the only way to enforce it is to ostracize from the community those who violate it.

People who produce TV shows aren't part of the community, so ostracizing them doesn't do any good. For the most part, they don't recognize any obligations to magicians to protect secrets (and why should they -- we do a crappy job of protecting them ourselves). Their idea of secrecy is Trade Secrets, when you receive something in confidence only after signing a contract with teeth that requires you to keep your mouth shut (I've heard that Copperfield uses this method). We publish, lecture, teach, and sell to anyone with a buck things that we call "secrets" but which clearly aren't.

I posted the numbers above to make a point. 3 million viewers enjoy a show with a secret in it. A few thousand magicians might think otherwise, a few hundred might say so on internet forums, petitions, etc., and a few dozen may actually have their livelihoods affected. Any taboo on exposure simply isn't a consideration in that environment.

If I were a producer and Ed Alonzo or Harris said there's a problem with exposing the secret of thin model sawing, my first response would be "what secret -- it's on youtube", and my second would be "thanks for your input, decision is made, we are moving on". There wouldn't be a third (and I might well have a new magic consultant and actor). Alonzo's and Harris's jobs are to produce the script and tell the story, not to represent the interests of a small fringe element of the audience. If doing so offends their personal sense of ethics, they are free to refuse the job.


No, I don't accept it. And I would hope that anyone who believes that something that rests at the crux of some people's legitimate livelihoods shouldn't be just given away for free either - no matter how small that number of people or how many times and in what media it has already been done by others. None of that is justification for perpetuating the problem.

I'm not arguing with you, Bill - too many (if not the vast majority) of our cats are already out of the bag and this has only been exacerbated by the internet and technology. But since we're unlikely to just be able to wave a wand (so to speak) and address the exposure issue now that we are where we are, we need people who are willing to stand up and starting pointing out such issues associated with our art when they do arise or are violated by people who are not part of our community. And while I have no knowledge of Ed or Neil's situation from the inside, my guess is neither of their careers would suffer all that much if they took an ethical stand against such exposure and actually manage to lose this one particular gig. What does a magic consultant do? Simply provide illusions to expose when a producer's whim so commands? I would sincerely hope not. I would hope it also involves ensuring that the portrayal and use of magic is done ethically and responsibly to the art especially when given a high-profile chance to do so.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Bill Mullins » January 15th, 2015, 9:19 pm

brianarudolph wrote: None of that is justification for perpetuating the problem.


But the problem, restated, is "other people are doing something I don't want them to do." And their reasons for wanting to do so are of more importance to them than our reasons for not wanting to do so. And given that if we say "don't do it," we aren't coming from some particular moral high ground (no one is getting hurt, the "ethics" involved aren't generally accepted, we don't protect the "secrets" ourselves, etc.), then there isn't much reason to think that they will change what they are doing just because we don't like it.

we need people who are willing to stand up and starting pointing out such issues associated with our art when they do arise or are violated by people who are not part of our community.


Has there ever been a situation in the history of magic and exposure where people who would "stand up" have made any difference whatsoever? David Devant, Thurston Magic Candy, Camel Cigarettes, Herbert Becker, Masked Magician --- In each case, exposure happened, magicians got all up in a wad, exposers ignored them, the public forgot, and the world continued to spin. And magicians kept working, and people kept enjoying magic shows.

Stand up if you want to. I endorse your motives, and think it would be nice if you were successful. But it's never been effective, and it has a tendency to make magicians look silly.


And while I have no knowledge of Ed or Neil's situation from the inside, my guess is neither of their careers would suffer all that much if they took an ethical stand against such exposure and actually manage to lose this one particular gig.
So what if they did? It wouldn't change anything, except someone else would be playing Chester and someone else would get the "magic consultant" credit. The show would go on.

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Brad Jeffers
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Jeffers » January 15th, 2015, 10:56 pm

brianarudolph wrote: ... the crux of some people's legitimate livelihoods shouldn't be just given away for free


In no way is the secret to the Thin Model Sawing, the crux of Jonathan Pendragon's livelihood.

Although the exposure may cause him some emotional distress, financially, it will not cost him a dime.

