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Reel Magic's Mr. Answer Man.
In case you missed it, check out December's special Christmas and Happy Birthday issue on the Magic Castle's 50th birthday, among other topics. The Castle will celebrate its birthday all year long.
Let the March Madness begin. Here in Hoosier country, it’s hard to not get excited about basketball, especially with IU winning its first Big Ten championship outright since 1993 (despite losing to my dear Illini). Listening to the speeches on Senior Night, and to how much effort and emotion go into such a feat, it makes you wonder how good a magician one could be if anyone were willing to put in such singular effort. But enough about ball. This month we take a look at some very good material from Scott Robinson, at a fantastic new model for Kozmo’s reel magic magazine, at a very mathematical card trick, and at a Houdini story that’s never been told before. And no wonder!
And hey, it's a treat to have Simon Lovell as our "cover" boy above. Simon made last month's Magi-fest a lot of fun, and you can visit with him in virtually every issue of reel magic.
YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE -- One of the nice guys I met at the new and improved Magi-fest last month was Scott Robinson, who lectured on the opening evening. Alas, thanks to a personal problem that goes all the way back to an Astronomy class in college, when the lecture was in a comfy hall just after lunch, I tend to nod off during lectures, and because of this I missed some of Scott's information. (Totally my fault, not Scott's. I also nodded off during Dani DaOrtiz's lecture.) I caught enough to grasp, hey, this guy is good, and that left me wanting more. Fortunately the gods (in this case Josh Jay and Andi Gladwin) took care of me by offering a ten-dollar download from Vanishing, Inc. titled Pure Imagination.
Scott Robinson live (sort of).
Whether you are new or old to Scott's material, you should really enjoy this download. It contains four tricks, including two versions of the Willie Wonka Card Trick and two coin tricks, Differences and Loose Change. The card trick offers a terrific gaffed and an ungaffed effect using a Krenzel vanish in which a card is pushed at right angles between two other cards, and it just melts away. Very visual.
A card vanishes.
In Differences, three silver coins inside a purse change places, instantly, with a copper coin outside the purse. And with Loose Change, my favorite, a nickel (or quarter) almost visibly morphs into a penny, changing places with the penny that was previously trapped in your fist. If you have these two coins on you, you will never be without a miracle. Such a deal. (You can also see Scott do this in the digital supplement to the March Genii.) Josh and Andi have great ways to view your downloads. After paying your ten bucks, you can download the video (they embed your name in it to minimize thievery) and store it or play it at your leisure, or you can log into your account at Vanishing, Inc. at any time later and either view it via streaming or re-download it.
A coin is about to morph.
Getting back to Scott, I dug into the library and discovered that he has published tons of material in The Trapdoor. If you've recently acquired the bound editions, you'll find twelve Scott Robinson items in Volume 3, eighteen in Volume 2, and one in Volume 1. I understand he is working on a book, but, if you just can't wait, the Vanishing, Inc. download and the Steve Beam books are good places to start. (Late news flash: I just received an ad from H&R Magic Books, and they are selling Scott's new Magi-fest lecture notes, Varied Methods. The material sounds terrific. $25.)
Catch up with Scott in the Steve Beam books.
P.S. I got a C in that stupid Astronomy class.
PARADIGM SHIFT-- Longtime readers know I am a fan of Kozmo's reel magic magazine, which I have sometimes called a DVD-zine. Prior to today, the way it worked was that you received a DVD in the mail, and from there you popped it into your computer or DVD player and accessed its contents via the usual DVD menu. That content always included a feature interview along with Columns, Reviews, Tricks, and Move Monkeys. My favorites among the longtime contributors have always been David Regal with his product reviews and Simon Lovell who now answers questions submitted by viewers (farther back than that, he used to do a rant). I have also always enjoyed Jon Armstrong's column and am currently enjoying a new column from Doc Eason. The content has always been great, and often they knock the feature interview out of the park.
David Regal reviews stuff in video.
