More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.
Jon Racherbaumer
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More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » October 30th, 2004, 12:28 pm

After reading the commentaries regarding Three Fly and the Mickey Silver Rentention Ideas, plus the incipient work begun by Jonathan Townsend, I'm moved to add this scatter-shot to the mix:

As just mentioned, Ive been following with intense interest the recent explorations, spearheaded by Jonathan Townsend, of how perception-deception works and how rules that may govern the processes might be formulated. Over the years Ive collected hundreds of books related to perception, optics, consciousness, and how that may be delicately connected. Taking a few university courses devoted to the Philosophy of Mind heightened my interest and made me appreciate the complexities of the subject.

J.T. alludes to the physics of magic tricksthat is, what actually occurs in an evidentiary field to be perceived or not perceived. These aspects have been covered and recovered pretty well over the years. This isshall we say?the objective mechanics. However, what has piqued J.T.s interest is what happens in the brain-mind-consciousness when it tries to make sense out of what happens before its eyes. Cognitive scientists are making headway and are trying to make a science out of perception. This science should be important to thinking magicians. Along these lines, I heartily recommend the book, VISUAL INTELLIGENCE, by Donald D. Hoffman, which is subtitled How We Create What We See.

It seems clear that there are a huge number of variables regarding what individuals see and then how they uniquely process it. Magicians take these variables into account, usually intuitively or after casual analysis, and then try to capitalize on tendencies and percentages. To provide a trivial example, consider face-up Elmsley Counts: Purists avoid such counts because one card is shown twice and a small percentage of spectators will notice this duplication. Others accept the odds or try to minimize the discrepancy by using similar-looking cards and blurring anything that might possibly be conspicuous. Purists, on the other hand, dont want to get by; they want to be sure.

Twenty years ago I longed for a theoretical magic book that would be written along the lines of THE LAWS OF FORM by G. Spencer Brown.

I initially read a review of this book in the Whole Earth Catalog. The book is, to me, a probe. It got mixed reviews and Brown contended that he had solved the Four-Color Theorem, which was largely disputed. Martin Gardner once thought about writing a column about Brown, but was dissuaded because of Browns possible quackery. John Conway, a brilliant mathematician, once described the book as beautifully written but "content free." (Im attracted to writers-thinkers who polarize readers.) Brown, by the way, also wrote an odd novel under the name, James Keys, titled Only Two Can Play This Game.

Robin Robertson, brother cardman and philosopher, has written papers about G. Spencer Brown.

So


Maybe we are inching our way toward deeper analysis and a definite book about the laws of form that govern Magic-As-An-Emergent Property?

Onward

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Tabman » October 30th, 2004, 1:08 pm

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
Twenty years ago I longed for a theoretical magic book that would be written along the lines of THE LAWS OF FORM by G. Spencer Brown.
Well, maybe it's time you got started on it!!!

-=tabman

Whole Earth Catalogs!!?! Stewart Brand did us all a big favor.

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 2nd, 2004, 8:25 am

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
...how perception-deception works and how rules that may govern the processes might be formulated...
Thanks for the honorable mention, and especially the reference to the Spencer Brown book. Here is a link for those who have not yet seen this book: http://www.enolagaia.com/GSB.html

I'm working from the vision processing model/problem about how we decide that something we notice represents an external change or an internal update of our model. From "just noticable differences", to context, meaning, and then... magic.

What happens when we "are fooled"?

What happens inside us when we discover the contents of the blotchy black and white artworks offered here: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Modules/MC1 ... per01.html

What happens when we offer these images to someone and ask them to see "the tree" or "the shoe"?

This time around the emphasis is not on typographical or algebraic elegance as much as stating things in ways which suggest useful experiments.

Onward indeed.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 2nd, 2004, 9:47 am

It's a fascinating topic that goes to the heart of the question of what fools people, which for me is the weakest link in my magical knowledge. I simply don't know what the spectator sees or thinks. I only know from the subsequent reaction what resonated and what didn't.

