When is it stealing someone’s material?
There is a product out today being sold for $100. It is essentially a can of spray paint with some unique properties. But, the question is, is it stolen? This EXACT idea was published in the early 90’s the publisher still alive.
Is it stealing? The releasing of a “new” physical product of a previous re-purposing of an existing product available to the public? One that was described by someone else in an earlier publication?
But the plot thickens. The IDEA and principle that the “new” product works on was originally published in the mid to late 1950’s. Completely unbeknownst to both the 1990’s publisher/author and the modern day pitchmen.
It is easy to claim independent invention. But the question is, who is in the right?
Does the identity and history of the people involved make a difference? Would your opinion sway if the names of the people were highlighted?
How far back until it’s using an old principle? Who do you have to be or not be to get a green light?
I love food!
I don’t mean I enjoy eating. I mean I truly love food, the flavors, textures, contrast, layers, you name it! I love everything about food.
I’ve heard of this amazing documentary about the most famous Sushi chef in the world. His name is Jiro.
The documentary is called Jiro Dreams of Sushi. It is an amazing exploration of the journey towards perfection. You see the devotion to one specific art and an unwavering drive to be the best.
One point that stuck out to me was that you must eat great food if you want to make great food.
You can’t make the best if you have nothing to compare it to. You MUST know what is out there. You must know what you are up against. You have a range of experiences to pull from, examples to try to surpass. Giant’s shoulders to stand on are required.
So, go experience great things so YOU can do great things yourself.
So, you’ve got a magic idea. A trick, a move, a thing.
Don’t be like me kids. WRITE IT DOWN!
I have forgotten more things than I care to admit and i remember having some wonderful ideas. Meaning, I remember what it accomplished, I forget how I did it.
I’m sure I had a great control, I thought, “This is awesome, I’ll remember this for sure…”
I did not and do not remember it.
So, if you have an idea and you think it is worthwhile WRITE IT DOWN!
21 Years ago today, Ross Bertram, Canadian Coinmaster, passed away. I was just child at the time, 6 years old. Little did I know his magic would change my life, and continues to do so to this day.
I’m a huge fan of Bertram’s material and his thinking as presented in his book and a magazine contributions. Having never spent time with him (obviously) I have to make assumptions about what he thought, and this has largely helped me develop my way of thinking and approach to moves, tricks, etc.
The closest I’ve found to a candid conversation with Ross Bertram involved is in the back of Bertram on Sleight of Hand which is more of an interview with Ross asking very diverse questions. This is a must read to understand how small the details really were to Ross.
So, I encourage all of you to read and learn something Ross Bertram today. You can find his material in a number of great places. The most accessible is probably Stars of Magic. If you don’t have that then Bobo’s Modern Coin Magic, Bertram on Sleight of Hand, Magic and Methods of Ross Bertram, Hugard’s Magic Monthly, Genii Magazine had an entire Bertram Issue,July of 1984 and Ultimate Secrets of Card Magic has a small section with Bertram’s card work.
That should be varied enough to ensure that you own one of those sources! So go out and read some Bertram.
I’ve had so many projects on the go lately, that none of them seem to be moving along.
Project Paralysis. It is a dangerous thing to have so many things going and nobody to answer to for them.
The truth is, you can get bogged down with a single project. Especially without deadlines or specific requirements. Simply, personal creative goals and exploration.
If you find yourself in this same crunch. As if your magic world has been paused, then consider the following.
Are you in a position to move your project forward? Have you done everything you can do without spending more money, or acquiring more information?
If you can’t afford to move forward or you’ve hit an intellectual barrier and can not seem to come up with the right solution, then you are in a different spot. You aren’t paralyzed, you are learning. These types of barriers are part of the process.
When you “don’t have time” that is when you are paralyzing yourself.
If your limitations are knowledge or financially based, find the person or book with that knowledge. Ask around, get the answers.
