Last week I received something in the mail.
I am always sort of expecting something but I totally forgot about this package in particular. It wasn’t large but it was something I’ve been looking forward to reading for quite some time.
It was a magazine from the Montana Historical Society.
The return address said it all:
This was it! The next big write up from Marty Demarest on Erdnase, Wilbur E. Sanders, and his life and times.
I was pretty excited by this, and the prospect of more evidence to solidify who Erdnase really was.
Taking the proper time to sit down, uninterrupted, I torn the top of the manilla envelope open carefully, out slide a semi glossy magazine. The cover wasn’t glossy and slippery like so many magazines with too much sizzle and not enough steak…
Picking up the magazine to flip through, the pages naturally opened at the subscription card. I thought to myself, “Does anyone actually use these?” The card was tossed with a slight spin to the table. Feverishly flipping through I find the first page of what is a lengthy article.
Excitement doesn’t do the article justice. I’m elated at what could be.
The reading starts.
One page becomes three, which becomes five, then ten.
I can’t put this thing down! I’ve lost track of pages at this point.
Evidence is mounting, my mind is a little blown. The references and footnotes are astounding. The research is extensive. The comparisons are using the M.D. Smith Correspondence…
The information is matching up in amazing ways.
Has Marty Demarest found Erdnase? This unfortunately is a subjective question. One that many will not be able to answer without a signed first edition, held be the author in a photograph with the original signature of the author, “Erdnase” in quote between the first and last name and a drop of blood for proper DNA testing.
However, this type of smoking gun isn’t going to happen…
It’s no impossible, but it is highly improbable. So what do we have? We have facts and information from people given to other people many decades ago…
These are our facts, and based on what I’ve read from all parties that have chosen to publish, I believe Marty has the best candidate to date. I am reluctant to say Marty has found Erdnase for one simple reason. Marty is reluctant to say it himself.
All that being said. If you are in any way interested in who Erdnase is/was you simply MUST read the Montana magazine article.
I know this sort of stuff can be difficult to get sometimes. I managed to have a handful of copies sent to me for those who want a copy but don’t want to chase it down in Montana.
Email me if you’d like a copy.
Oh. My. God… They’re having a fire……Sale.
These were the words that were uttered at a lecture I gave in Trondheim, Norway for an absolutely INCREDIBLE group of magicians. I’m not just saying that because they had an ice cream machine. Which they do at the meeting place…
I just thought that was appropriate given the topic.
On with the writing!
We have ALL experienced that feeling. You know the one. Where you feel like you can do anything. Every trick and move is working perfectly. You are practicing and are able to do things you couldn’t before. You write, and the words flow beautifully. Not a single obstacle in sight!
You are on fire. You are blazing new trails, inventing new principles and plots.
Now what? KEEP GOING!
These times when I am in an extended period of creative bliss always end with something wonderful. But, I make the same mistake each time. I stop at some point instead of letting it fizzle out. All that energy and synergy between parts is broken when I make a firm decision to stop. I should let it fade out, I should exhaust it, working until I’m unable to work. But I don’t. I should but I don’t.
That needs to change. I will keep you posted as it does. It’s a small change, but with the potential for a big difference!
When you are on a roll, you need to roll with it.
Right now, I am feeling particularly good about writing. I’ll probably write a few more posts today for tomorrow, Monday, Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Let’s see what happens!
This is not the norm. Usually I write each post, each day.
But, when you feel things are working for you…
Reading older magic books is a wonderful exercise. Unfortunately, it is easy to avoid certain material due to the first read through not fitting your style.
Let’s talk about style for a second.
Do you work fast, or slow? Do you fan cards or spread them? Do you purposely handle them gracefully or haphazardly? Are you gentle or rough?
These are all questions regarding how you handle things. What I find personally, is that there is a great deal of material written with fanning cards for selections, etc. in mind. Fanning is not something I do to have cards removed. I will fan cards (and very rarely at that) only to display a large number of cards slowly and without any movement throughout the cards.
