The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

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erdnasephile
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby erdnasephile » April 14th, 2018, 11:09 am

Leonard Hevia wrote:Caveney published an article in Magic years ago about that Zig Zag controversy. A magician here in the U.S. built a version sometime around the early 1970s? and began to perform it without Harbin's permission. Caveney also published an article in Magicol about that pirated copy of the Harbin book and how to tell them apart.


The Zig Zag article was a great read. I'm surprised it took the perpetrator so long to finally confess since he had been caught out so easily.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby erdnasephile » April 14th, 2018, 11:20 am

Is it true that each legit copy of the Harbin book has the purchaser's name and the book number hand written in the book?

If that's so: for those of you who have seen the phony Sander/Mann abominations, did they just omit that page or are those lines left blank?

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Richard Kaufman » April 14th, 2018, 1:34 pm

Jim Sommers of Chicago was, I believe, the guy who starting making copies of the "Zig Zag Lady."
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Leonard Hevia » April 14th, 2018, 3:11 pm

Mr. Sommers got away with it for a time because the world was less connected in the 1970s. Stealing is not acceptable behavior but you can see why he nicked it: It's the perfect illusion. No special lighting required, no threads, no bad angles, can be done surrounded, and it's self-contained. What's not to like? Steinmeyer liked it enough to design his own variation.

It served in good stead for many illusionists, for a while anyway.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby performer » April 14th, 2018, 3:11 pm

It was indeed Jim Sommers. I remember it well. Harbin was furious and that was the reason he put out his book. I think that made things worse. Cutting off the nose to spite the face.

I remember seeing vividly the first time it was ever performed at the London Palladium. I saw it on Television and it created quite a sensation at the time. Oddly enough I am still not entirely sure how the trick is done mainly because illusions are not a particular interest of mine. I did see Fay Presto doing it in close up walkaround. That amused me greatly!

Alas the trick has been done to death now.

Anyway here is the very performance I first saw on TV all those years ago. I still think Harbin did it better than anyone else, not least because he talked when he did it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McNj0WTVCjQ

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » April 20th, 2018, 6:23 pm

Robert Harbin has a lovely presentation for the Torn & Restored Newspaper over here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rWcCuNYcrc

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jonathan Townsend » April 20th, 2018, 6:55 pm

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

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby performer » April 20th, 2018, 7:44 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:the zigzag
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTdjbgb9OHA


Too late! I was first! I have already posted that one!

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jonathan Townsend » April 21st, 2018, 11:11 pm

Whoops, You're right performer. Here's a clip of his Aztec Lady
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jack Shalom » May 12th, 2018, 1:35 am

I just started reading Early Harbin. Man, that was one clever, out of the box (sorry) guy. Usually methods turn out to be humdrum in magic; but his were the kinds of methods that I fantasied as a kid.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » May 12th, 2018, 7:17 am

I have Harbin x 2 which contains Early Harbin and Harbincadabra (all of the Harbin material from Abra magazine).

Some books I can fully digest after a single read. Or two at most. But I am still trying to wrap my head around these books since they deal with the type of magic I am not used to reading about. So I don't have much of use to add to what Jack says.

That said I thought it was hilarious that in one of Harbin's tricks he uses a fly as the method for the trick!

Also - in The Genius of Robert Harbin - an interesting patent is described. It is for a TV that can produce 3D images without the use of glasses! This was something he came up with a long time ago. I don't have the book to hand, but probably as far back as the 1950's!

Talk about a creative genius! I would love to see more coverage on this idea in the magic community. Even though it was not a magic trick - it is a wonderful example of Harbin's creativity. And it would be fascinating to know if the idea would have worked. And why it never caught on.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby performer » May 12th, 2018, 7:51 am

Somebody once mentioned (I think it was Billy McComb) that Harbin made far money out of his Origami books than he ever did out of magic. I believe it. They were very popular at one time. And I remember when I was a kid seeing him do Origami on British television although only his hands were seen. I am not even sure if his name was mentioned and in fact I don't think it was. It was a segment on a kid show called "Mr Left and Mr Right" You were supposed to get a sheet of paper and copy the actions of his hands so you could make your own origami model. Although he went fairly slowly I could never get past the first three or four folds.

I still remember coming across him in some fairground or other presenting a sideshow illusion. I vaguely remember him being very friendly but there was only me and another person there. He didn't do the illusion whatever the hell it was. I wish I could remember the incident better. He didn't seem to be making much money. I am not surprised the Origami paid better.

