Books vs. Videos

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Books vs. Videos

Postby Guest » October 27th, 2003, 4:19 am

....I have been learning card magic, now, for almost two years. I started with the first of the Five Books of Giobbi and the Erdnase Expert At Ahe Card Table. I would need, quite regularly, to go to my Magic Shop for an understanding of what I was reading -just what the heck was I supposed to do, and what would it accomplish. I'm not illiterate, but I just couldn't convert a written explanation of certain techniques into a visual interpretation. I couldn't get an understanding of such things as an ATFUS or Elmsley count, or even the Hindoo Shuffle clear in my head.

The Shop recommended videos - and I started to relearn card magic with the Advanced Control series with Allan Ackerman. All eight of them. And Mr. Kaufman's The Pass, and Jerry Camaro's Second Dealing, and Brad Burt's Zarrow Shuffle. In fact, I now have over forty videos including Ed Marlo's The Cardician, Larry Jennings' Thoughts On Cards, Lennart Green, Michael Ammar, Lee Asher, and a host of others - where all my basic techniques came from. I have now finished most of Giobbi, and I am now more able to inch my way through Mr. Racherbaumer's Card Fixes or Kabbala; Marlo's Revolutionary Card Technique and Brother Hamman's Secrets; and even L&L's Magic of Larry Jennings.

But had I started in 1960, I'd never have even made it through a double lift. I'd never have gotten the card bug, because book-learning, to me, is very very tough.

Every once in a while, now, the folks at the Magic Shop push a philosophical or psychological magic book on me like Darwin Ortiz's Strong Magic. Interesting, thought provoking and insightful. I enjoy the "lighter" reading. Until I came upon Jamy Ian Swiss's Shattering Illusion. It stopped me cold when, and I paraphrase, he said that You Aren't A Real Magician If You Learn From A Tape. You must, he implied, break your teeth on a book to get the True And Only Teachings. I stopped reading his book. I've come across that kind of effete snobbism so many times, that nose-in-the-air one-upmanship that can only lead you to the darkside - I, The Magician, Am Putting One Over On You! - where you find the most spectator resentment and resistance. He implies that all I could become would be a clone of the magician I learned from - I wouldn't get the "soul" of magic - it's inner essence.

....Well, this may be old hat to some of you, but as a relative newcomer, it is the worst part of magic - and sure to be deadly to any newcomer. I know that I can knock the socks off most of my non-magic friends with my skill, but in the scheme of things, I also know that I am still a Tater-Tot in the world of cards. But new comers need to steer clear and give no credence to an author who believes his is the 'Royal Road' - The One True Path. Up to now, I have learned more from real people and videos than the books. Now, I can now better appreciate the words and understand the concepts, and assimilate and use that new information. Truly, as they say - THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO DO AN PASS!!

....I have also learned quite a bit, and have enjoyed this forum and it's contributors - thanks, y'all, for being here:)


Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Guest » October 27th, 2003, 6:21 am

Other's opinion on how you go about learning your magic is not all that important. If you have such trouble learning from books then I guess you have no other choice.

I can't see what could be so difficult to learn about AFTUS that you need to actually see it? Do you normally have such difficulties extracting meaning from the written word?

My personal view is that if I could afford it, I'd buy more DVDs. I don't get to see a lot of magicians and it's inspirational to see people who are really good at it or doing magic from a different style or angle. As far as sleights go, I feel comfortable learning from books mostly and it seems to work just fine but it is nice to see it being done, even if it's just to convince you that it's possible to do it undetected. I think in general books offer better value for money and they cover a MUCH wider range of magic. If you are restricted to video as a format you miss out.

It's each to their own at the end of the day. I just wish I were your magic dealer!

By the way....40+ videos!!? And all those books?! My word but you have either mastered a heck of a lot of magic or you still have a lot to go. I've been doing card magic for years and I've still only got a about 10 card books and 2 DVD's. And I can't say that I've learned even 50% of them properly. Have you really have mastered all the sleights out of 5 volumes of Giobbi and others?

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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Terry » October 27th, 2003, 6:59 am

I enjoy the video/dvd as visual entertainment and record of how a move should look. If I try to directly "learn" from them, I find they are a great cure for insomnia.

Books, for me, are the easiest to learn from. I can go step by step. Also, books can be accessed during travel without additional electronics.

