Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

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Susan Arendt
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Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Susan Arendt » January 23rd, 2018, 1:10 pm

Hello, friends-

It is a sad truth that the magically-intrigued ten-year-old of today is infinitely more likely to turn to YouTube than the library for information about magic. While they may learn perfectly good methods and techniques this way (or not, depending on what they watch), they'll almost assuredly not be exposed to the lineage of magic - the provenance of tricks, or performers, or creators.

One of the goals of GeniiOnline is to expose the next generation of magicians to that history in a way that they're more likely to consume it - videos. With that in mind, I want to begin gathering opinions from y'all on what aspects of magical history you think need to be tackled. The obvious answer is "all of it", but that's not overly practical or realistic. Let's say someone finds Chris Ramsay's YouTube channel and gets interested in card magic. What would you consider vital historical context? (Erdnase, I should think, but what else?)

I don't want the history of magic to be lost to the up and coming magicians simply because they don't feel like hitting the library.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 23rd, 2018, 2:04 pm

http://factsanddetails.com/world/cat56/ ... m1465.html
http://nautil.us/issue/11/light/early-h ... imated-art

Sean Connery in Time Bandits

Vernon fools Houdini - Bess says "stop that"

The basic ideas behind "abracadabra" and "hocuspocus" vs It's not nice to go mocking someone else's ritual practices.

Gertie the Dinosaur (in performance) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4yTFAqOpHw

People like to see trickery in action but not to be played for a fool or to learn how magic tricks work - "harmless quibbles" - per that line from the ancient Roman comic https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_le ... /Letter_45 Imagine Mark Twain writing in the year 10AD. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_le ... troduction
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Pete McCabe » January 23rd, 2018, 3:04 pm

I think any new magician who can understand anything Jonathan Townsend says is off to a great start.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 23rd, 2018, 4:07 pm

Thanks. :) For serious students who like to read maybe add this item to the facts list: Borges wrote Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius in 1940 in Argentina.

Today we fuss over "canon" Star Wars and can find Shakespeare's original as written in Klingon. Once upon a time ...a long time ago in a galaxy far away has overlapped onto tales of three hundred years from now.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Bob Farmer » January 23rd, 2018, 7:31 pm

One thing I've noticed is that new magicians don't know the history of the specific tricks they are performing. They learn something off the internet and don't have a clue about its provenance. So, their appreciation of history should start there, with the specific and then branch out to a more general knowledge.

I've always been more interested in the history and origins of specific tricks and methods, and the magicians and inventors responsible, than I have been of, say, Houdini's tour dates in Europe in 1919.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby performer » January 23rd, 2018, 7:56 pm

I don't think any magician new or old NEEDS to know about magic history. However, if they can exert themselves to show some interest it can be a damn good thing and I believe (although I have no idea why) that it can make them a better magician. And if someone is interested in the subject it is a sure sign they are dedicated to magic and that can only be a good thing.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Joe Mckay » January 23rd, 2018, 8:34 pm

Knowing magic history and the providence of ideas is a great way to discover tricks buried in print that will appeal to you. It is like an algorithm for discovering unknown unknowns. You won't know what you are looking for - but you will know when you have found it. It is a case of letting the trick of interest find you rather than the other way round.

I do it all the time.

You find a trick, gaff, sneaky idea or principle that you like - and then you go back and find any other uses for it as well. Denis's website is good for this part of the journey:

http://www.conjuringarchive.com/

There are other places you can search as well. Ask Alexander, Lybrary.com's Magic Knowledge Base and the GENII archives. And a search of The Magic Cafe often uncovers useful leads as well.

Along the way - you will find creators you have never heard of who also made use of the idea that caught your eye. So - if you have similar tastes when it comes to that principle - it stands to reason that creator might have other ideas that appeal to you as well. And off you go chasing down another rabbit hole.

