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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Crap for Crapping

Want to scare the crap out of your friends while their on the crapper? Then head over to and print out this incredible flyer:

To get the maximum effect, sit down on the toilet and make sure that Jeff Goldblum is staring at eye level. (You want your friends to sit on the toilet and have Jeff Goldblum starting directly into your eyes.)

Trust me, they will shit themselves. That is, if they hadn't already by that point.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Clothing Crap

When you wear a specific outfit to work as a magician, are you wearing a uniform or a costume? First, a distinction: a uniform is a collection of clothing one is implored to wear as part of a certain work environment; a costume is a collection of clothing selected to match one's character. Most magicians wear the uniform of the particular form of magic that they're doing without considering costume choices. The point of this post is to get you out of the "what do I have to wear to this" frame of reference and into the "why am I wearing this and how can I use this to shape my impression on people" state of mind.

The most basic rule of what to wear is the "one step above" rule. That is, dress one step above the level of dress of your audience. Below is a list of the "dress" hierarchy (to use the rule, find the level of dress of your audience and then dress one rung above it). Notice that the ladder is a lot more complex than just casual-suit-tuxedo. There really are a lot of subtle steps in between that you should recognize:

Tuxedo (black tie)
Expensive, tailored, pricey brand name suit
Suit and tie
Sports jacket/blazer and slacks
Dress casual (open shirt, expensive jeans instead of slacks)
Casual but nice (expensive/knit shirt, shined shoes)
T-shirt and jeans
(There is a level below this - swimsuits, open shoes - but if I include this, I may give the impression that it's okay to wear a t-shirt and jeans to a gig. It's almost always not, unless you're on stage portraying a character that requires it.)

Now that you know what's appropriate, find ways to inject your character into your outfit. Think of your choice of tie: is it outgoing? Loud? Understated? Fun? Serious? What is the color of your suit? Fashionably pin-striped? Classic black/navy blue? These decisions are very important in manipulating your first impression and getting your character across right away.

Also keep in mind that many situations don't have set audience levels, so you get to choose your own level of dress. For example, you may have the choice between a classy blazer and slacks and a fashionable sports jacket and expensive dark jeans. Both may be appropriate, but both communicate completely different messages.

The biggest violation of these rules happens with younger magicians, who try to emulate their role models by emulating their dress. If you're young, take advantage of it and dress young and hip. You shouldn't look like you just got out of a country club, but like you are about to go clubbing. Dressing out of character (even the implicit character that spectators associate with your age) can put off an audience, so be careful, methodical, and deliberate in your choice of clothing. Subtlety is very important.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

From this... this!

P.S. I have read all of your comments - thanks for those, too! - and will be posting accordingly soon!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Related and Unrelated Crap

I've always made it a goal of my blog to have every post be magic-related. Yet I remain conflicted - if our magic is supposed to reflect who we are and what we believe, than how can I share my thoughts about magic without detailing some of my thoughts on other subjects? And shouldn't I be able to share things that aren't explicitly magic-related but can be tied to our art on a deeper level? So, I leave this decision up to you, dear readers. Post your opinion in the comments section of this post: should I continue making only magic-related posts or should I diversify?

Also, in a note related to the blog but unrelated to what was just said, look out for an exciting, new contest coming your way very soon! Check back frequently for the contest rules and you may just be getting some free magic sent your way!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pagliacci's Diamonds in the Rough, Part I

If you've seen the Disney classic, Aladdin, you've heard of the phrase, "A diamond in the rough." This new series of posts will involve the magical equivalent of this: Pagliacci will scour the deserts of Penguin Magic and the like and find the real gems they offer. They are gems in one of two ways: (1) they are popular items strewn about a sea of crap, waiting to be found, purchased, and used and (2) they are items magicians have scoffed at because of appearances, initial popularity, and hype, causing most magicians to miss the hidden potential in these products. Thus, approach this list with an open mind; I hope you give each of these items a chance as I have found, in my experience, that all of these products have much potential to take advantage of.

Let's start with On the Spot. How is this for a premise for a DVD set: let's learn tricks that are of professional calibur and yet can be performed impromptu, with a minimum of props. There are just so many valuable tricks and insights in this set. My personal favs? A Questionable Trick and and ReCap Revisited are unbelievably strong routines, Ring Fright is a great gag, and Sponge Napkins will allow you to do your favorite sponge routines without sponges (for me, that was worth the price of the set alone)!