Anyway, that was then, this is now. Ever since he started publishing it, Kozmo has worked to improve the product, both the magic content itself and the format. His latest endeavor at the latter blows all previous efforts out of the water. For a paltry five dollars a month, you can now access issues of reel magic streaming on your computer or any of your mobile devices. You need to experience this to see how good it is, and you can for free. Just go to reelmagicmagazine.com and you can link to the Joshua Jay issue right away. I found that I can navigate and access specific columns faster with this new format than I could if I had a DVD in my machine and tried to access columns via the old DVD menu selections.
John Lovick interviews Armando Lucero.
The second major advance made possible by this format is that Kozmo is making all past issues available as part of your five dollars a month deal (following the model used by Genii and The New Yorker). I find myself going back and revisiting favorite interviews and trick reviews, something I didn't do when my DVDs were stuck away in a box. In short, the viewer experience is considerably enhanced. (Sixteen past and current issues out of thirty-two are now online; eventually all will be online.)
Pick an issue!
Finally, and while this is a small consideration, it is often a deal maker/breaker for me: you can send in your five bucks via Paypal. I don't tend to like subscriptions that involve my actual credit card number, because the card eventually gets replaced, and I don't want to have to remember all the places that were expecting an automatic charge. With Paypal, that is not a concern; I know I will keep its numbers up to date.
I'm really excited about this new format. Several times last week I took my iPad to bed, fired up some past David Regal interviews, and marveled at how many really cool tricks are out there that I haven't played with.
And, hey, speaking of Scott Robinson, the current issue of reel magic, with Boris Wild on the cover, features a fantastic control by Scott called A Buttery Spread. It's one of those why the heck didn't I think of this type moves, very efficient and easy to do.
THE SHAGGY DOG -- I've often mentioned Fitzgerld's (originally Rob Zabrecky's) Who's Hoo from the Magic Castle as a grand source of entertainment. The most recent installment I've viewed was Tom Ogden's, the subject being possible incidents of hauntings at the Castle. I've been at the Castle way after hours and can vouch that it does indeed get quite spooky as the joint empties out, so I found Tom's interview fascinating. (Just as some establishments have Elvis sightings, the Castle has Vernon sightings.)
Patrick Culliton tells a tale of murder.
But that isn't why the episode rates mention here. That honor goes to a brief talk preceding Tom's by Houdini expert Patrick Culliton, revealing a Houdini tale he had never told anyone. It seems that Houdini was intricately involved in the William Randolph Hearst/Charlie Chaplin incident that resulted in the murder made famous in the Peter Bogdanovich movie The Cat's Meow, starring Eddie Izzard. Or was he? Culliton spins his yarn with utter seriousness, but the listeners quickly realize he is spinning one of the great shaggy-dog stories that gets more hilarious with each astonishing new fact. It's only March, and I feel I've already got my money's worth from my Castle dues.
ADVANCED MATH -- One of the highlights of the final Essential Magic Conference last August was Richard Wiseman's performance of the Magic Square using numbered playing cards as the tiles in the matrix. Richard has just marketed this amazing trick as The Grid, and I have my hands on one just under the wire for this report. The routine comes with a very specially printed deck of cards (the printing helps you perform the trick and to reset it) and a DVD that explains the whole thing. My one objection is just that: I hate the idea of explaining marketed tricks on DVDs and feel sorry for the collectors in about fifty years who will be purchasing tricks from this era but will have no way to view the instructions. Nevertheless, Richard Wiseman is of course very good at explaining things on video, so the content is fine; I am merely objecting to the medium.
The hands of Richard Wiseman and Dani DaOrtiz.
But enough negativity: this is an awesome card trick and is darn near self working. The spectator freely selects a card (that is, a number) from a packet of numbered playing cards. The magician deals out (in steps) a matrix of sixteen cards, and the numbers add up every which way to the selected number. As a major kicker, the cards are turned face down, and printed on the backs is a prediction of the freely selected number. The cards do all the work for you. No math or memory work is involved.
The rest of Richard Wiseman and Dani DaOrtiz.
This should just fry anyone who would enjoy a Magic Square routine. The Magic Square has been a favorite of such magicians as Harry Lorayne, Dale Hindman, Harry Anderson, and Luis de Matos, so you are in good company if you pick up what may be the best version of the lot. I ordered mine directly from Portugal, but your favorite dealer should have them by now. $35.
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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 used to frequently journey to and perform 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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