And when you find a creator whose work you like - you are motivated to try and find everything they have in print. And along the way that will introduce you to new ideas/principles that you like which will send you off investigating another area entirely. This approach will also introduce you to new magazines and books you would otherwise have never picked up. And when you find a magazine you like - you will go down another rabbit hole of studying all the effects that were ever printed in that magazine.

Over time you develop a mental map of the history of magic where you can see how all the creators and ideas criss-cross and interconnect with each other. Like Bob I have no interest in traditional magic history. Instead I want to learn about the history of magic ideas. It is the only way you can uncovered the gems that are buried in print and overlooked by everyone else.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby erdnasephile » January 23rd, 2018, 9:20 pm

Bob Farmer wrote:One thing I've noticed is that new magicians don't know the history of the specific tricks they are performing. They learn something off the internet and don't have a clue about its provenance. So, their appreciation of history should start there, with the specific and then branch out to a more general knowledge...


Completely agree.

Michael Close has observed that many magicians could care less about magic theory until you fool them deeply with a routine. Only then, will they pay attention to the theory behind that trick.

I suspect the same is true regarding magic history. When I was starting out, the tricks always came first--once I was hooked on them, it was a lot easier to interest me in the history of what I already related to and cared about. I think teaching isolated history will likely be perceived as a waste of time by many new learners (and for them, they are probably right).

In terms of goals, I think if we could somehow inculcate the younger folks with the notion that tricks have parentage, a history, and are not free for the taking we'd be doing magic a great service. To me, such lessons are better caught (in context) than taught.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby magicam » January 23rd, 2018, 10:43 pm

Bob Farmer wrote:I've always been more interested in the history and origins of specific tricks and methods, and the magicians and inventors responsible, than I have been of, say, Houdini's tour dates in Europe in 1919.
I suspect that’s because your nature is creative, which has led to appreciation of the riches buried in magic history and literature and how such riches can nurture creativity. 8-)

Some thoughtful posts. Great reading. I share the apprehensions expressed about our younger generation’s thirst for historical knowledge, and have no answers on how to spur its interest in magic history. But, to address Susan’s post, perhaps there’s at least one element in the historical equation that would appeal to the audio-visual bent of younger generations: videos and film of real magic artistry, in all its glorious diversity, showing the simplicity and brilliance of misdirection for a basic vanish, the varied presentations and personalities of magicians, etc. Showing the dynamism of performing excellence might at least spur younger magicians to see their performance styles as blank canvasses ready for their personal imprints – which is where artistry begins. FWIW, if a new magician asked me if knowledge of magic history was important, I’d reply with a question: “How good do you want to be?”

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Curtis Kam » January 23rd, 2018, 11:55 pm

The average new magician needs to know the history of any effect he’s interested in, if only to confirm that the method he’s about to learn/buy/perform (let’s say “invest in”) is the best available to him. If he can’t, or doesn’t, do this research, he’s at the mercy of those who do.

The CREATIVE new magician needs to know whether she has created something new, or discovered something old, or if she has merely pointed out something obvious.

And the new magician who wants to write a book should first read a few.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to look at the most popular searches conducted at the known research sites, and the Cafe, and find someone to curate answers to those inquiries, as a starting point.


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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Tom Gilbert » January 24th, 2018, 9:20 am

Unfortunately, as books go out of print, and the names of creators fade into history, it will become harder to learn the history of the effect. That's if the person learning the effect even cares. The copycats of all the downloads being released hardly credit, thinking it's their idea or a different finger placement is enough to make it their effect. Harrison Greenbaum just posted that Lloyd Barnes and Ellusionist just took a trick of his that he's been working for 10 years, and released it. Bet there's no credit there.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Susan Arendt » January 24th, 2018, 11:15 am

Bob Farmer wrote:One thing I've noticed is that new magicians don't know the history of the specific tricks they are performing. They learn something off the internet and don't have a clue about its provenance. So, their appreciation of history should start there, with the specific and then branch out to a more general knowledge.