So, with this in mind, I read old magic books and I have to understand the style of the time. Fanning, and holding cards, shuffling certain ways, or with certain procedures, what was common in that day? Did we double lift yet? Why did they do it that way?
Read old magic books, enjoy the material, but be VERY careful not to disregard something simply because it doesn’t fit your style PERFECTLY. You might just need to alter the fan and make it a spread… Perhaps it will inspire a completely different approach, a new trick, or it might be the seed that grows up to be your personal masterpiece.
The reaction to my recommendation to read Bobo’s was so great, that my inbox was filled with questions and suggestions. Facebook had comments from loves and haters of the book, posted publicly and privately.
So, let’s discuss the pros and cons of this book.
One big complaint is that size of the book. It’s HUGE. Yes it is a large book. “Surely not EVERYTHING in this book is good?” No of course not. Tons of material in this book is absolute crap.
Let’s talk about crap. One man’s crap is another man’s treasure. For every trick that you come across that you think is terrible, just think, someone thought it was good enough to publish. Or did they…
The politics game in magic is an interesting one. It’s one I am particularly bad at. However, I’ve been around it long enough to know that sometimes people will throw quality out the window to include a friend. Friendship before standards…
I have no doubt in my mind that this book involved a great deal of research and favors being pulled in to collect the material that went in to this book. Also, we must consider that when people are being invited to contribute stuff, other people want to be part of the “in crowd” or group that is working on a fun project!
So, yes there is certainly junk, A LOT of junk in Bobo’s. But that is also part of the fun.
Not every book is a work of art, full of ready spun gold, tied in a little bow waiting for you to unwrap it.
No, it’s the opposite. There is a pile of garbage and a handful of diamonds and gold nuggets are hidden throughout. Here is the kicker. YOU need to be the one that can determine the gold from the garbage.
If you aren’t able to do that, or your standards aren’t that high, this book could be your worst nightmare. If you are prepared to get a bit dirty, get your hands mucky with terrible magic, and you don’t mind taking a moment to stop and smell the trash pile, then YOU are going to be well rewarded!
Bobo’s isn’t a sprint through flower fields. It’s a marathon through a garbage pile. But here is the thing. Your garbage might be my gold, and I’m sure some of your gold will be my garbage.
It’s all about taste, perspective and standards.
Do you realize how incredible this book is?
"Yes, of course Shane…"
No, but REALLY. When was the last time you read through or even OPENED this book?
It’s incredible! The magic is phenomenal, the contributors are the best of their generation and the range of material from simple vanishes, to how to make your own gaffs like copper/silver coins is MIND BLOWING.
This book isn’t expensive. It’s available in paperback or hardcover, expanded or not, and will only set you back maybe 40 bucks AT MOST. You can even find copies used for 10 dollars or less.
GO READ BOBO’s!
I’m particularly fond of the complete coin vanishes section. I think you should be too. Go look.
Do it. Right now! I need someone to talk Bobo’s with me. YOU should be that person. :)
Michael Skinner was such a great magician. Every time I watch him perform something I ask myself, how could this be made better. The answer is usually the same, “It can’t!” and while I know that probably isn’t 100% true. That is certainly the feeling I get.
One point that Skinner and his students/friends always emphasize is the Magic Moment. Michael Skinner recognized that there has to be a particular moment when the magic actually happens. A snap of the fingers, casting a shadow, holding your hand perfectly still for a moment, a tap of the wand.
When there is a magic moment people attach to the impossible thing or situation, your audience can be conditioned to experience remarkable things with that type of moment.
The moments can overlap and they can cause people to anticipate something great with that action or moment.
You can elevate your magic by introducing these magic moments. Try it!
I think you’ll notice the difference.
Do you own or use any great props?
I have a few things that I absolutely love. One of which is a set of Fakini Billiard balls I use for the Wakeling routine. It is a personal favorite routine and the billiard balls are perfect for it. Another would be the Ramsay stack for the coins and cylinder routine. I made that stack myself, but I absolutely love it.