I always enjoyed the Flicking Fingers essay about how the mind automatically fills in the eye's blindspot--or by extension fills in the blanks of what the eye sees. So the Garden Path is not just where we lead the spectator, but where the spectator can't help but wander. Just as language is pre-wired into our brains (per Chomsky) so certain aspects of our perception appear to be prewired as well.

I've had this long-running argument with followers of Ayn Rand's Objectivism because in my view complete reason and self-interest isn't possible given the construct of the human nervous system. We're wired, at least in part, for compassion.

Frankly, I'm less concerned about why we interpret certain sensory impulses as we do. What I want is a list (like a book of tells that a poker player might have) suggesting what we are predisposed to comprehend.

At what point in a sleight, effect or story does the mind effectively over-ride objective perception? I've performed the Pinocle Trick a thousand times. Never has a spectator said they saw the same card twice. I can only conclude that they never do see the same card twice.

Here's another way to look at this. Why is it harder to fool children with certain things than it is to fool adults? When I vanish a coin using the Goshman Throw Vanish (itself an example of how the mind completes the flight of the coin even though the eye never sees it go into the hand), my four-year-old daughter immediately goes for the hand that is classic palming the coin. Adults almost never do. A magic buddy of mine who's a second-grade school teacher tested this out with his students and found the same.

Did you ever notice how a newborn can't hold his own head up for a couple of months. It's like the neck muscles aren't strong enough. In fact, the neck muscles are strong enough. It's just that the nervous system hasn't yet gotten around to sending the signal telling the neck to get to work. I wonder if the brain of the kid who goes right for the other hand isn't sending the same signal that the adult brain sends. (Or perhaps the adult just is too polite to grab for the other hand the way a kid does.)

Note how different this discussion is from a discussion about misdirection. No misdirection is needed in the Pinocle Trick. Let them stare at your hands until the cows come home. In fact, I often perform this trick when challenged about how magic is just getting people to look somewhere else. And yet, perception is still misdirected in this trick.

So what are they thinking?

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby mark » November 2nd, 2004, 8:23 pm

Carl, I have always just supposed that the second grader goes for the palmed coin, because they haven't the pool of experience to have 'seen' the coin go where it didn't go. As adults, we have built up an experience base that tells us when a coin is thrown to another hand, it usually lands there. Meanwhile, the second grader's mind says, "Let's see, it wasn't a throw, because I've seen throws before, and that didn't look like a throw, so the coin must still be RIGHT THERE!" For this reason, kids, especially younger kids, are some of the hardest to fool with our 'best' effects. The things that fool kids are of a different bent, and perhaps some kid's magicians will chime in here. Oh, and by the way, if I am full of baloney, please feel free to chime in on that, too ;)

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 2nd, 2004, 8:56 pm

Originally posted by Mark Jens:
if I am full of baloney, please feel free to chime in on that, too ;)
I just don't know. I wish I did....Carl

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 3rd, 2004, 4:37 am

Originally posted by Mark Jens:
Carl, I have always just supposed that the second grader goes for the palmed coin, because
Two good questions there, and one huge question begged:

1) Do they ever follow the coins after the false transfer?

2) What do they look for about your hand to conclude that the coin is "in your hand"?

3) What experience would lead their attention toward the belief you would prefer them to have?

* All of these are open to experiment.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby jimmycards » November 3rd, 2004, 5:34 am

I always thought that when you showed your hand empty after presumably making a coin vanish from that hand, that a kid's perspective is, "if it isn't in this hand, it must still be there"!

But then, it may depend on the age of the kid. Younger children have not learned "how to be fooled" yet.
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 3rd, 2004, 6:38 am

Originally posted by Jim Molinari:
... Younger children have not learned "how to be fooled" yet.
When children are very young, the notion of permanence has not developed... so they act as if they believe you vanish and reappear when you play "peek a boo" with them.

Later on comes the notion of permanence, and the rule that "it has to go somewhere".

I suspect that if you simply told them the coin went back in your pocket, because it is shy, they might be less eager to look in your hands.

There are at least two rules applicable here;
1) Stuff either stays where it is or goes somewhere.
2) You did something to the stuff.