I've always been more interested in the history and origins of specific tricks and methods, and the magicians and inventors responsible, than I have been of, say, Houdini's tour dates in Europe in 1919.


This was exactly what got me started on this line of thinking. I talk to someone a bit more seasoned and they typically know at least some of the origin of a trick, whereas magic newbies...not so much. Not that you need to know the lineage to perform well, but I think there's innate value in knowing the roots of one's chosen art/hobby.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 24th, 2018, 2:08 pm

Maybe you can get the rights to include a couple of minutes of Alex Elmsley talking about his count and a performance of his four card trick?

Roy Walton is around - maybe he'd like to offer a clip of something about his Card Warp routine.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Stephen Burton » January 24th, 2018, 4:02 pm

Susan-
You ask an important question and one we should address. The history of conjuring really is an important topic for young magicians and I do understand if they're confused about it because of lack of knowledge. When I was researching Tarbell in what was later to become (with Richard Kaufman's expert editorship) Volume Eight and later, The Tarbell Companion I spoke to a young magician about my work and he asked the year of the original Tarbell manuscripts. I said, "1926 and 1927." He replied, "Oh, so it's like the pulling off our thumb type stuff." He just assumed that if it came from more than few decades prior it must be dead simple magic and not much use to modern magicians. So, my opinion is to steer them toward the Tarbell Course, it has a lot of history and some great magic to boot. The original Tarbell System is readily available as a pdf.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Susan Arendt » January 24th, 2018, 5:34 pm

Stephen Burton wrote: He just assumed that if it came from more than few decades prior it must be dead simple magic and not much use to modern magicians.


Yes, this very point exactly! And it's just so dang wrong, but I also know the challenge of getting a short attention span audience (even an interested one) to believe anything other than the new hotness is worthwhile.

Everyone's comments and suggestions are marvelous, thank you. If you're going to be at MagiFest and/or Blackpool, I'd love to pick your brain in person.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Anthony Vinson » January 24th, 2018, 6:35 pm

What they need to know is different from what they should want to know. As a young boy interested in magic I was fascinated by Houdini, Malini, Thurston, Chung Ling Soo, et al, and read all I could find at the local library. As I grew older and had money to spend on books, I purchased lots of magic history related texts, many of which I still have today. I cannot imagine why any young aspiring magician wouldn't want to know about the history of our art, but the times they have a'changed.

With today's resources the richness of our art's history is out there in the ether for anyone to access and study. You can find video of many greats of the past right along with some of today's finest. What a treasure for young magicians! (And older ones as well.)

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 24th, 2018, 7:32 pm

magicam wrote:... videos and film of real magic artistry, in all its glorious diversity,...


Agreed. Show rather than tell. Short videos with clickbait. Here's the show - and this link takes you to the free book (something public domain) chapter with the tell - see if you can find it. :)

A five second clip of Vernon doing the Diagonal Palm Shift might sell folks on reading the erdnase text.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby performer » January 24th, 2018, 7:54 pm

It is extra exciting when you actually meet someone who is still alive and is part of the history! It is one thing to read the history in a book but quite another when you have a person right in front of you who was there at the time!

Thus Murray the Escapologist told me "Hitler and Goering came back stage to see me. They were standing as near to me as you are standing now"

Or when I met John Mulholland who primly informed me, "Houdini was mishandling the funds of the SAM and I was the only one to speak up about it"

Or when I met Dante's stage manager who told me all sorts of stories about his lord and master. Mind you so did Murray who in his later years once said to me "I dreamt last night I was back with Dante". I do know they were great friends.

Dante's stage manager told me that Dante's son died in a motor bike accident and as a result his hair went white overnight. He also told me that Dante would get sick and tired of Murray coming in to his show every night to see what material he could steal! I hadn't met Murray at that time but when I did I realised this was probably true!