If money is your problem. Ask yourself how much money you are losing by not having this project done. Will this be part of a show that you get paid for? If not, be careful. Invest slowly. Finish it as you can, put a little money aside each day, if possible. Skip a big double strawberry latte supreme from Starbucks, and tuck it away.
You will finish that project, and when you do, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and have a beautiful piece you can hopefully use and showcase.
Consider the payoff, the end result. Weighing your options can often help you find answers quickly.
I have no excuse for these projects being held back. Tomorrow, I move something forward!
Magic is an expensive pursuit at times. We have a plethora of consumables which can add up easily, books are usually over produced, over sized, lavishly illustrated, etc., and if you want to go the stage route props and things start in the hundreds and ends in the hundreds of thousands (usually).
Which is why, it is so important to revisit those REALLY inexpensive, brilliant books from your early years. For me, (and I’m hoping many of you) Expert Card Technique was one of my first books. The beauty is that it is REALLY inexpensive. Twenty bucks should get you a copy and a deck of cards or so.
What this book contains though…
It’s a treasure trove of wonderful technique, essays and insight, refinement, effects, routines, alternative approaches, unusual solutions…
The routines are from the finest of the finest, Miller, Vernon, Braue, Zingone, Rosini, Hugard, Cliff Green, McMillen, Jack Merlin, Allerton, Anneman, etc.
I revisit this book often. I have a few copies, including a Dover copy I keep bedside when my mind refuses to go to sleep and my body follows suit.
Over and over again I find my technique getting changed and refined, swapped out, etc. All from Expert Card Technique. The true value of the book relative to a lot of stuff we see released today is probably in the $200 range but only the right person with the right appreciation for what is inside will understand that.
$200 might even be undervaluing it.
Go flip through Expert Card Technique. If you don’t have a copy, cut out Starbucks once or twice a week and buy it ASAP!
I am a strong believer that everyone has a story. Every single person you have ever met, walked by, ignored, bought something from, bumped into, flipped off, hurt, shared a meal with, etc. Everyone has a story.
But, how many of those stories have you heard? Probably not as many as you should. I’m just as guilty, but what I can tell you is every time someone has gone into their story I’ve been truly enamored. Hanging off their words at points.
We all have a story worth telling, one that is remarkable, full of unexpected moments, turns and twists. Heartbreak, joy, triumphs.
So, when you don’t have any ideas for how to present a trick reach into your own story. Perhaps borrow a page from another person’s story.
But, it starts with knowing the story. Either you need to accept your own, or listen hard to other people’s.
Embrace the story. Sympathize, empathize, but try not to forget.
Many great card tricks are difficult to weave a great presentation around. As I approach new tricks I keep a little book of introductions that I can use before showing ANY trick. One of my favorites is something I first saw Michael Skinner use.
“There are some tricks that magicians only show other magicians, would you like to see one of those tricks?”
The beauty is in the ambiguity and while it likely predates Mr. Skinner, I can’t help but remember how much I REALLY wanted to see the next trick he performed, regardless of what that trick actually was!
I’ve started to collect lines and introductions that follow the same idea. I don’t use them frequently but I like knowing they are there. They allow me to take a brand new trick, something that is well practiced but lacks the actual time in front of people, and start performing it with my other material immediately. It also keeps the uncertain hmmming and hawwwing to a minimum.
That also brings me to Outs, how you leave a trick off. After the reaction subsides. What do you say? Charles Bertram would say “Isn’t it Wonderful?” which became a tag line. Collect lines that work well after an effect as well. With enough Ins and Outs you will never be stuck for something to say when working on a new trick.
There is more magic for sale today than just about ever before. It’s unbelievable. But, we have been force fed so much magic that it can be difficult to weed out the good from the bad. So how do you do it?
First, before you buy something, ask yourself one simple question. Is THIS is a miracle? One criteria I like to consider is if the effect is impossible (should not be happening) or improbable (It could happen but the chances are VERY low.)
If it is improbable, don’t buy it. You don’t have time for improbabilities. You need to stock your arsenal with the most amazing, impossible and miraculous tricks you can!