What would you like them to believe you did?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » November 3rd, 2004, 11:04 am

In my quest for empirical data I've queried all kinds of people at different ages, including mentally ill people, about their speculations and assumptions regarding the supposed "magic" they witnessed.

When it comes to "disappearance" even the youngest do NOT believe that ANYTHING really disappears--at least nothing they assumed from the get-go was solidly tangible. Even the "hide-and-seek" game is played because the person hiding HAS ONLY DISAPPEARED FROM SIGHT but must be SOMEWHERE.

A coin has disappeared from sight, but (as others have already pointed out) it must be somewhere.

Where?

Check the original site. Check the nearest, probable hiding place.

The other hand?
No doubt.

One of my mental patients said (quite matter-of-factly):

"The coin was never there to begin with..."

Ah, a solipsist after my heart! <g>

Onward...

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 3rd, 2004, 11:39 am

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
...One of my mental patients said (quite matter-of-factly):

"The coin was never there to begin with..."

Ah, a solipsist after my heart!...
Would that be the guy who likes fava beans?
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 3rd, 2004, 12:44 pm

Thus, per Jon's line, tricks with strong plot-lines in which objects disappear and reappear somewhere else should play the best...and I've certainly found this to be the case.

1. Repeat Coin Under Glass or Shaker (Goshman)
2. Paper Balls to Box (Slydini)
3. McDonald's Aces
4. Coins Across
5. Ring Flight

Are these tricks stronger and/or do they illicit a different train in the spectator's mind from a trick such as a card to impossible place routine where the "disappearance" is only implied by the production...thus reducing the opportunity for suspense to build in the mind of the spectator.

Is the above more satisfying to a spectator than a straight vanish, such as disappearing bird cage?

Food for thought....

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Lisa Cousins » November 3rd, 2004, 12:54 pm

At the first Magic Live, Gary Oullett expressed the opinion that a vanish is more dramatic than a production because "she's gone ... and she's gone ... and she's gone." I felt the same argument could defend the opposite point of view: she suddenly shows up and "she's there ... and she's there ... and she's there." Not only that, her there-ness opens up all kinds of new and interesting dramatic possibilities that are out of the question with a vanish. Now, in light of this discussion, I would even add that a vanish can't really be dramatically convincing, because (just like little children and the mentally ill) we all know that she has to be somewhere.

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 3rd, 2004, 1:04 pm

Some, Lisa, have suggested that vanishes are stronger on stage, while productions are stronger close-up. Perhaps because the entire frame is visible when someone is on stage; so the spectator can't comprehend where in the frame something went. In contrast, producing something like a glass of beer close-up is amazing because--well, where the hell did it come from?

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 3rd, 2004, 1:37 pm

A vanish has the inquisitive spectator examining the audit trail - "It's no longer visible, so where is it?"

A production has no audit trail. Yes, there is the question of where it came from, but you're clean.

With a vanish, you might get the "show us your other hand" question. But never with a production.

Dave

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Gerald Deutsch » November 3rd, 2004, 2:07 pm

But what if you do show your hand empty after a vanish?

I've always felt that a vanish is stronger than a production and many magicians make the mistake of bringing something back that has vanished.

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 3rd, 2004, 2:22 pm

Or what if we approached our magic (and thus presented it to our audiences) in a way that did not beg the question, "how did you do that!?". (I'll say it again, folks, if you can make the feel safe about not worrying about how, you can help them to partake in the pleasure of why .)

Robert Houdin had some good insight on vanishing coins, last time I spoke with him.

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 3rd, 2004, 4:41 pm

Hi all, my first post here!

I'm writing from Sendai Japan. I study with local magician Kikiyou Tokuya. Probably means little to most of you but Richard Kaufman and Larry Jennings met him when they came to Japan together, though I didn't hear what year that was.

Anyway, I got into magic after I was assigned to be the head English teacher of three elementary schools.

It was a great place to grow my magic. I had a willing audience on a day to day basis. But not only were they wiling they were really sharp.