Chung Ling Soo was another example. I worked in Gamages magic department when I was young and one of the store executives was a man named Mr Robinson who passed the department every day going to his office. I always used to wonder why he gave the magic department a disgusted look every time he passed it. It turned out he was Chung Ling Soo's son!

How can anyone not be interested in the history of magic when you actually meet these people in person?

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby erdnasephile » January 24th, 2018, 8:17 pm

Anthony Vinson wrote:What they need to know is different from what they should want to know.


This started me thinking on a tangent....

Do lay audiences (in general) care at all about magic history at baseline?

I'm asking because it's become somewhat of a cliche to hear cups and balls workers talking about "The oldest trick in magic", while mentioning (wrongly) the pyramids of Egypt. Some others get caught up in mentioning how there was this old guy nicknamed "The Professor" who invented this or that. I get the sinking feeling that sometimes these types of presentations can devolve into a series of random name and date checks.

Of course, some outstanding performers cause lay audiences to care by how they artistically and interestingly interweave history throughout their act (Ricky Jay comes immediately to mind). However, I wonder if the average Joe/Josephine Magic is only entertaining himself/herself when they make references to people and events that are meaningful only to them and other magi.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Pendragon » January 25th, 2018, 12:59 am

EVERYTHING

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 25th, 2018, 8:37 am

erdnasephile wrote:... care at all about magic history at baseline?...references to people and events that are meaningful only to them and other magi.


Every spec of dust has a tale to tell. What tale would you like to tell your audience? Meaningful to who and in what context?

Unless specifically hired to educate - we're working to entertain. And you already know that.

What story do you want your audience to tell others - that's history.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Brad Henderson » January 25th, 2018, 9:02 am

lay people find magic history fascinating because much of it is fascinating. Of course that assumes you can tell a story in a manner that doesn't detract from an inherently interesting story.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 25th, 2018, 10:38 am

Brad Henderson wrote:lay people find magic history fascinating because much of it is fascinating...

Really? What's the frequency, Kenneth? C'mon, you can tell me ... is there an elevator under the floor by your table or just a trap door? Is that home grown or imported woofle dust there? I can keep a secret - you can tell me...

Meanwhile in a more verifiable reality - look at what's happening in discussion of some factual performing history as regards folks who are with us and some only recently past.

A=A has nothing to do with whether Aristotle is an engaging storyteller. History... might be an easier sell if we put more focus on people than product.
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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby performer » January 25th, 2018, 10:54 am

You can't force history on people. I just personally find it fascinating and interesting in itself to see what the personalities were up to and arguing about in those days. Oddly enough not a lot has changed! Human nature is human nature!

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Brad Henderson » January 25th, 2018, 1:21 pm

Jon, you forgot to use 'people translate' again.

My experience is that real people find the history and theory of magic fascinating - this comes from years of teaching as well as presenting programs with high level of interactive opportunities. Groups don't ait with you for an hour after the show listening to stories about magic history and theory if they aren't interested.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Andres Reynoso » January 26th, 2018, 2:54 pm

The screening Room in Magicana

http://www.magicana.com/screening-room? ... d_show_tid[]=965

has a lot of oldie videos, very interesting bits of history. (sorry, not 16:9, UHD 4K, 5.1 sound :P )

I think is important to know the history. Maybe audience didn't knows if the performer knows history, maybe yes. But I believe is important to know what is what one does.

Curtis Kam wrote:The CREATIVE new magician needs to know whether she has created something new, or discovered something old, or if she has merely pointed out something obvious.

And the new magician who wants to write a book should first read a few.


How many times in "light from the lamp" we read about a new realese that really has existed for a long time?

I agree that Tarbell and old magazines are great resources for buried, lost and forgotten treasures. And I have heard 2 or 3 magic dealers (and not small dealers) saying they take old magazines and rearrange ideas from them and create some new.