I met him at the Magic Circle a couple of times. He seemed to be a very nice man.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Tom Moore » May 12th, 2018, 8:57 am

Aurostereoscopic technologies (basically 3D without glasses) have been around as long as 3D film has but there’s a couple of basic physics and geometry fundamentals that have stopped the technology from becoming practical and viable for anything more than a single viewer. I’ve worked on 3D film technology in rides / shows and I’m quite sure every designer you could name has done some work on it but it’s one of those ideas that almost certainly can’t be solved.

The primary problem is position (of the images, of the reflective surfaces, of the viewers) such that even if something is out of position by 1/1000th of a mm, by a fraction of a degree or a tenth of a second then the brain refuses to accept the illusion. One of the big European ride manufacturers has developed a system of pseudo autostereoscopy which is workable but essentially relays on the fact that the viewers position can be relatively tightly controlled and which uses phenomenal computing power to tune the images and (literally) track your eyes and project data straight in to them in order to create the illusion of true 3D. This isn’t actual 3D though as each person viewing the film isn’t seeing true images as though the objects were real and anyone outside the recognised tracking hotspots would just see a blurry mess.
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » May 12th, 2018, 9:42 am

A few years ago - this hack (by a computer scientist called Johnny Lee) for the Nintendo Wii went viral. Although sadly it seems Nintendo never did anything which this ingenious idea.

It looks similar to what Tom describes in the post above. A way to create a 3D image without glasses. And you have freedom of movement at the same time.

I am not an expert in these areas. But this one idea seemed really compelling. It felt like a genuine breakthrough when I was saw it. Even now I get excited by it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbinp

Postby Tom Moore » May 12th, 2018, 12:19 pm

No that’s a completely different idea, it’s nowhere near 3D, it’s basically a pseudo depth illusion. This is widely used in modern smartphone displays to create a depth perception illusion ( http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/06/28 ... explained/) and does it all without glueing IR tracking dots to the viewer. What he’s “discovered” in that video is how to do with a wii remote something that the rest of the 3D world nailed about 10 years earlier with cheaper hardware.

Proper no-glasses 3D requires two totally separate images (one for each eye) plus a knowledge of where the viewer is positioned so that the focal planes can be tailored to fit them - fine when you only have one user but every additional viewer you add the more complicated it gets. Because you’ve doubled the amount of work.
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » May 12th, 2018, 1:09 pm

Thanks a lot for the information, Tom. It is nice to hear from somebody with real knowledge of this area.

In case anyone is curious - I will give a quick outline of the Robert Harbin patent.

The frame rate for a TV is 24 frames per second. Harbin's idea was that twelve of the frames are of a close-up of the object in the camera.

And the other 12 frames (they alternate) is of the object from further away.

Apparently - this creates a blur effect in which the object seems to project out (or into?) the TV.

Also - I found a cool app for the iPhone X that makes use of the head-tracking method mentioned above to create cool depth perception illusions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywlETLIIvX4

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Tom Moore » May 12th, 2018, 2:52 pm

The most common way of storing/recording 3D films now is by storing alternate images on alternate frames of the tv signal or frames of a film but running at double speed because anything slower than 24fps looks “wrong” to the brain (see my previous comments). More complicated modern solutions involve merging the two images in to one digital HD frame but with each line of pixels alternating between the two images - it solves synchronisation and ghosting issues because both images are projected effectively at the same time rather than 1/24th second apart.

The harbin idea wouldn’t have worked “properly” partially because of the low frame rate but also because for 3D to work the viewer has to be in a known position so that the image recorded looks correct to them from that position, otherwise again the brain notices that the shadows etc in the 3D object aren’t quite “right” and refuses to allow you to perceive the proper 3D effect.

A similar idea to the harbin one is the “Pulfrich effect” which produces a mild 3D effect by exploiting how the brain processes depth information in moving images / films. Again though whilst the theory is solid the actual effect produced is tiny because your brain notices that the other depth clues aren’t being provided so surpresses the illusion.

Quick demo of the principle https://youtu.be/Q-v4LsbFc5c
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Q. Kumber » July 7th, 2020, 4:54 pm

It's a long shot I know.

Would anyone know who made the following post (the tenth down from the start of this thread back in 2008).

Thank you.

Guest wrote:Ah yes, the Harbin book and how the Magic Circle came to own the rightsthanks in no small part to me.

Some years ago when I owned a small publishing company I want to reproduce the Harbin book legitimately so it could be advertised. I learned that Harbin had willed his literary output to the British Origami Society.