I got caught all the time. I talked about it with my fellow magicians and we'd always chalk it up to kids being a tough audience. Perhaps their lack of life experience hinders their ability to make assumptions.

But I can't think that they really lack the ability to assume that a coin placed in the hand is really in the hand.

When I was starting out they would always catch me, for a number of reasons. At one point I figured coin magic just wasn't for kids!

After working restaurants for a while I realized that I tended to lower my "guard" so to speak with kids. As if to say, "Pfft it's just a kid, show him a french drop vanish and he'll think I'm god."

With a paying adult audience we do a better job of weaving that "intricate web of distraction" because we feel a more immidiate need to do our best. With kids, I think we get sloppy. I'm not saying a classic palm gets ugly but the whole performance can get too simple. It as if magicians have their own version of baby talk.


Magician: The coin is gone!
Kid: so??

If I do David Roth's one coin routine with crisp pantomime and proper timing kids nearly DIE!
Yes coin trix can be for kids I realized.

I just wanna say that if you go at em with all of your guns they are pretty easy to fool. They do usually lack basic audience manners. They don't mind blurting out what ever hair-brained theory they have as to how you did it, but I've had adults do it too.

I like what Gazzo said about what to do when they shout "It's in the other hand!"

he says, "don't let it throw ya."

so to sum up

If kids are catching ya, don't blame it on their lack of life experience, it's really just your own darn fault

peace

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 3rd, 2004, 7:56 pm

Ian,

I think you mis-construe the tenor of the discussion. This is not a question of "can I fool a kid." Yes, I can. I can with coins and a whole array of magic. The experiment with the throw vanish of a coin in classic palm is just that...an experiment...to attempt to understand whether a child's mind works differently from an adult mind. The ultimate goal: to understand how the adult mind perceives reality.

As is often the case with these threads, we've--well--we've begun to drift.

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 3rd, 2004, 10:10 pm

ok I did misconstrue it a bit

I guess I didn't think that there was still much interest in the "if it isn't there than where'd it go?" problem.

I did notice too how adults would tend to accept an open relaxed hand as "proof" that there was nothing held in it more readily than children. And that is the assumption thing. As we get older we have more that occupies our grey matter so we rely more and more on mental short cuts to draw up our model of the world.

Heh heh

You think that kids that grow up around a lot of sleight of hand grow up with some sort of assumption handicap?

a neat expiriment would be to see how many seconds it takes a kid to go to the dirty hand after doing a spider vanish

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Frank Starsinic » November 3rd, 2004, 10:50 pm

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
[b] ...One of my mental patients said (quite matter-of-factly):

"The coin was never there to begin with..."

Ah, a solipsist after my heart!...
Would that be the guy who likes fava beans? [/b]
There was a gentleman I did a few tricks for. Most notebly was John Bannon's Tattoo You.

He followed the effect to it's dramatic conclusion without a word and as soon as the signature transerred to the other card he said, quite emphatically,

"The signature was never on that card!"


Of course the signature was never on that card.

He was fooled. Bad.
But his ego made him reach for something (and quick) that MUST be true. Something that would show me that he was not fooled. He was grasping for anything he could have known.

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 4th, 2004, 4:25 am

Originally posted by Carl Mercurio:
...The experiment with the throw vanish of a coin in classic palm is just that...an experiment....
What evidence do we have that ANYONE is "fooled" by that move? How can we tell if they are humoring us, just being silently polite waiting to see if the next bit is better?

Does the move fool a dog? a cat? What reasons do we have to consider the thing useful?

More to the point here, it is now not only possible but both feasible and opportune to design experiments to test our working hypotheses. Here is one such study written up that may set a good example.
http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/subbotsk/spacetimeart.pdf

We can wear our lab coats under our capes and keep our clipboards on video tape. Shall we test?


...a neat experiment would be to see how many seconds it takes a kid to go to the dirty hand after doing a spider vanish ...
This is close to a good experiment design. How can we tell when they shift from the 'magic of the moment' or 'willing suspension of disbelief' to start considering the problem of where we hide the coin?