I have listened Howard Hamburg tell histories about the Magic Castle, Dai Vernon, Larry Jennings and others. It's incredible to sit there and listen to him. Attending a lecture by Mike Caveney, Jim Steinmeyer or John Gaughan are highlights for me.
Another one: reading "the Vernon Touch" and notice that Dai Vernon born before Erdnese was published and as a boy he read Mahatma much before The Sphinx existed. When I realized that, was like watch more than 110 years back.

One of the tricks I perform which more happy I am, is sands of desert. Time ago I used ask Alexander to research about it, I found that basically the trick hasn't changed in centuries, read some crazy versions that I doubt really somebody used, reached points where clues conducted me to different tricks or endpoints where information was contradictory. Most recently on Genii was published Hokasen, which is now my oldest reference to the trick. I believe to know more details about this trick helped me to understand more about it.

History is important. Is sayed that who doesn't know the history is condemned to repeat mistakes.
Andres Reynoso

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Pete McCabe » January 26th, 2018, 5:31 pm

There is a difference between knowing the history of magic and knowing the history of a specific trick. They can both be valuable, but for different reasons.

For tricks: I find the most useful part of the history of a trick is how people changed it to make it better, or at least better for them. This encourages me to think of how I might change the trick to make it better, or at least better for me. The more people think this way, the better their tricks will be, I believe.

For magic as a whole: I teach middle school English. If I were in charge of schools, the first change I would make it to eliminate half of what the history teachers have to teach, and replace that class time with study of current events. There is nothing currently happening that does not have its roots in history, and any attempt to understand current events without considering history is doomed to fail. The same is true of Magic, I think.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Joe Mckay » January 26th, 2018, 7:11 pm

The importance of studying history to understand current events is something that really interests me. Since it is something I am sceptical about.

Take for example the current occupant of the White House. In the last election cycle - half the country were half-worried he could be the next Hitler. And the other half were optimistic he could, basically speaking, be the next Ronald Reagan. So how would history be able to tell you which outcome to expect when you can easily find parallels between any two lives if you go looking for them?

My fear is that the usefulness of studying history is outweighed by the dangers introduced by allowing confirmation bias and the benefit of hindsight to give you the illusion of knowledge. The study of history is massively tainted by the fact that you can interpret everything through the lens of what was the eventual outcome. Winston Churchill had many qualities that made him a dangerous lunatic. And took decisions that could easily lead him to be judged a monster. But because he won WWII - we see those same qualities as showing what a brilliant and inspirational leader he was.

Studying history is like analyzing an old football match where you already know which side won. Simply knowing the outcome of events massively warps your ability to really understand what it is you are studying.

This is something that Nassim Taleb discusses in The Black Swan as well. He mentions a book in there which is a diary of an ordinary Jew living in Germany during the rise to power of Adolf Hitler. What is most striking about the diary is how what seems like epic moments in history attract very little attention when you are living through them. Since you are too busy focusing on your own life and don't have the benefit of hindsight to warn you how badly things will turn out. Taleb feels the diary is a useful corrective to the distortion of events that most history gives you. Since most of the lessons of history only become obvious in hindsight. And - sadly - those lessons are of very little use when trying to predict the future. Since you never know until it is too late which future is the one that will come about.
Last edited by Joe Mckay on January 26th, 2018, 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Joe Mckay » January 26th, 2018, 7:22 pm

Andres? About the Sands of the Desert trick. Did you ever see Andy's take on it. It is a version of the trick that you may have overlooked in since it is buried away on a blog:

http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2016/3/7/th ... s-in-water

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby reburbia » January 27th, 2018, 1:08 pm

History for "history's sake" is not needed to be a great magician, I think. But you to have love reading. Reading the original books from the original thinkers, instead of watching some modern diluted regurgitation. If you are trying to convince the younger generation to love history by videos, I think you've already lost. As for the audience, in general I think they couldn't care less about magic history. Consider yourself lucky if they're excited to see magic

