A few of the Seattle area magicians got together for a little magic jam before a baseball game. We were playing around with some forks and I realized you could do this with them:
This is essentially the multiplying banana move that’s done with sponge bananas, however I’m doing it with plastic forks. Normally you can’t fold a plastic fork in half, however I learned that the compostable forks you can, and they will pop back into their original straight shape.
I’m doing the thing more like Percy Abbott’s Perpetual Balls, than the banana effect. The main difference is the moment of the production. If I’m remembering right, in the banana effect you take away a banana and the next one is instantly there. With the Perpetual Balls there’s a pause before the production.
Over the weekend I performed at a busker’s festival, and shared the stage (aka bank parking lot) with Hillia Hula. She does a hula hoop show.
Hillia has great costuming and is very likable onstage. Being likeable is 90% of the game. Personally, in my show I’m a slow burn, you really don’t like me until about 10 minutes into the show.
As for the tricks, they are pretty standard hoop tricks, and she does them well. There was nothing in the show that I hadn’t seen before. If she had a couple of original routines, I think she’d really blow up.
In hooping, I don’t think there’s a lot of innovation in new tricks that I’ve seen. Pretty much every does a very similar show. Dizzy Hips is the only act I’ve seen that has a couple of original (as far as I know) hula hoop tricks. I will say my knowledge of hula hoop tricks is very limited, so Hillia may be doing some original stuff that to my untrained eye looks like something I’ve seen before.
If you get a chance to see Hillia’s show, check it out, it’s a solid street show. You can learn a lot by watching it.
The picture below is from back in 2017, I had an idea to use a foam hand for a trick.
The idea was inspired by a math based trick in a Jim Steinmeyer book. The problem I faced in the trick was giving clear instructions. I tabled the trick shortly after I started doing it in 2017. Then shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020, I reread in Gary Oulette‘s book of his columns in Genii magazine called Fulminations about the challenges David Copperfield had to get through when giving instructions for his “touch the TV screen” tricks. The instructions had to be clear, even for the biggest idiot.
Then the pandemic hit and I started playing with some tricks that used counting on a hand, and went out and remade my foam hand. I never used the foam hand in a show, because in a virtual show my hand plays big.
Right now I’m cleaning up and downsizing the props I have, and I came across the giant foam hand. It’s sort of gimmicked, or at least altered so that I can bend the fingers down and they stay down. In a couple of days I head to Arizona for a month long gig and I think I’m going to take the hand with me and try to figure out the routine.
One thing I think it lacked was an ending. It needs a good way to reveal that they are all touching the same finger. When I made the last foam hand, I also bought a foam hand that just has the pointer finger up. The challenge was how to reveal this. I was playing with it and essentially found a pull the giant hand off my hand to reveal my hand is holding a giant foam hand with just the index finger up!
Now I have a moment to punctuate the reveal of everyone on the same finger.
It’s still got a challenge. Am I going to do the trick looking at the audience or not? Traditionally in this type of trick you don’t look at the audience, however I’m not sure I want to do that. You lose a lot of control by not looking AND you can’t keep an eye on people doing the procedure.
I think I can solve this by having my instructions fixed. By “fixed” I mean something that I can’t change. It could be a recording, like in the Banana Bandana style of trick. I really don’t like performing to a recorded track, it takes away a lot of what makes a live show fun. I think I may make a flap card, that has a five on one side. You turn it over and it has a three on the back side. Then when you turn it over again, the five has changed to a one. That gives the audience something interesting during the boring counting procedure. I also think going from five to three to one, makes the counting easier as it’s getting simpler each time.
I’ll have some playing to do, but luckily I’ll have a monthlong venue to try them out!
One quote that soo many people like to say, which I dislike is
“A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.”
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
The reason I don’t like the quote is usually who says it. It’s a lazy way to say you don’t like someone’s routine. Not all people who do magic tricks pretend to have magical powers. The people who quote the above are usually the same people that dislike card tricks.
Here’s fun Houdin quote I came across the other day:
Of all the marvels produced by Sleight-of-hand, card tricks are, beyond question, the most amusing, and the most generally appreciated.
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
You can’t have one quote and not the other. They came from the same person. I think I’m going to try to popularize this quote whenever people show their dislike for card tricks!
When I was a kid starting out, I used to take a bus into downtown and street perform. I still ocassionally street perform, but not usually in the normal context of plunking a table down on a street corner. When I perform at fairs, sometimes I will do a “found space” show. These shows happen on the fairgrounds and are pretty much street shows. The main difference is that the show doesn’t end with a hat pitch. I don’t ask for money.
