NO WAY -- Some magicians, such as Eugene Burger and Derren Brown to name two of my favorites, spend a lot of time thinking about magic. Another is Darwin Ortiz, as you know from his Erdnase analysis, his three superb books of card material, and his showmanship treatise, Strong Magic. His latest, a fine surprise with which to start off the new year, is Designing Miracles, subtitled "Creating the Illusion of Impossiblity." Darwin champions design as a separate element of strong magic (along with effect, method, and presentation), and in particular how to use the psychology of deception to strengthen that design so that spectators will say, "No way!" He wants the magic effect, in his words, to "lie outside of normal cause and effect." To this end Darwin poses a variety of strategies, with discussions on causality, temporal distance, spatial distance, conceptual distance, the false frame of reference, the uses of visual magic, patterns, and manipulating memory. (I was pleased that the last item mentioned was not about using words to falsely re-state what the spectator saw, but rather was a strategy for insuring that the spectators never notice clues to methods.) None of this is pipe-dream stuff, nor is it dry theory. Darwin illustrates and enlivens his strategies with tricks you already know, including many from his own Darwin Ortiz At The Card Table, Cardshark, and Scams & Fantasies With Cards. (Darwin also whets your appetite for more such material by mentioning several unpublished card tricks, plus includes in toto a fine occult item called "Deadwood.") While it is worth understanding how these strategies already work in the best of existing material, they are most useful in creating new magic (or at least in understanding why some less-than-sterling magic is so). Hardbound, 200 pages, published by A-1 Magical Media, $44.95 from your favorite dealer.
FOOT FETISH -- This is a cozy situation: you sit in one chair facing a beautiful young lady in the chair opposite you. She places her foot in your lap, and you magically cause the loops of her shoelace knot to link. As you can only unlink them by untying the shoe, you do so, then re-tie the knot for her. Again, now that she is watching you like a hawk, you link the loops. Actually, in the presentation, she seems to link them. They stay linked, and she can wear the shoe home and show her friends. ("You put your foot in this guy's lap?" her boyfriend might well ask.) Ah, magic is fun, the kind of magic you might expect under the aegis of Paul Harris (his "Cards in Bra" remains one of my most requested bar feats), nicely explained by Bill Goodwin, with a very clever knot by David Jockisch. The trick comes with a large-format well-illustrated book and a dvd (I confess to learning this from the dvd). Multiple presentations are included along with a bonus Self-Tying Shoelace trick. $24.95 from your favorite dealer.
Okay, the year has already started off with two miracles, allowing both the Bears and the Colts to make it to the Super Bowl. Sweet. At least one team I admire is going to win! As to New Year's resolutions, one for me is to look at way less new magic than I have been and to spend more time with the old stuff. Far too many books and props have have been sitting on shelves or hiding in drawers waiting for a little attention, and it's time I gave them some. Next month, I hope to see many of you in upcoming conventions in Columbus and Las Vegas. Meanwhile (maybe I'll act on that resolution in February!) enjoy a few thoughts on Darwin Ortiz's new book, a night with Scotty York, a mini-course on Zombie, some doings over at Genii, and some fun you can have with your girlfriend's feet. Or somebody else's girlfriend's feet!
FOXY -- My favorite kind of magic, and the kind circumstances dictate that I perform most often, is bar magic. It has to be simple in effect, it has to hit the audience right between the eyes, it is often "adult" in theme but never vulgar. My gods in this genre, of those I have seen perform, are Doc Eason, Bill Malone, and Eric Mead*. I am pleased to add another name to the list, a legend of course but one I had simply not seen work, and that is Scotty York (aka the Silver Fox). The sets that Scotty performs on his dvds The Silver Fox Professional Tricky Bartender, The Silver Fox Hisownself, and The Silver Fox Strikes Again are simply those of a guy and his audience sharing an incredibly good time together. Study these not only for the amazing individual routines, but for how Scotty sets them up, usually with some self-referential line or sight gag to establish what is about to follow. On the page, some of the lines might seem too adult, some of the actions (Scotty steals a lot of kisses) too forward, but Scotty's warmth and non-threatening persona make it all play just fine. There are plenty of routines you may wish to learn, my favorites being Scotty's "Card on the Ceiling," his "If They're Wet, It's an Inside Job" (panties from tissue paper), and his "Rising Cards," which he elevates to a moment of high drama, a la Doc Eason's "Card Through Ceiling Fan." $29.95 each or $79.95 for the set, from your favorite dealer. (Does anyone not buy the set? You'll want all three to enjoy the show.)
(*Okay, add Tony Picasso and Bob Sheets to this list of favorites. And there are lots of other close-up guys I love; I just haven't seen them behind a bar.)
BALL CONTROL -- When I was in junior high school, I missed the episode of Don Alan's Magic Ranch that featured Neil Foster doing the Zombie. But my friends saw it, thought it was great, and said, "it must have cost $10,000!" Although I knew it cost only $12.50 in those days, my friends' enthusiasm made me realize what a wonderful magic trick it could be in the right hands. L & L Publishing has recently released a video anthology on the Zombie (these anthologies, as is the case for most magic instructional dvds period, were pioneered by Joe Stevens), featuring material by Al Schneider, Tommy Wonder, and Jeff McBride. Although the Schneider and Wonder versions have their advocates, neither version is my cup of tea. (Al teaches an important lesson in ball movement, but his routine is just too whipsaw fast for my taste, and it's punctuated by some patter groaners. Tommy's alterations to the apparatus make for a more realistic flotation beneath the cloth, but the tradeoff is that you will have to drop some of the other moves that lured you to Zombie in the first place.) But no problem. You must own this video if you are interested in Zombie, and the reason is Jeff McBride. Jeff not only teaches all the classic Zombie moves with the patience of an experienced teacher, but introduces several original moves that are sensational, including the ball circling his body three times in a serpentine fashion and several fascinating bare-hand levitations of the ball. Here are opening gambits, amazing middle moves, and endgame strategems, including not only the mechanics but the psychology of a floral finale. I wish my friends could see this in action. The Secrets of the Zombie Ball, from L & L Publishing and your favorite dealer, only $19.95.
LIGHT FROM THE LAMP -- Richard Kaufman, whose Genii Forum is one of the finest online hangouts, has launched a Genii Blog, and so far it's great, like getting a near-daily dose of "Genii Speaks." Richard's interests, magic and otherwise, are always a pleasure to take in. You'll find the link in our Magazines link page.
Happy New Year.
For the Scotty York dvds, "Linking Laces," and The Secrets of the Zombie Ball, dealers should contact Murphy's Magic Supplies on the web at www.murphysmagicsupplies.com or by phone at (916) 853-9292.
Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.
Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.
Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.
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