Here's something overlooked way too much: The Art of Public Squeaking. This little prop (a squeaker) and all the great ideas in this books are worth their weight in gold. Don't underestimate the mileage you will get for the $5 you will spend on this booklet and squeaker.

When NFW (which stands for "No Fucking Way," in case you didn't catch the title's reference to what people say after seeing the trick) first hit the market, it made a HUGE splash. I'm seeing the trick done less and less (actually, I haven't seen it for the last year) and it shocks me: this is such a strong packet trick, I can't believe there aren't many professionals whipping this bad boy out. This is the only packet trick I do in walk-around work because I can justify taking just the packet out. "I need a special set of cards to do the next trick because you can't just find 4 jokers in a single pack," I open with. At the end of the trick, you can justify the change by saying, "But you know what? I really love this trick - I wish I could do this all the time. I think it would be much easier to use - " (reveal the change) " - the four aces." Clean, strong, and can be examined at the end if you know what you're doing.

If you not using the 3-D Multiplying Rabbits, you're also really missing out. I'm assuming most of you already own this, so I'm not going to go into much detail. All I'm going to say for those of you who don't own this set or do this trick: why aren't you performing this sure-fire audience pleaser that amuses kids and amazes adults?

Some people avoided Paul Harris's Reality Twister when it first came out because it looked like a cheap toy. It's not and the business card routine described in the Reality Twister book takes this little curiosity and elevates it to a business-making, gig-getting brain buster.

That's all for now, folks! Stay tuned for the next installment of "Pagliacci's Diamonds in the Rough"!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Puzzling Crap

If you really want to know what people really think about magic as an art form, think about this little puzzle: If you were in an informal social setting and people found out you were a singer, what are the odds that somebody would ask you to sing right there on the spot? If you were in that same situation and people found out you were an actor, what are the odds that somebody would ask you to act right there on the spot? If you were a comedian, how probable is it that you'd be asked to do part of your stand-up routine?

The answer to all these questions is that the probability is very low. You rarely - if ever - see a singer, an actor, or a comedian doing something from their professional repertoire right out of the blue.

So why are we, as magicians, expected to do so, even though the practitioners of other arts forms aren't?

There are many reasons. When I've posed this problem to some magic friends of mine, one indicated that we're to blame. Actors, comedians, and singers, if asked to perform, would refuse; we, on the other hand, seem ready and waiting for such an opportunity to perform. I see two problems with this explanation: first, most people rarely encounter magic, so I don't thin that these people have developed any kind of schema for how magicians usually react and, second, the fact that most people would continue pressing a magician who says no while not doing the same to any other kind of performer means that the problem still exists. I do, however, agree that, once somebody sees a magician agree to such a request, that person will have no problem making such requests again and again.

What other explanations are there then? One is that the public doesn't recognize or understand what magic really is. Laymen know that acting, singing, and stand-up comedy take place on a stage in front of a real audience. There are certain conditions necessary for such art to be born. While these conditions are essentially identical for magic, the public just doesn't get it. Magic is, in many ways, weird and not commonly encountered. Related to this is the fact that most people have encountered magic first in amateur renditions of it: an uncle pulling a quarter out of your ear, a classmate doing the 21 card trick, etc. Thus, magic ceases to be an art to them but a cheap way to get attention or get a laugh. Thus, this puzzle is indicative of a deep misunderstanding of our art, one that needs to be rectified.

The beauty of this puzzle though is that it offers us a unique solution for beginning to rectify such a problem: what if placed ourselves on the level of actors, singers, and stand-up comedians by refusing to perform in public when prompted. What if you said, point-blank, "Magic is a delicate art form that flourishes on stage just like acting and singing. I don't think you'd expect an actor or a singer to perform on the spot; I would hope you would give my art form enough respect that you wouldn't expect the same of me either."

Will anybody actually do this? Probably not. There's a strong ego boost involved with being the center of attention and performing in impromptu situations. What we must recognize is that, while this is good for the individual magician, it is bad for our art as a whole. So what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Copperfield Crap

WHAT THE FUCK?!? Has David Copperfield lost his fucking mind?

Japanese Crap, Part II

Remember the post Japanese Crap, in which I highlighted magician Cyril Takayama and his unbelievable hamburger video.

Well, Cyril's at it again, giving us another absolutely incredibe video of highly visual, food-based magic: Shadow Chopsticks. You really need to watch this video - it's just that good.

All I can say is: Cyril rocks. If only he'd come make his own magic special here...