I contacted the Societys president (a lawyer) and explained to him that pirate copies of the Harbin book were readily available at magic conventions. I informed him of the existence of the Al Mann counterfeit and how it was considered by many a desirable collectible even given its genesis.

I also pointed out that Harbin produced the book in a different time, well before the popularity of magic took off. My position was that Harbin's literary heirs should benefit from the book as opposed to the thieves. Keeping it off the market would only benefit the pirates. By making a less expensive edition available the market for a copy would be greatly reduced and their rights reinforced.

The lawyer said he would bring it up at a meeting and that the Society would discuss it. Over the ensuing two and a half years I sent numerous letters with what I considered a fair offer: a 15% royalty and sales rights for the British Isles with copies sold to the Society at a 50% discount. I thought an edition of 500 or 1000 in large format trade paperback size would fill the need. I planned on pricing it just under $50 which was then a bit more than the $35 I heard a Xerox copy went for. I would not produce a hardback edition so the rarity of the original Harbin would not be affected.

I thought everyone would walk away a winner: Harbins book would be protected, his literary heirs would benefit, and buyers would be able to buy a legitimate copy and Id make a couple of bucks on the deal as well.

Finally, after endless frustration at being told the matter would be discussed at an upcoming meeting, I called the lawyer directly by Transatlantic telephone. He didnt much care to be put on the spot. By letter some weeks later he informed me that he had decided to make his position moot by handing the book rights over to the Magic Circle, where it resides today. When I was informed of this I realized that Id been put back to square one and abandoned the project. The pirates and thieves won and some could argue that without any attempt at enforcing the copyright the Harbin book has passed into the public domain.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 7th, 2020, 6:07 pm

I am not 100% certain. But I think this might be Martin Breese.

Either way - it is a candidate worth investigating.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 7th, 2020, 6:16 pm

That is a good candidate.
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Lyons » July 7th, 2020, 6:22 pm

Would Martin Breese have to make a transatlantic call to a British society?

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Lyons » July 7th, 2020, 7:00 pm

Joe Lyons wrote:Would Martin Breese have to make a transatlantic call to a British society?


Not trying to be a smarta**, I know as much about Martin Breese as most Americans do about Paul Daniels....

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 7th, 2020, 7:10 pm

I am more and more certain it is Martin Breese. I even seem to remember Martin writing the post on here. This was back before the forum upgrade that got rid of a lot of usernames. I have a very good memory when it comes to magic.

On one occasion Martin Breese got an award from the Magic Castle - so he visited America at least once. Although I would imagine he visited more than just the one time. So he was probably out in America when he was trying to organise a reprint.

There is one other suggestion I have though. I will double-check with that person on Facebook.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby EdwinCorrie » July 7th, 2020, 7:22 pm

I think it was David Alexander. His name appears in a quote a few posts later ("David Alexander wrote:") and as a member of the BOS I recall being interested in this at the time.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Q. Kumber » July 7th, 2020, 7:41 pm

My first thought was Martin Breese. Two things went against that thought. First, why would he make a transatlantic call to England and second, he still did own a small publishing company right up until he passed away. Martin would have wanted to buy the complete rights (as opposed to paying royalties) and I strongly suspect he would have known The Magic Circle owned the copyright.

I feel Edwin is correct as David Alexander did once own a small publishing company. David was also a silhouette cutter and may have had an interest in origami.

Thank you all so far for your suggestions, and please feel free to continue.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 7th, 2020, 7:48 pm

Well - my magic memory might not be so good after all!

I will post back if I hear anything from another suggestion I am looking into (it is a very left-field candidate - but I am friends with him on Facebook so I may as well check).

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Q. Kumber » July 7th, 2020, 7:59 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:Well - my magic memory might not be so good after all!

I will post back if I hear anything from another suggestion I am looking into (it is a very left-field candidate - but I am friends with him on Facebook so I may as well check).


Thank you Joe. You could be right.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jack Shalom » July 7th, 2020, 8:46 pm

It's David Alexander.

Notice the quote of a post by David Alexander--not the post in question, BUT

you'll notice that both the post in question and the known Alexander post, despite impeccable phrasing, both do not use apostrophes.

Case closed.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 7th, 2020, 9:00 pm

I am in two minds.

By the way - Martin Breese definitely used to post on here. Here is a post from Martin 8 months before the post in question. It is a gossipy post about his relationship with David Berglas.

viewtopic.php?t=3109#p33102

I asked Mark Lewis - he thinks it is Martin Breese as well.