Being an avid reader, I find I can visualize the action and that makes it easier to understand. Granted, most of the books I read, outside of magic, are instructional by nature. I read books in order to learn something I don't know. I have little time/interest for fictional works, except for Jim Swain's novels.

Good luck on your pursuit of knowledge and remember - 'to each his own'.

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Jonathan Townsend » October 27th, 2003, 7:25 am

Originally posted by Rich Levinton:
...because book-learning, to me, is very very tough...
Rich, there are a couple of issues here that bear investigation.

First though you did hit a social problem square on. What you describe is the definition of functional illiteracy. A basic inability to process content presented in plain text. Your ability to write suggests you might be more of a spoken word type person. Does your imagination get sparked when you hear works, like plays or radio?

Okay, on to the learning of magic...

Long before any video recordings were possible, our elders were doing wonderful magic and using methods that are still worth the setup. The purpose of the books was to record some of was done and to convey some of HOW they were.

If you want to learn about Mozart or Shakespear or Robert Houdin or John Ramsay... you will only find second and third generation impressions on video. Their words are all but lost to the world. They left few images, and of those, even fewer were intended to communicate their attitude as people.

A seperate issue concerns what can be learned from a video. What you see is what you get. An instance of a performance to mirror if you choose, and some inkling of the performer to consider as a model. This has adavantages if you want exactly what you see.

From a book... the flow of words can communicate more than mere expository detail. You can glean some measure to the writer and the subject from the choice of words and the nuances in phrasing. This in turn opens your options in interpretation. These options are yours. They are implicit in the text, and made explicit by the reader. Both the reader and the writer have parts to play in this communication. Have a look at Umberto Eco's works on semiotics for more on this.

I'm not going to take any sides on this. It just seems more than a bit limiting to lose thousands of years of material simply becuase it was not recorded onto DVD or VHS format.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Bill McFadden
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Bill McFadden » October 27th, 2003, 9:52 am

If attempting to learn a method or effect from a book proves too daunting (whether the text appears obtuse, or some other reason), Eugene Burger offers the following solution: dictate the text into a microcassette recorder. You can play it back and forth at your own pace without having to keep focused on the actual pages. This does work, and is also a good method for writing/learning performance scripts.

Rich, if you gave up on "Shattering Illusions" by dismissing Jamy's thesis as that of an "effete snob" (where have you gone Spiro Agnew?), then I'm afraid you've deprived yourself of some major inspiration and valuable perspective. I urge you to give it another read with a more open mind.


Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Guest » October 27th, 2003, 11:01 am

The advantages of books.....

I can scribble notes in the margin.

I can read them in an environment that has neither a VCR nor a TV.

I can read them in a noisy environment.

Better value for money more for your pound or dollar.

And personally, I'm a "book" guy in general, not just for magic. I simply prefer books as a medium.

The advantages of videos.....

Some effects or sleights are difficult to describe in print, but so much easier to demonstrate to the camera. And it can be difficult from a written description, even with pictures, to realise just how effective a certain sleight can be.

It's nice to see the effect performed in its entirety, before knowing its modus operandi. That way, we can accurately judge its impact. With a book, we read the effect, "hmm, sounds impressive", learn the method, and perform it. We may then solicit feedback, but we didn't get that initial impression first hand.

It is nice to see the performance style of the teacher. We may or may not like it, and we may or may not wish to emulate it, but it's (usually!) nice to be able to see it.

When learning a "dynamic" sleight, such as David Williamson's Striking Vanish, well, if I'd read that in a book, I'd have tried it, got it all wrong, thought "huh, that's rubbish", and discarded it. But I saw it performed in real life, I bought a video that demonstrates it and explains it, and I knew that it was worth persisting with. And so I persisted, and I mastered it.

Read a description of a sleight in a book, and you get some idea of it. See it performed on a video, and you know exactly how deceptive it is.

The majority of my magic learning was done before videos were invented. And, in consequence, I'm less able at many sleights.

So for me, the answer is both books and videos.


Areeb Malik
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Areeb Malik » October 27th, 2003, 12:09 pm

Look at it this way:

Would Erdnase be discussed as it is today, and a source of many threads on this forum, if it was just a compilation of moves on video? I don't think so.