The train of reasoning about HOW the trick is done is antithetical to the experience of magic. Once we get down to the mere HOW of what happened, we have lost the gift of magic and are confronting the audience with puzzles. When this happens, it is no wonder they politely ignore our lures and bait. Nobody wants to feel singled out and made the fool in public.

How did that metal bird cage thingie get into the guy's jacket so quickly and quietly? Do we want them merely impressed by our engineering?
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Carl Mercurio » November 4th, 2004, 7:49 am

Originally posted by Jonathan Townsend:
What evidence do we have that ANYONE is "fooled" by that move? How can we tell if they are humoring us, just being silently polite waiting to see if the next bit is better?
[/QUOTE]

This may very well be the case. As I noted in an earlier post, it may just be that adults are too polite to grab for the hand the way a kid does.

After years of observation in performing a Repeat Coin Under Glass routine, I can sense that it is the structure of the routine (coin vanishes, appears in purse, coin vanishes, appears under glass) that directs the person away from the possibility of the coin being in the other hand.

And once you've established a pattern, the hot hand just isn't hot anymore. Interesting that I do use the Spider Vanish mid-way through my Repeat Coin Under Glass routine. That cools the hot hand even more.

My sense, however, is that the throw itself fools young and old--and dogs (I have tried it on them). That is, until you open the hand to show the coin gone, people believe it is still there.

The "how" Jonathan refers to only ocurrs after the "magic moment" is revealed. If you lap or sleeve the coin, does the "how" go away...or is it just redirected to the next nearest possibility as Rock suggests?

Are routines such as Repeat Coin/Card Under Glass inherently "gotcha" tricks that lack the "magic" Jonathan refers to?

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 4th, 2004, 2:05 pm

Originally posted by Carl Mercurio:
The "how" Jonathan refers to only ocurrs after the "magic moment" is revealed. If you lap or sleeve the coin, does the "how" go away...or is it just redirected to the next nearest possibility as Rock suggests?

Minor quibbles in the mechanics of a trick may have some fairly extensive consequences on eliminating the "how" in a magic performance, but only once the performer's whole outlook has changed significantly, and the mental work has been done. This work, which I allude to above, has been done intuitively by the greats for centuries. And I believe currently there are various people in different capacities looking at the process from a more consious point of view, but I for one think many things need to happen before such is fodder for open forum!

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby cataquet » November 5th, 2004, 5:38 am

The vanish of a coin generates a re-tracing of the paths of that coin. Similar to when you misplace your keys. The reasoning is "They are not in the pocket, so they must be..." And if not there, then they must be in the place before that.

The transportation of a coin doesn't generate the same re-tracement. If you notice that your keys aren't in your pocket, you begin to re-trace. But, before you get very far, if you now see your keys on the table, you stop looking. You may wonder how they got there, but the inquisition isn't very strong.

I think the wording of the effect is equally important. For example, consider the vanish of a coin. In once case, you preceed it with "Watch closely" and in the other case you proceed it with "I am going to make this coin disappear". In the latter case, a genuine transfer would be viewed as false by reason that the method must be a false placement, so the audience is looking for the "cause" of the vanish.

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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 5th, 2004, 6:08 am

Harold offers some cogent common sense discussion here. Let's examine his statements and see where we can learn more

Originally posted by Harold Cataquet:
The vanish of a coin generates a re-tracing of the paths of that coin.
How can we know this?
Similar to when you misplace your keys.
We can all discuss how we handle that event :) The reasoning is "They are not in the pocket, so they must be..." And if not there, then they must be in the place before that.
Whose reasoning is that? Do you have a voice inside your head that you hear saying that? What do you hear? What do you imagine?
The transposition of a coin doesn't generate the same re-tracement.
How can we know this? How can we ask?
If you notice that your keys aren't in your pocket, you begin to re-trace.
Do you? when do you start? Is there some emotional reaction that happens first?
But, before you get very far, if you now see your keys on the table, you stop looking. You may wonder how they got there, but the inquisition isn't very strong.
How can we get a measure of the impluse to inquire?
I think the wording... What do you mean by wording? Is this a reference to how we introduce the routine in our patter?
...of the effect is equally important. For example, consider the vanish of a coin. In once case, you preceed it with "Watch closely" and in the other case you proceed it with "I am going to make this coin disappear". In the latter case, a genuine transfer would be viewed as false by reason that the method must be a false placement, so the audience is looking for the "cause" of the vanish.
The latter part of this post suggests an experiment design. What is different for the audience when you do this as suggested?