Maybe if the community appreciated history more, we would have more craftsman, like in the old days. All these mass produced plastic-penguin-made-in-China effects that flood the market are so uninspiring
"The moment someone with imagination and vision takes an effect... Everybody jumps up & says.. 'I can use that!'... Develop a little pride along with your magical ability." -Anneman

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby erdnasephile » January 27th, 2018, 3:01 pm

reburbia wrote:Maybe if the community appreciated history more, we would have more craftsman, like in the old days. All these mass produced plastic-penguin-made-in-China effects that flood the market are so uninspiring


I agree with you for the most part; however, I would respectfully note that the number of talented magical craftsmen/women is actually rather robust at present: Riser, Lassen, Welch, Sherwood, Babcock, Gareth G. (Hidden Wren), Rose, Porper, Schoolcraft, van Dokkum, Eoin O'Hare, Sebashtion H. (Subdivided Studios), Plants, etc. The product these folks are turning out matches, and in some cases, surpasses, some of the vintage gems in my collection. In fact, I'd wager that we're in the "golden age" of cups, gaffed coins, and in several more areas--thanks to these masters.

In addition, while I, too, deplore plastic copies of great effects, artists like Tenyo continue to astound me often with their genius in this media.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jeffrey Korst » January 27th, 2018, 3:22 pm

I think new magicians "need" to know that magic HAS a history.

That effects were created by someone, varied by someone else, and that it's easier to consciously build on what's come before than it is to start from scratch.

And they need to know where to start looking to discover that history.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 27th, 2018, 3:52 pm

Supposing you're a newcomer to magic - and looking for a nice trick to show at a party next month... so you find the genii site and get distracted for a moment looking at the page..

What specifically do you imagine would interest you?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jack Shalom » January 27th, 2018, 9:51 pm

NEW! 2017 Death! Pedro Ruiz III - Monday evening, June 26, 2017. 19-year-old Killed Attempting Bullet Catch stunt gone wrong for YouTube!

http://www.bulletcatch.com/

A nice little tour through some highlights...

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Andres Reynoso » January 29th, 2018, 10:41 am

Joe Mckay wrote:Andres? About the Sands of the Desert trick. Did you ever see Andy's take on it. It is a version of the trick that you may have overlooked in since it is buried away on a blog:

http://www.thejerx.com/blog/2016/3/7/th ... s-in-water


Thank you Joe, yes I had read it. In some post here at Genii Forum somebody quoted before.
Recently in his Lefthanded column, Jeff Prace wrote a similar idea with a soda cup ending with clear water and sugar aside.
Very interesting twists in the plot.
Andres Reynoso

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby performer » January 29th, 2018, 9:50 pm

I like the story part of history and am always open to reading about it. However, I haven't the slightest interest in who invented what and I suspect only the inventor and his mother really care about it. Or busybody magicians who have too much time on their hands. That kind of history is boring to me. Still, I concede that there are a tiny minority of people who are interested in that type of thing. Usually people who don't actually perform the tricks they are making a fuss about.

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby erdnasephile » January 30th, 2018, 9:35 am

In my more cynical moments, I wonder if it is a bit futile to hope that an appreciation of magic history can be engendered in future generations--at least in American society.

I base this on the numerous studies that demonstrate the woeful knowledge of American history amongst the majority of study subjects, the seemingly willful ignorance of some reporting ("We've never been this divided in our nation's history!" -- Uh, "Civil War" anyone?), and the current strain of popular "presentism".

Then again, I remember being able to recall specific stats on the back of my baseball cards as a kid, so it seems natural to want to learn all one can about a thing (or person) we love.

Maybe the key to getting new magicians to learn magic history and provenance is to teach them how to really love magic

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 30th, 2018, 10:44 am

It might be useful if new magicians were reminded about the lines from Seneca - about enjoying knowing there's deception but not being interested in explanation. Here's some advice from long ago:
Vices creep into our hearts under the name of virtues, rashness lurks beneath the appellation of bravery, moderation is called sluggishness, and the coward is regarded as prudent; there is great danger if we go astray in these matters. So stamp them with special labels.