Whether you purchase them, or make them yourself. It is always wonderful to have really great props. These props aren’t usually available from your local magic shop or the mainstream online stores that pump out volume. This will likely need to be from an individual or a shop that REALLY cares about this sort of thing.
A coin set from Jamie Schoolcraft for example or something made by the many fine craftsmen out there.
Look at the material you do, or want to do. Find something that could be made beautifully and that YOU are truly passionate about. Then see about having it made! It’s really that simple.
I’m going through this exact process right now and I must say, it’s more exciting than I originally imagined!
I’m a little bit hesitant to use the description “self-working” when referring to magic. The simple reason is, the same trick performed by two different people can be a miracle in one person’s hands and a total flop in the other person’s hands.
There is work to be done…
So let’s stick to sleight free magic, or light on sleight magic.
I love sleight free magic. In my head I want to drift towards tricks with difficult sleights but I find myself wrestling between hard and easy magic. Should I be doing so much sleight of hand? Should my magic look and feel hands off? Should my magic have methods that brilliantly remove all sleight of hand?
It’s a question without an answer really. There isn’t one right answer, at least I don’t think there is. But I think you can certainly find wonderful effects that full under the Sleight Free category, and with a little work you can elevate them to the class of miracle.
I am personally going to take a few books off the shelf, starting with Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Vol 1 and 2 by Steve Beam and Co. as well as The Collected Tricks of Charles T Jordan, and The First Fifty Years + The James File (2 Volumes). I have a sneaking suspicion I will find a few wonderful tricks along the way.
People often assume creativity comes in these wonderful flashes and moments of genius!
Yeah, it happens. But truth be told, creativity is hard work. Notice, I am not talking about originality, especially in method. We are talking about creatively approaching presentation, or constructing something, or innovative solutions.
Creativity takes place with a pen and notepad. A single point of concentration, or an idea you are thinking around.
Time, dedication, and effort. People often miss that last point.
It takes a lot of effort, and it also takes a lot of failure and bad ideas. The trick of course is to cherry pick the good ideas from the pool of bad ideas.
Get a pen, a piece of paper, and an idea to be creative with. Happy cherry picking!
Thinking about magic, and trying to be aware of every moment in your performances will have a huge impact on the magic you do, how you do it, and what you choose to do.
What we often don’t realize or take in to consideration is that sometimes, what we do stays with people not for minutes, or hours, but for YEARS. For some people it literally changes their outlook on life, or it changes there perspective on things.
I don’t believe you need to recite poetry, paint something beautiful, or dance gracefully to touch your audience in that way.
I’ve been receiving a number of emails lately from people mentioning specific tricks I’d performed for them years and months before. One particular email mentioned that he couldn’t stop thinking about the style of tricks I performed.
Who knew this sort of thing stuck with people so long?
You! You know now, just like I do, and like so many others. What you do can truly make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t mean it will cure a disease, or something like that, but it will mold how they live their life and how they see things moving forward.
Big responsibility. Perform wisely.
I’ve talked about this before, but it is happening so much more and so much faster than ever before…
Marlo was an interesting character because he published so much, and he released every possible variation you could imagine on a move, idea or principle that took over his mind. It is the best and worst part of what he did.
Aside from Marlo, not many people published so exhaustively. Which is why it is so interesting that today we are seeing it come around full circle. One of the beautiful things about Vernon’s material as it was published is that you don’t always get the full track record and evolution. You get the conclusion. You are given the end result that you can start using right away.
Why is this a problem? We have this vacuum of magic happening right now. It will never be filled, no matter how much magic is released, downloaded, printed, recorded, etc. So, in an attempt to constantly feed the magic beast, we have people releasing less than brilliant magic. In fact, they are often releasing ideas and methods that were discarded along the way to finding the final solution that someone like Vernon would have released later.