Thanks Harold!
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby cataquet » November 5th, 2004, 10:41 am

This will really get messy as I am quoting from Jon's reply which in turn quotes me. Hopefully, I won't tear the fabric of time and space... WARNING: This is a long reply!

HC: The vanish of a coin generates a re-tracing of the paths of that coin.
JT: How can we know this?

OK, we have to first go into the theory of the composition of the audience: there are those who suspend belief (they don't worry about an explanation and go along for the ride); those who know "magic" does not exist (they are always looking for an explanation or frankly have no interest in magic as entertainment); and those that aren't sure which way to go. Some kids often fall into the special category of they believe in magic, and expect the vanish to be "impossible" (completely examinable) and/or "visible".... You will ask "How do I know?" Well, perhaps the question should be phrased "Can we test this?" I think the answer is "most definitely", and an a priori interview (ie, before watching the performance) would be the framework. An interesting post-performance interview would be whether they changed group.

HC: The reasoning is "They are not in the pocket, so they must be..." And if not there, then they must be in the place before that.
JT: Whose reasoning is that? Do you have a voice inside your head that you hear saying that? What do you hear? What do you imagine?

This is a personal observation, and I think it's quite reasonable to believe others think the same way. However, I have no voices in my head (or at least that's what I tell the doctors). Instead, I am quite vocal and say it out loud (ie, I talk to myself, but I don't tell that to the doctors). :D

HC: The transportation of a coin doesn't generate the same re-tracement.
JT: How can we know this? How can we ask?

The transportation is two effects: a vanish and an appearance. This presents the viewer with two points of attention: where is the original coin and where did this new coin come from. The viewer can't see the original coin, so must focus on the coin that can be seen. He could try and figure out where the original coin is, but that coin is now "out of play", and another coin is "in play". The viewer reasons that "He may have caught me out last time, but this time I will really focus on the coin". He abandons the previous search and starts on this new path. Following the new coin also prevents the viewer from trying to reason where the new coin came from.

This theory is best exemplified by the bill/card to impossible location. The bill/card has vanished (or been destroyed) and we eventually lose interest in the bill/card. Now, it appears in an impossible location. What do people think? Well, it depends on what group they are in (see above).

The magician's secret weapon is that the ultimate effect is unknown. If I take a coin, the viewer has no idea whether I'm going to vanish it, change it, etc. So, he doesn't know what to look out for. Words are another object for the viewer to focus on, and this can distract/misdirect. For example, in the old trick with the pen and the coin (where the pen goes behind the ear), it is important to say "Keep an eye on the coin", as otherwise, the viewer may follow the hand in motion.

Magic Theorem #1: The eye can only follow one object at a time

Magic Theorem #2: When given a choice of more than one object, the eye will always follow the first object to move.

HC:If you notice that your keys aren't in your pocket, you begin to re-trace.
JT: Do you? when do you start? Is there some emotional reaction that happens first?

Here, you're exactly like the viewer following a vanish; the backtracking begins the instant you need the key and realize that the keys aren't where they are supposed to be. So, when the magician opens his hand and the coin isn't there, I'm backtracking. So, in a chop cup routine, I assume the ball is where the magician last placed it, until he reveals that it's not there... Emotional reaction? Depends on what group I am in. Initially, there is surprise at the discovery, but then the range of emotions can be anything from joy ("That is so cool") to anger ("I have been 'tricked'").

HC: But, before you get very far, if you now see your keys on the table, you stop looking. You may wonder how they got there, but the inquisition isn't very strong.
JT: How can we get a measure of the impluse to inquire?

