Saturday, July 30, 2005

You're not all that

A good magic critic is hard to find. Friends either don't want to hurt your feelings or don't know enough to be helpful. Strangers? Fuhgettaboutit. Look at most of the blogs and talk to most of the members of your average magic club and you'll see the results of this: they think they're Buddha's gift to magic.

Since magic isn't as prevalent as music, acting or painting, most people don't have much, if any, basis for comparison. And since most magicians spend damn little time on their art, ten minutes "routining" my dove pan makes me look, relatively speaking, like a genius.

If everyone is telling you you're the second coming of [insert your favorite magician here], then you have little incentive to work on your act, and then where's the improvement? I think the acts that became incredibly entertaining - the Bill Malones, the Tina Lenerts, the Max Mavens, the Cardinis - actively sought out people who told them they sucked. It didn't stop there, though. They found out where and why they sucked, then they worked to eliminate those weak spots.

Even if you're a hobbyist, performing for your friends down at the bar, don't you want to be a better hobbyist? Don't you owe it to your drunk friends to give them the best experience you possibly can?

I've slacked at times, but I've also had a hell of a time getting honest feedback. I want to improve. I want to be the next Cardini, Dunninger, whoever. So next time I ask you for feedback, don't hold back. Tell me where I suck, and how I might improve. Don't worry about hurting my feelings. I'm a big boy. I'll get over it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Torn up about a failure of imagination

Lots of people are coming out with torn and restored card plots and methods. Reviews on methods are mixed - Daniel Garcia's "Torn" seems to get fairly uniformly high marks - but many (most?) of the reviewers take issue with the torn and restored card effect. They wonder why there is so much attention paid to what they consider at best a throwaway piece, and at worst a worthless, non-magical non-effect. I consider this a failure of imagination on the reviewers' part.

Magic almost never has intrinsic meaning. We (the magicians) usually have to provide a framework that imbues the piece with something that grabs the spectator with more than, "Look at what I can do!" I think anything we can mutilate then restore provides the possibility for such a framework. If what I just wrote doesn't bring to mind "loss and redemption" you either aren't awake or are way too literal to be a magician anyway.

On a more mundane level, spectators are often freaked when we destroy a card. (I've never understood why...I can replace the deck for under $3.00.) When I perform, say, Card Warp, one of the things that gets to people is that I would purposely tear up cards. It would be a nifty follow-up to show them that hey, it's no big deal, because you can always put them back together again.

So the torn and restored card is not about tearing a card and putting it back together again. It's about doing something you regret, then redeeming yourself and regaining that which was lost.

If you're not seeing that, good luck with your dove pan.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Give 'em what they want - sometimes it's a dollar

Another Maven effect, personalized, for the sister of my previous victim, name of Bailey. Like the whole family, very attractive. Later I asked how she liked it. She said it was "crazy." I've learned that's her euphemism for "really cool."

Feeling pretty good about myself and my magic, I asked, out of all the things I've done for her (she's a fan; I've done plenty) what was her favorite.

She said it was hard to decide between the dollar bill rabbit in the hat and the dollar bill jumping frog.

Nice to have my magical ego shot down like that, and it only costs a buck.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A lesson. Maybe I'll learn it.

The other day I was at my regular restaurant with a magician friend. The waitresses seem to like it when I come in - they often stop by to chat and to request some magic. This time I had my version of Max Maven's "PrediXion" (from Prism) ready. I told Reagan, my victim that evening, that I had developed a trick just for her.

A few days later I asked how she liked it. She proclaimed it her favorite of all the things I had done for her. Now "PrediXion" is a really strong effect, but I don't think that's why it had such an effect on her; I'd shown her strong magic before. I think she liked it so much because I'd personalized it. I took the time to develop something just for her. Never mind that I can use that presentational hook every time I do the trick - in her mind it's her trick. It's like that old joke: the most important thing in show business is sincerity...If you can learn to fake that you've got it made.

Note to self: learn to connect with audience.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Performance art

I admire lots of people in magic. I admire the collectors and writers for preserving our history. I admire the creators for giving us such marvelous new wonders. But magic is, if nothing else, a performing art. And it is the performers I admire most of all.

What do the collectors collect? That which belonged to (or was identified with) a performer. Who do writers write for, and about? Performers. Do creators create in a vacuum? No, although many creations suck. They create so their offspring can be performed.

Collectors, writers and creators ply their trades for themselves or for other magicians, mostly. Even if they do so for the general public it is for a really small subset. Performers, though, are for the world.

After all, a magic effect doesn't need props, or music, or a script. It really only needs an audience. And a true performer is all about the audience.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Soo good

When I finish it I'll post a more complete review. But hey, it's Steinmeyer, it's magic history, it's got to be good.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Too much is never enough

I bought some new magic today, and ordered some more from Denny & Lee.

Freakin' materialist. I'm becoming most of the things in magic I hate. I really gotta quit this shit.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Everybody picks on Sturgeon

In an interview with science fiction writer Ted Sturgeon the interviewer mentions that 90% of science fiction is crud. Sturgeon replies with what has become known as Sturgeon's Law: "...90% of everything is crud!"

Since then it's been popular to be a pessimist: to claim Sturgeon was too conservative in his percentages. I'm not that down on things, except about magic.

Magicians delude themselves. Guitarists know, for the most part, when they are not Eddie Van Halen. Hack painters are pretty much aware they are hacks. Magicians think that a day with an Invisible Deck makes them ready for the big time.

There are a number of magic blogs out there. There are maybe two that have consistent magic content and are consistently good. Other "magic" blogs either don't deal in magic much, aren't very good, or leave for really squirrelly reasons (or no reason at all). One popular blog had the tag line "For serious magicians only." As best I could tell this had to be a joke because he was never serious and never had magic content.

Magic blogs...Now there's a recipe for disaster: combine the internet - where any anonymous preteen with unresolved parental issues can share an opinion with the world, no matter how twisted - with magic, which is a magnet for social misfits.

90%? Don't be such an optimist.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Live and learn

In a previous similar venture I started worrying about how many were paying attention and what they thought. It started influencing my style, to its detriment. This time, no hit counter, no comments.

I may rethink the comments but there will never be a hit counter.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Spectacularly silly

I'm reading The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick: How a Spectacular Hoax Became History. So far it's spectacularly silly. In what I suppose is an effort to avoid an overly dry style the author, Peter Lamont, goes too far and distracts with attempted wit. The subject can stand on its own, Peter. It doesn't need bad Monty Python imitations in a misguided attempt to keep the reader's interest. The research is good. The schtick isn't.