Do videos entitle a reader to "read between the lines" the way that a book can do? No again.

Do videos help in demonstrating moves better than books? Yes, but it removes a personal thought process one must go through in order to figure out what the author is trying to convey.

Magic books typically are as complex as reading one of my engineering textbooks from when I was in university. If you can learn Maxwell's equations from a book, then you can learn Erdnase's diagonal palm shift from a book. However, the complexity of a move can be overwhelming at times.

At this point, one must personally start thinking about the move and visualizing it. It is this process that gets bypassed when we see a move described on video. Since we see how it's done, we don't need to think about it in that way anymore. There is a huge differnce in remembering how a move is done vs. figuring out HOW a move is done.

Does this mean that I think videos are no good? No... they must be working since there is an industry shift in the amount of videos being produced today. But they don't work for me. I have yet to see a video which makes me want to sit down and watch it over and over again like I would read a book (Smoke and Mirrors, Close-Up Card Magic, Royal Road, Expert Card Technique, etc...)

My guess is that making a video is easier than writing a book. You also get a lot more mileage out of your material via DVDs. (eg. 1 book, 50 tricks, $40 to 4 videos, 50 tricks, $125) And people will mot invest the time and effort it takes to learn a move or trick from a book. "The medium is the message," as McLuhan said.

Videos are here today. Ebooks are here today. Books will outlive them both. If we are still using DVDs and eBooks in 20 years in their current format, then I'll be out of a job tomorrow. The high-tech industry creates, then makes obsolete, technology much faster than it needs to for society.

After picking up Revolutioanry Card Technique, I know that I have more than enough material to work on for the next 20 years. Maybe I'll pick up whatever the latest <blank> is, (in the "Books vs. <blank>" thread that will be going on, on this forum) when that time comes.


Ian Kendall
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Ian Kendall » October 27th, 2003, 2:25 pm

Gosh, we haven't had this conversation for a few weeks...

Books are fab, videos are fab, just in different ways. If videos were useless lecturers would just show up and sell the notes before leaving again. Visual teaching has it's place no matter what the bibliophiles say.

Having said that, you can't cuddle up in bed with a video, or watch it by candlelight in a powercut.

One man's meat is another man's fourteen volume video set. And never the twain shall meet...

Take care, Ian

mike cookman
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby mike cookman » October 27th, 2003, 6:24 pm

I like both books and videos.

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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby CHRIS » October 28th, 2003, 5:11 am

Originally posted by Areeb Malik:
Videos are here today. Ebooks are here today. Books will outlive them both.
I don't think so. They will most likely all be around in 30 years. Ebooks and Videos will somewhat change in their appearance, format, reading devices, a.s.o., but they will not go away.
Take for example the text book sector. Ebooks have made a big inroad because they make 10 times more sense than paper books.

Did radio vanish when TV came along? Or did radio outlive TV? No! Both are still around. Same will be with the Internet, ebooks, videos, ... you name it. They will not go away. But I am also not saying that regular books will go away either. Although I believe that the book market might not grow as much as it did in the past and then eventually level off and even decline. But I don't want to venture a guess when that might happen.

Chris Wasshuber
preserving magic one book at a time

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Pete Biro
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Pete Biro » October 28th, 2003, 9:40 am

Forget books and videos. :genii:
Stay tooned.

David Neighbors
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby David Neighbors » October 28th, 2003, 9:37 pm

I would say That it's All ways Best To Lurn One On One If you Can!You Can't talk back To A video or a Book!

Best David Neighbors
The Coinjurer

Bill Mullins
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Re: Books vs. Videos

Postby Bill Mullins » October 28th, 2003, 10:47 pm

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Originally posted by Areeb Malik:
[b]Videos are here today. Ebooks are here today. Books will outlive them both.
I don't think so. They will most likely all be around in 30 years. Ebooks and Videos will somewhat change in their appearance, format, reading devices, a.s.o., but they will not go away.[/b]
The concept of ebooks will stick around, but the formats will change (as they have in motion pictures/VHS/DVD/MPEGs).

Buy a book today, and your grandkids will be able to read it. Buy an ebook, or video, or any other electronic recording of information, and the format will be obsolete real soon. If you want to access the content, you'll have to buy it again, or spend time/effort/money in reformatting it.

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