This one is tougher. Ultimately, you can ask the spectator to grade himself to see how skeptical he is. The more skeptical he is, the more likely he is to inquire. However, remember that the ultimate effect is unknown. So, in an ideal world, he won't be inquiring until it's too late (the completion of the effect). However, he may suspect every move. So, like Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs in the forest, he identifies points when "he made the move". He doesn't know what's going to happen, but he does know that that particular point in time is when the magician did "it".

HC: I think the wording...
JT: What do you mean by wording? Is this a reference to how we introduce the routine in our patter?

No, here I mean the EXACT words that we use. For example, we can ask the spectator a question a fraction of a second before we do the pass. The focus now switches from the cards to the viewer, because he has been made the momentary center of attention.

Kenton Knepper has some interesting ideas in "Wonder Words", so I'd point you in that direction... However, more important than this, is the motivation or phrasing of the routine. That is, I am very much a "prop" magician and I am very concious of having a reason for introducing my props.

HC: ...of the effect is equally important. For example, consider the vanish of a coin. In once case, you preceed it with "Watch closely" and in the other case you proceed it with "I am going to make this coin disappear". In the latter case, a genuine transfer would be viewed as false by reason that the method must be a false placement, so the audience is looking for the "cause" of the vanish.
JT: The latter part of this post suggests an experiment design. What is different for the audience when you do this as suggested?

I've already mentioned the pen behind the ear, and this is a very good example of the importance of wording. Leave out the "Watch the coin" and the audience will follow the pen.

Jon Racherbaumer
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » November 5th, 2004, 10:52 am

This thread is wonderfully digressive. There are lots of "branching" notions, each perhaps deserving a long, long essay?

Who will write them?

So...

May I throw in another possible "plot point"?

BEING AND NOTHINGNESS:

Without getting too metaphysical about it, doesn't a PRODUCTION (of anything) bring something into EXISTENCE or BEING that supposedly did not have prior existence?

Isn't a VANISH a "little death" of a thing, making it(perhaps temporarily)NON-EXISTENT?

I remember having a spirited debate with Magic Christian 30 years ago about the following (related) question:

Should a magician ALWAYS reproduce an object that has vanished?

I argued that a vanished-object should be reproduced for the purpose of emotional closure...if, that is, a desirable outcome in one's personal theater.

I remember whenever I made a glass of whiskey or a lit cigarette disappear, I NEVER reproduced them. Spectators would then repeatedly ask (with a tinge of worry in their voices), "Where did it go?" Weeks later they repeated the same question: "Where did it go? I gotta know!"

Hmmmmm...

"Where have all the flowers gone..."
"Where did the ducks go?"

I never had a satisfying reply. A shrug of my shoulders only made spectators repeat their questions.

Occasionally I said to the most forlorn questioners: "It [the thing] will turn up someday...(five-second pause)...when you least expect it!"

This at least evoked grins.

So, what do YOU think?

Should vanished objects be reproduced?

Is a production a positive, creative act?

Is the disappearance of a thing a negative, mischievous, destructive act?

Do we tear up only to restore?
Do we murder to dissect?

One of my favorite quotes from Yeats is:

"Artists are in love with things that disappear?"

My abiding impulse as a writer is to memorialize things that are continually in the process of disappearing, changing, and dying.

So it goes...

Onward...

cataquet
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby cataquet » November 5th, 2004, 11:18 am

That explains it. For the past few years, various glasses of whiskey and lit cigarettes have been mysteriously appearing in my household. :cool:

I am reminded of Larry Jenning's One Cup routine (with the cup appearing at the begining and disappearing at the end). In this context, something is produced, and it vanishes. Where did it go? To the same place it came from.

I think in the above context, a disappearance works perfectly well. Now look at something as simple as the vanishing birdcage. Would it look "better" if the magician reproduced the birdcage? I think not.

Sadly, Jon R, I don't think there is a universal answer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

In my opinion, if viewers were asking "Where'd it go?", I'd be tempted to reproduce it (so that the audience could sleep in peace).