Also, be careful not to fall in the trap of buying a startling trick vs. a miracle. A visual phase of the ambitious card, is usually startling, not miracle class.
Go out and be the best you can, by performing the best you can!
Tommy Wonder wrote a wonderful article in the Books of Wonder that highlighted the inner dialogue of the performer. The words that he says to himself during silent moments of his performance. It is a wonderfully insightful look at a master’s approach to acting and believability.
We must also consider the conversation that is happening in our spectator’s head. What are they thinking when you have them select a card? Does the way the card is selected change the conversation? Are they saying to themselves “I want to shuffle those cards RIGHT NOW” ?
You can’t know for sure, but if you can get an idea from whispers you hear in the audience or information you get from people during or after the fact you can start to piece together the mental journey you take your spectator on.
Knowing what they are thinking each step of the way will allow you to know where to take it next. This small idea can be a HUGE weapon when it comes to getting certain reactions, setting certain moods, etc.
Just consider it, you don’t have to write out what you think is going through their head. Just think about it.
Remember that Scotch and Soda trick you had as a kid? Remember the reactions?? I certainly do, and it was nothing short of remarkable.
But somewhere along the way all those gimmicks and gaffs lost that luster and allure. But why? They got great reactions!
So I encourage you to dig through your magic drawer! FIND that lost coin gaff and perform the hell out of it!
Ricky Jay, at an event to promote his new documentary mentioned that at some point in his career he realized he wanted his performances to be done in a theater.
This was a pretty remarkably point for me. He had worked in so many different venues, yet he eventually came to the conclusion that a theater was the most appropriate venue for him.
How many of us are not sure of what venue highlights our work best? Are you a stage magician that should actually be doing walk around? A walk around magician that should be doing stand up magic?
The right venue can be the difference between doing magic literally on the streets, to performing at the Waldorf Astoria in a ritzy suite.
A true night and day contrast. Not all material is transferable with positive effect.
The popularity of magicians like David Blaine have revitalized close up impromptu seeming magic for laymen and new magicians alike, but how many of those magicians will realize there is a better venue suited to them?
Do YOU know what venue suits you and your material?
While this might bring flashbacks of your senior year in high school, I’m actually referring to a number of videos produced by HBO. The concept was simple, find formally educated people with a passion for specific historical figures and events. Get them fall down drunk, and have them give their historical interpretations of those people and those events.
The result, is nothing short of brilliant. It’s honest, candid, and all the boring parts sort of melt away.
When you mention history being interesting most people lose interest, eyes roll, etc. With Drunk History, I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t find it more entertaining than most presentations of history they have watched.
Youtube it, watch it, laugh a bit, but realize that for the most part these are meant to be historically accurate-ish. Some quotes might be off…
Go now, Youtube Drunk History, and think about how the same stereotypically boring information, presented in a unique way, can have a VERY different impact!
Go pull this book off the shelves and flip through until something catches your eye. Read that eye catching thing, practice, refine a bit and start using it!
You are welcome!
If you don’t have a copy you can send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org I think I have a second copy somewhere.
Last night I was performing for some people and I jokingly mentioning I would go back in time thirty seconds, I immediately corrected myself explaining how ridiculous that idea really is. Not the idea of time travel, that’s pretty cool, but the idea that IF I could actually travel back in time I would use that power to find a playing card… or cause it to be somewhere it wasn’t supposed to, etc.
These sorts of presentations though are used all the time, often tongue in cheek, but have you ever actually thought about the literal nature of what you are saying to people? What are people possibly thinking when you say I’m going back in time? “This guy is a boob…” “He doesn’t honestly think I believe that does he?” “Really? Seriously? Come on, stop being an idiot.”
All possible dialogues going on in someone’s head.
The Ambitious Card, a card being ambitious and always rising to the top. It just lacks… everything.
Try telling a true story. Don’t have a good one to tell? Tell a personal story then. Inject yourself into the presentation.