In fact, an enterprising performer (leaving out a few details) might find some way to capitalize on this situation ...

The illusion which I am presenting tonight, was recently featured on a national television program. Unfortunately, a mishap resulted in the tragic death of the lovely young woman who was assisting. Of course all precautions have been taken to insure that this will not happen again ... ;)

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby brianarudolph » January 15th, 2015, 11:43 pm

Brad Jeffers wrote:
brianarudolph wrote: ... the crux of some people's legitimate livelihoods shouldn't be just given away for free


In no way is the secret to the Thin Model Sawing, the crux of Jonathan Pendragon's livelihood.


Never said it was. But to the magician whose show may only feature one or two stage illusions, it very well could be.

Brad Jeffers wrote:Although the exposure may cause him some emotional distress, financially, it will not cost him a dime.


If the exposure is deemed severe enough to cause him to drop it from his show, it will cost him something significant in terms of both the original financial outlay (development, purchase, crating, trucking, storage, etc.) and time (routining, choreography, rehearsals, etc.) and the cost to replace it with something equally or far more grand.

Brad Jeffers wrote:In fact, an enterprising performer (leaving out a few details) might find some way to capitalize on this situation ...

The illusion which I am presenting tonight, was recently featured on a national television program. Unfortunately, a mishap resulted in the tragic death of the lovely young woman who was assisting. Of course all precautions have been taken to insure that this will not happen again ... ;)


But why leave out the details? They're already on YouTube. (Jump in any time, Bill :) )

Bill Mullins wrote:But the problem, restated, is "other people are doing something I don't want them to do." And their reasons for wanting to do so are of more importance to them than our reasons for not wanting to do so. And given that if we say "don't do it," we aren't coming from some particular moral high ground (no one is getting hurt, the "ethics" involved aren't generally accepted, we don't protect the "secrets" ourselves, etc.), then there isn't much reason to think that they will change what they are doing just because we don't like it.


Not quite. The problem restated is that the former president of the Academy of Magical Arts has apparently played an active role (pun unavoidable) in the exposure of a magic illusion while another person who is at least minimally well-known within the art (unsure of his AMA membership status) served as Magic Consultant that also facilitated/approved of/turned a blind eye to said illusion exposure.

Bill Mullins wrote:Has there ever been a situation in the history of magic and exposure where people who would "stand up" have made any difference whatsoever? David Devant, Thurston Magic Candy, Camel Cigarettes, Herbert Becker, Masked Magician --- In each case, exposure happened, magicians got all up in a wad, exposers ignored them, the public forgot, and the world continued to spin. And magicians kept working, and people kept enjoying magic shows.

Stand up if you want to. I endorse your motives, and think it would be nice if you were successful. But it's never been effective, and it has a tendency to make magicians look silly.


So no reason to try to enforce the laws covering things like film and music piracy either then because even the few successful attempts have failed to stop it in the large? Silly-looking prosecutors!

Bill Mullins wrote:So what if they did? It wouldn't change anything, except someone else would be playing Chester and someone else would get the "magic consultant" credit. The show would go on.


Maybe. But it just might put others on notice that if you want to work with NPH and Ed on projects involving magic, that both of them will staunchly uphold the ethics of the art they profess to love. But that's just a minor thing, so I gather.


(At some point I would still like to know what exactly is expected of a "magic consultant" for a film or TV project - and if said consultant doesn't have some kind of authoritative say regarding the magic, then why even bother to have one? Instead, why not just run down the street to Illuzionz-R-Us, buy the illusion, read the instruction sheet, and then expose it at will? But let's get back to the topic of this specific exposure as proffered in the OP.)
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Tom Moore » January 16th, 2015, 7:07 am

Obviously I've not worked on this particular show so don't know this particular setup but working as MA on lots of other shows the writers / producers contact you at an early stage for advice/stories/ideas for a sequence - "we need a big trick - could we make an elephant appear" or "Can you come up with a safe way (that the insurers will approve) for this huge popstar to do a burning rope strait-jacket escape on live TV?" all whilst having an active working knowledge of how TV is made, what does and doesn't work for cameras, what can be practically presented in a TV studio, etc