Curtis Kam
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Curtis Kam » November 5th, 2004, 11:41 am

Let's keep this simple:

1. I think Harold has it right. Put another way, context guides the spectator's inquiry. To stay with our example, when a coin vanishes, whatever the magician communicated before the vanish determines where the spectator looks next.

2. There's a relatively thin line between anecdotal and experimental data in this field of inquiry, however, here's a way to test the above hypothesis:

a) Show the audience a coin. Transfer it to the other hand, then slap it flat onto the table top. Show it's gone. They'll look in your other hand.

b) Show the audience a coin. Transfer it to the other hand, then slap it flat onto the table top. Show it's gone, but immediately bring the coin out from under the table. They'll examine the table.

I suspect that most of us have already done this experiment. From my experience I conclude that when you present a vanish, the audience thinks about concealment and looks for hiding places. When you present a transportation, they think about propulsion and look for secret tossing motions, or hidden pathways.

Put another way, consider this: you show a coin in your right hand, put it in your left, then show it's back in your right. This could be either a one coin "coins across" or an expose of a false transfer. It depend on context and presentation. As an experiment, one might present this with the sound off and ask people what they think is going on.

Two other lines of inquiry suggest themselves:

1. Given the above comments on "context" I suspect that the thing that turns an expose into an effect is the presence of what John Carney calls "the magic moment" and what Al Schnieder refers to as "the intention of magic".

2. Consider what can be deduced from what we know about the "halo" effect. I refer to the common phenomenon in which a little bit of sleeving goes a long way. In other words, one clean vanish of a coin will often convince an audience that both hands are empty every time. How reliable is this effect? How long does it last? What factors enhance or reduce it? Does it generalize to different objects, or are those percieved as different tricks?

Thanks to you all for one of the first threads worth saving in a long while.

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 5th, 2004, 12:11 pm

Originally posted by Harold Cataquet:
...In my opinion, if viewers were asking "Where'd it go?", I'd be tempted to reproduce it (so that the audience could sleep in peace).
I respect that opinion. I also recall the guy from generations back who tried to end his show by vanishing a woman from a box suspended over the audience. The audience just sat there. As I recall the story, he changed his show to end with a torn and restored cigarette paper trick to bring the audience back to focus on the magician and something that had closure.

One Saturday at Tannen's, David Roth put it this way; "The effect of an appearance is over when the thing is revealed, while the effect of a vanish continues [ until you distract them or bring the thing back ]."
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Curtis Kam
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Curtis Kam » November 5th, 2004, 1:00 pm

RE: ""The effect of an appearance is over when the thing is revealed, while the effect of a vanish continues [ until you distract them or bring the thing back ]."

All that's true, unless after an appearance, someone asks, "Do it Again!" Then, it may be fair to say, the same dynamic applies as in a vanish.

Jonathan Townsend
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Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 5th, 2004, 1:10 pm

Originally posted by Curtis Kam:
... unless after an appearance, someone asks, "Do it Again!" Then, it may be fair to say, the same dynamic applies as in a vanish.
Perhaps this would be justification for starting a routine with a borrowed coin vanish. :D
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

Guest

Re: More Theorizing on the Horizon?

Postby Guest » November 5th, 2004, 2:08 pm

Originally posted by Harold Cataquet:
Emotional reaction? Depends on what group I am in. Initially, there is surprise at the discovery, but then the range of emotions can be anything from joy ("That is so cool") to anger ("I have been 'tricked'").
The emotional reaction should depend entirely on the performer, and be controlled/predicted by a degree depending on the skill (not talking 'techinical' skill) of said performer.

But, as Mr. Racherbaumer sagely points out, this thread is wonderfullly digressive. Probably a good thing, considering.

Funny, everyone is still discussing magic as a puzzle. Sure, you speak of delaying, the puzzle, distracting them, from the puzzle, or, making the puzzle impossible to solve, but come on folks, change your attitude, and that of your spectators, and when you practically never hear, "Clever!", "woah, you fooled me big time," or " how did you do that?" anymore, we'll be ready to talk theory. :whack:

I'm sorry though, I guess there this thread is a fine place to discuss some basics, so by all means, continue! :rolleyes:


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