I also feel like there is a big shift in tone between the post we are debating and the later ones by David Alexander. I feel like Martin Breese chipped in with an interesting story that involved copyright. And then David Alexander jumped in soon afterwards to bang on about the copyright issue since that seems to have been a hobby horse of his. That is how I read those two posts. They feel like different authors to me.

Anyone else feeling that?

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 7th, 2020, 9:11 pm

Jack, you know what, I DO have a recollection of David Alexander telling me all about that. It is him!
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 7th, 2020, 9:16 pm

I was having a similar vague recollection. But I didn't want to say anything since I have made enough of a mess already in this thread.

My magic memory is usually super sharp. I am sorry for the mess-up!

The Chief Genii has spoken.

Case closed.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jack Shalom » July 7th, 2020, 9:17 pm

Well, now I'm not so sure--look at Clay the book collector's posts (Clay Shevlin?) --he doesn't use apostrophes either--and the OP responds to him by name.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Q. Kumber » July 9th, 2020, 5:41 am

Thank you Joe McKay, Joe Lyons, Richard Kaufman, Edwin Corrie and Jack Shalom for your help with my query and Nathan Coe Marsh for starting this thread in the first place.

Snippets of information that get contributed on fora like this one will make life easier for future generations of magic historians.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 9th, 2020, 5:21 pm

I am torn on this issue. Martin Breese or David Alexander? I cannot decide.

I had never heard of David Alexander until I saw him posting regularly on this forum. He always had interesting and intelligent things to say. As such I only ever learned about him from his posts on here. I remember being intrigued that he seemed to be a bit of a Big Deal in the world of Star Trek.

I am not a huge Star Trek fanatic. But I am a big fan of The Next Generation. In particular - I am fascinated by the episodes featuring Q.

Imagine if Mark Lewis was made a God. That sums up Q.

lol

Anyway - I am still upset about the bizarre circumstances that caused the death of David Alexander. Apparently he was electrocuted when trying to re-wire his attic? Something like that.

Very sad.

Anyway - I seem to recall that David Alexander mentioned once he was interested in republishing The Magic of Robert Harbin. I did a deep dive into the work of Robert Harbin about ten years ago. So it kind of rings a bell.

But I am not 100% sure.

I am still on the fence. In my mind it is a toss-up between David Alexander and Martin Breese.

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Brad Henderson » July 9th, 2020, 6:29 pm

But were either of them in Chicago in 1902?

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Bill Mullins » July 9th, 2020, 8:21 pm

Are there any backups of the forum that exist from before the glitch that caused the names of posters to be lost?

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 9th, 2020, 10:19 pm

No.
And I definitely remember David Alexander telling me the story, not Martin Breese. Now, Martin might also have gone to the Council to try and reprint the book, but that would be a different story.
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Jonathan Townsend » July 9th, 2020, 10:35 pm

Is this the post you are seeking? Post by David Alexander » 23 Feb 2010 09:34
David Alexander wrote:The Magic Circle has the rights to the Harbin book because the British Origami Society would not make a decision to let my old publishing company issue a large-format paperback edition of the Harbin book.

For almost three years I worked hard to get the rights to produce a legitimate edition and was repeatedly told by the lawyer who was the president of the British Origami Society that they were "going to have a meeting" on this matter and "get back to me." I even made a transatlantic phone call to that man to get the matter resolved.

I took the position that Harbin published well-before magic became widely popular and, more importantly (and realistically)the book was readily available in pirated form at magic conventions and under the table at certain dealers. The counterfeiters benefitted, not Harbins literary heirs. I wasn't certain even then that the book hadn't fallen into the public domain by the lack of copyright enforcement, but I wanted my edition to be legitimate so I could advertise openly.

I offered them a generous royalty and exclusive selling rights in the UK so the book could be produced legitimately and benefit them. Publishing legitimately and selling at a reasonable price would deflate most of the pirates.

After almost three years they finally responded by handing rights over to the Magic Circle.

Its been 40 years since the book was published. I do not know of any case where either the British Origami Society or the Magic Circle pursued copyists or counterfeiters of this book or supposedly un-authorized manufacturers of the items described inside. If no one protected Harbins copyright or the rights of those who bought the book who supposedly received some sort of exclusivity then I would suggest that by law it is highly likely that the material is in the public domain. See Bill Mullins post for further details.
viewtopic.php?t=31133

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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Richard Kaufman » July 9th, 2020, 11:14 pm

My recollection is based on being told the story by David either by phone or in person.
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Re: The Fate of The Magic of Robert Harbin

Postby Joe Mckay » July 10th, 2020, 1:48 am

Jonathan has nailed it. Welll done, Jonathan!

David Alexander it is.


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