Then, too, the man who is asked whether he has horns on his head is not such a fool as to feel for them on his forehead, nor again so silly or dense that you can persuade him by means of argumentation, no matter how subtle, that he does not know the facts. Such quibbles are just as harmlessly deceptive as the juggler's cup and dice, in which it is the very trickery that pleases me. But show me how the trick is done, and I have lost my interest therein. And I hold the same opinion about these tricky word-plays; for by what other name can one call such sophistries? Not to know them does no harm, and mastering them does no good.

At any rate, if you wish to sift doubtful meanings of this kind, teach us that the happy man is not he whom the crowd deems happy, namely, he into whose coffers mighty sums have flowed, but he whose possessions are all in his soul, who is upright and exalted, who spurns inconstancy, who sees no man with whom he wishes to change places, who rates men only at their value as men, who takes Nature for his teacher, conforming to her laws and living as she commands, whom no violence can deprive of his possessions, who turns evil into good, is unerring in judgment, unshaken, unafraid, who may be moved by force but never moved to distraction, whom Fortune when she hurls at him with all her might the deadliest missile in her armoury, may graze, though rarely, but never wound. For Fortune's other missiles, with which she vanquishes mankind in general, rebound from such a one, like hail which rattles on the roof with no harm to the dweller therein, and then melts away.


In ordinary life we imagine others to be no less well informed about the world as we ourselves. Sometimes in magic though we imagine others as only knowing what's presented explicitly at the moment rather than what they can see and have learned about the world already. Should we expect students to arrive at the magic shop utterly uninformed about the world and naive to all history or guile?

By and large most adults understand there have always been storytellers and some who entertain by creating mysteries not meant to be solved. That's basic socialization. Yes, you're expected to pay for your entertainment. And some entertainment costs more than others. A flirtation with misfortune? Some time to talk with the departed?

The arts are about accomplishment. The crafts about what's created. Magic about it's mysteries.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » January 30th, 2018, 11:54 am

Here's another link to our past - some two thousand years ago - and how one performer made an impression upon a writer:

https://books.google.com/books?id=4Madh ... s.&f=false

That's a depiction of a working performer in a variety show who did his standard act and happened to be remembered. That's a pretty good review. :)
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Your opinions wanted: what do new magicians need to know about the history of magic?

Postby Brad Henderson » January 30th, 2018, 1:05 pm

erdnasephile wrote:In my more cynical moments, I wonder if it is a bit futile to hope that an appreciation of magic history can be engendered in future generations--at least in American society.

I base this on the numerous studies that demonstrate the woeful knowledge of American history amongst the majority of study subjects, the seemingly willful ignorance of some reporting ("We've never been this divided in our nation's history!" -- Uh, "Civil War" anyone?), and the current strain of popular "presentism".

Then again, I remember being able to recall specific stats on the back of my baseball cards as a kid, so it seems natural to want to learn all one can about a thing (or person) we love.

Maybe the key to getting new magicians to learn magic history and provenance is to teach them how to really love magic


the solution is to embrace the dark side and rely on the greatest motivator that magic has always been built from - copycatting.

When a hip 'creator' tell the people who buy his download that history is important then the lemmings will follow. Sure it will largely be monkey see and lip service BUT some will fall to the ' fat albert phenomena' - i.e. if not careful they might actually learn something.

we see this now with theory. Thanks to dan and dave and their involvement with Paul Wilson's our magic and now elliott terrals art in magic podcasts you are seeing an increased interest in theory and thinking on magic. We saw this too after Eugene Burger grew in popularity.

Most activities are a cult of the personality. When celebrated personalities share their values, people join the parade. While the cause of this procession may be less than noble, the results can ultimately be positive.


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