There's then lots of meetings, you develop the ideas and then are ultimately responsible for sourcing the props and resources, overseeing the sequence and delivering the concept as close to the non-magic creative team's vision as possible. Whilst I've got no doubt that if I flat out refused to do something I would be fired from the job I also know that i know way more than they do as often what they want to do is impossible so I have to find a way to make it /look/ like the thing they wanted but using existing or budget friendly technologies. Likewise for exposure - it's unlikely they would have a specific method to expose in mind (if they did, they wouldn't need a magic advisor) so my task would be to invent some new psudo-method that can be given away. To be honest I've done this several times before simply because "it's held up by a bit of nylon thread" makes for very dull television whereas "we had to build a magnetic induction field and use 10 carefully focused jets of air" is a much more televisual and interesting story to present.

Baring in mind NPH's status as an actor/celeb I am in no doubt that he has script approval and if he had refused to partake in this sequence they would have found an alternative psudo-explanation that everyone was ok with. Because of that i have to default to the hope that there is a realllllllly good reason why NPH & Ed chose to be involved in something so blatent.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 16th, 2015, 8:14 am

Maybe there's a celeb competition to see who can expose a magic method on mass media after achieving prestige in the magic community?
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Bill Marquardt
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Bill Marquardt » January 16th, 2015, 10:16 am

It is my unauthoritative opinion that NPH made a poor decision to participate in this exposure, however, I speculate that whatever damage has been done would only be worsened by a headline in Variety reading "Neil Patrick Harris Dismissed From AMA For Exposing Magic Trick."
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Roger M. » January 16th, 2015, 10:17 am

Thread creep is inevitable, but the first page of this thread was ultimately not about exposure in general, but rather exposure on national TV in which the former president of the Castle participated.

"Yes", there are times when it's appropriate to walk away in order to support something you believe in, especially when other practitioners of the craft had previously put their trust in you as a result of your beliefs.

Nothing stings like being betrayed by one of your own.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 16th, 2015, 10:45 am

Neil will not be kicked out of the Academy of Magical Arts. Even the most zealous anti-exposure folks can look back at how incredibly stupid The Magic Circle appeared when they kicked out their ex-president David Devant for writing a magic book for the public. They were shamed for it, and with good reason.
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 16th, 2015, 11:23 am

So exposure is - by most obvious examples - condoned. the contest is to get the biggest item exposed with the greatest fanfare?

gonna be hard to top the AMA/thin model sawing exposure but no doubt the next event will try to outdo it.

:(
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 16th, 2015, 11:31 am

Dustin Stinett wrote:NPH's Oscars commercial is, for lack of a better description, an illusion (one of forced perspective with a twist). One wonders how he would feel if it were "exposed."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6c4ipZtw78&app=desktop


The lighting/setup how-to of forced perspective shots is its own craft. Here's a public discussion of one example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWMFpxkGO_s


The NPH Oscars promo looks great! Kudos to all involved. :)
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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby Brad Henderson » January 16th, 2015, 12:37 pm

In magic, ethics is a function of popularity.

Always.

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Re: NPH exposes thin sawing

Postby brianarudolph » January 16th, 2015, 7:54 pm

Thanks so much, Tom, for detailing the work of a professional Magic Advisor / Magic Consultant. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing I had hoped it would be and you covered the reasons for having a MA/MC and the latitude one would expect that they would have in realizing the overall creative vision of the given show/program extremely well.

But the question Tom ended with still stands: why would people of Neil and Ed's stature (as actors/performers as well as within the magic community) go along with something like this specific choice given that there very well may have been other options or that other options could have been pursued?

I'm not calling for anyone to be excommunicated from the AMA, IBM, SAM or to even be strapped to a chair and endure two hours of Criss Angel performing all the tricks from one of his magic sets (despite the fact that I hear his ball vase and spiked coin are absolute killers.) But as someone who is part of the magic community (as little of a part as I am), I would like to hear the reasoning behind the choice to do it as it was done rather than pursue some other option.


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