Yesterday I performed at a busker festival, and I was one of the paid acts, so I didn’t have to ask for money. I did after my first show, but the second show I couldn’t because there was a presentation after me and they wanted me to hold the crowd and introduce the guy that was going to talk.
From the one show I did where I did a hat pitch, I remembered how important it is to actually have a hat pitch. My non existent hat pitch didn’t really work. There are essentially two elements to a good hat pitch. First is the plea, you tell them why they should tip you. Usually these start with, “This is my job…” and then tell about how tips are your income. You then do your final big trick and go into the call to action, where you tell people to put money in your hat. There are a million stock lines for this, like “Remember Tipping isn’t just a city in China…” Things like that. It’s the running lines of patter during the hat that fill the awkward, empty silence and while people are digging out their wallets.
In my opinion, having a strong hat pitch and a good show will make you more money street performing than having a good hat pitch and a strong show. If you’re thinking about street performing, be sure to work on the hat pitch!
The vanishing bird cage that I won at the recent Potter and Potter auction showed up! The description said they thought it was from the 1930’s, I think it’s a little bit later than than, but it’s really hard to say.
The cage is 5 inches by 4 inches and 4 inches tall and made of brass. That makes this thing HEAVY! When you’re doing the vanishing bird cage, one of the things that you are fighting during the vanish is gravity. The weight of the cage doesn’t help you win that fight!
To put it in perspective, I have another cage of similar construction and dimensions.
The brass cage on the right is 337 grams or almost 3/4 of a pound! The cage on the left is 165 grams, that’s essentially half the weight of the brass cage. The cage on the left also collapses into a thinner profile. I suspect the brass cage was made as a DIY vanishing birdcage, and not something that was mass produced for sale to other magicians.
I’m glad to have added this to my collection, and gotten to compare it to something similar, but half the weight to really confirm my suspicion that weight does matter in a vanishing cage!
A little bit ago I came across someone selling a used folding nickel.
It turns out they have two of them:
The one with the straight cut appears to be more homemade and the profile cut seems to be a more professional job. With the nickel being soo small, I don’t know why you’d need it to fold into more than one piece, unless it’s to hide the cut. It appears the one with the straight cut, the cut goes around the building on the tails side to hide the cut.
I honestly have no idea what you would use it for. I checked and a nickel won’t got into a bottle, so you could use it for that, but the effect won’t have nearly the impact as a doing it with a quarter or half dollar.
A quick google search didn’t bring up any listings for anyone selling these folding nickels, so the may be something that someone made a batch of and never sold.
I kind of want to buy them and try to figure out a trick to do with them. If you have any ideas beyond coin in bottle and coin through ring, let me know!
One of the issues I have with the Die Box magic trick is that I’m not sure what it is. It uses two very unusual props, a giant die and the strange box. Well, yesterday I was at a junk shop and found this box. It’s not a die box, but it sure as heck looks like one.
The shop owner didn’t know what it was for. Now that I’ve found something that looks like a die box, that’s not made for magic, it really doesn’t justify it as a prop.
I was going through my vanishing birdcage collection the other day. It’s interesting the different styles and how the cage has evolved. Going from rigid, to floppy to semi rigid. There has definitely been an evolution in how the vanishing birdcages have been made.
I think the Thayer cage, which is more rectangular than a modern semi rigid cage is the best shape. A modern cage, it more square (still rectangular) than the Thayer vanishing birdcage. When collapsed, it has less bulk because of the shorter ends, which is good. However there might be some engineering challenge that the more rectangular shape presents when making it as a rigid cage.
I’d love to try to make a semi rigid cage with the proportions of a Thayer cage, but unfortunately the skills to make a vanishing bird cage are beyond me…
As part of my going through the book The Artist’s Way, I’m trying to do more reading. A few years ago I was at the William McIlhaney auction and picked up the book Of Legierdemaine and Diverse Juggling Knacks.
I started reading it when I first got it, but didn’t get too far into it. I’m restarting reading it and there’s a lot of interesting things in the book. The book is John Braun’s column from the Linking Ring a long time ago. I found it fascinating that people used to take notes of other people’s shows. They are in John’s column from historical magicians. It will list the tricks they did and the run time of their program. It was surprising to me that most of the magicians from the early 1900’s only did about 20-30 minutes. I just assumed most of them had a 90 minute show.
In the one of the columns they mention Herrmann doing what we now call the Muscle Pass!
I’ve encountered another past reference to the muscle pass, but done with an egg in the book It’s Fun To be Fooled by Horace Goldin. In it he mentions shooting an egg out of his palm into a spectator’s mouth!
I love learning little bits of history of what we think of as a modern move, that has been largely forgotten.