With so much being released, it is no wonder the material is declining to rapidly. What’s even worse is, as we feed this beast, the really bad, or half correct ideas and all lumped in with the truly brilliant material. The good stuff is getting lost in the mix.
Perhaps Marlo was right to publish things so exhaustively, if for no other reason that to keep the entire process in one place and not sell them off one trick at a time.
However, it would be a mistake to not mention that Marlo did in fact sell concepts one at a time, very similar to what is happening today but in a pre-digital time. Revolutionary Card Technique, certainly one of the most complete collections of card technique, was originally sold as separate individual manuscripts that covered a single move or topic…
Marlo was right?…
This is more of an observation than anything else. Reading books on so many different subjects with different authors keeps things interesting. But, what I’ve noticed is as I read books, it’s really my own voice I hear in my head as I read.
Here is where things get interesting. If I’ve met or heard the author’s speaking voice, when I read their books I don’t hear my voice in my head any more, I now hear their voice.
There is one exception. That is, if the book is written by someone else (Lewis Ganson) on a particular person’s work (Dai Vernon), I will not hear the author’s voice, I will hear Vernon’s voice, for example.
I feel like there is an extremely interesting magic effect in here somewhere. There is something you can do to influence your audience’s mind here. I’m not sure how to use it yet, but feel free to run with it if possible.
For all you shuffles, movers, shakers and french droppers, this is with you in mind…
Have you ever reviewed the magic you do and considered changing the speed of things? That could be the quickness of your hands or body moving throughout the whole trick/routine/move or it could be how fast you are moving just during the moment of deception. That time when you feel speed is necessary to create an illusion to delight and fool your audience.
The natural tendency is to speed things up. But I’ve found that the slower you can do something, the more likely you are to find a perfectly deceptive way to do it. We often mistake speed for deception, giving little credit to our audiences who are often much wiser than we like to believe. They aren’t fooled, and don’t believe that you just actually shuffled the cards. They don’t think the coin is in your hand, despite your convincing pointing with the other hand… They don’t believe the ball is actually in your mouth, or has vanished from the box in a flourish.
Slowing down or speeding can and will be the difference between fooling your audience and telling them exactly where and when to look for something.
Change your speed. Speed up, gear down, experiment. Use a camera and a mirror. Watch from every angle you can.
Also, enjoy the process. This magic stuff is supposed to be fun :-)
Although you might immediately assume this will be a post about Erdnase, I should let you know that it is not…
However, that doesn’t mean it won’t user ideas or concepts from the book. In this case, let’s talk about creativity and how to spark it.
There are many ways to be inspired, some do it with art, poetry, nature, death, life, books, etc. There are so many places to pull inspiration from. How you feel deep down inside can determine whether you are in a creative mode or not. There is one thing that will spark creativity no matter what.
Sometimes that might be one other person. Having someone who is interested in similar things, and is striving for similar goals and outcomes can be a remarkable source of inspiration. They can also take you from that lull in creativity, to being absolutely on fire with brilliant ideas one after another!
Assemble a creative team. Remember who you were talking to when a brilliant idea struck you. This type of interaction will change your work. It will expand your creative horizons and it will hopefully result in a finer outcome.
When you are not in a creative mood, or you feel you’ve hit a wall, take it upon yourself to talk to those people that often take you out of it…
They will help you change the moment.
What I mean is, writing jokes doesn’t work for me. I just don’t do funny like that.
On more than one occasion I’ve been told I am very funny. Why is that? It’s not my brilliant joke writing. We can all agree on that.
It’s the situation humor. I can find humor in a situation or circumstance. You don’t have to write jokes to be funny. You don’t even have to be funny. Sometimes something as simple as staring at something, or doing a double take, can be enough to get a good laugh.
What you DO can be funny, without having to say anything, or script a joke, you can do something that gets laughs.
So, before you write yourself off as not being able to write jokes, consider the other ways you might be able to inject a little humor in to your work.