Flag Magic Done Bad

One thing that drives me nuts is how performers use and treat the US flag in their show. I’m not the most patriotic person in the world, however one thing that stuck with me from school as a kid is when we learned about the US Flag Code. The Flag Code are rules that define the US flag, but also how to display and handle it. Once you learn it, you’ll see violations everywhere from flags hung backwards at the grocery store, to displayed on vehicles wrong (FYI, flying it from the middle of the tailgate of your pickup truck is incorrect).

Now let’s get to performers using flags. If you do the bag you put silks into and then that turns into the flag, technically you’re violating:

§ 8 (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

However using the flag as a receptacle isn’t seen to the audience, but does that make it right?

If you do mismade flag, its it neatly folded before you load it into the change bag, or do you stuff it in there? And then at the end of the trick, what do you do with the flag? If you put it in your case, do you make sure no other props get set on it?

A few months ago I worked with a band who had a flag hung from their singer’s mic stand.

band performing

Unfortunately the flag is hung upside down! This is a big NO NO for hanging the flag. There’s a very specific reason to hand a flag upside down and it is:
§ 8 (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

If you use a US flag in your show, you should read and know the US Flag Code and follow it!


Gimmicking Post Cards

I do a card trick that I call “choices” where the audience narrows down cards by eliminating them until there is one card left and that matched a prediction that I have made. The overall presentation is about me making bad choices in life, and honestly from a presentation standpoint doesn’t need to be a card trick, it could literally be anything that’s narrowed down.

Since it doesn’t need to be playing cards, I was trying to think of what I could replace them with and decided to use postcards.

You can read more about the postcards on a previous blog post here.

By switching props from jumbo cards to slightly smaller postcards I can add an additional way to show the postcards all to be different. I should note this routine at its bones is essentially Al Koran’s 5 Star Miracle. One of the things that I added to the postcards was to cut them short, so I can do a riffle display to show them all different.

postcard magic trick

This little bit allows me to show them a bit more freely. The postcards are soo visually different that if I spread them all in a face, I think the repeating pattern would be more obvious than with playing cards.

Now I need to make a choice and figure out if I want to keep the presentation as is, or try to write something new.


The Case Against Classics

If you know me, you know I don’t believe the theory that you should do classic magic tricks because, “classics are classics for a reason“. You should do classic tricks like linking rings or whatever because they have a purpose in your show.

I do believe that as a beginner, learning and doing those trick has a purpose. However as you grow, you should grow out of them, or create a reason why they’re in your show.

When I was reading Psychology of Magic: From Lab To Stage, this paragraph stuck out to me:

Audiences are smart, and contrary to a lot of “advice” many have seen a lot of magic on TV and social media. With shows like Fool Us and America’s Got Talent, your typical audience has seen stuff and you just banging out the linking rings because “it gets a reaction” doesn’t cut it anymore.

If you’re doing a classic, figure out how to give it purpose in your show to move the story of you further and not because it fills time.


Creative Problem Solving at the Gig!

One of the holiday parties I did this month was a HUGE event with 1,600 people. One thing the event planner didn’t give me was any sort of credentials to get in and out of the building once the event started. I honestly didn’t think about it until after my roving set and I was going to move that gear and clothes to my car to make packing out after the show quicker.

Luckily the green room was for all the “vendors” and I happened to be chatting with someone from the security company. I asked if the security at the parking lot door would let me back in and he said no. His suggestion was to call the event planner and ask for a lanyard. With the event underway and an event this large (it took up two floors of the convention center!) they last thing I want to do is bug the event planner for a lanyard/badge. They’re probably dealing with a lot of problems, like catering issues or whatever.

Here’s the solution I came up with. I learned that the security company was all retired cops and they all knew each other. I took a picture with the guy I was chatting with and got his name and number.

event security

When I tired to get back into the building I was stopped by security how pressed me about me not having a lanyard with a badge. I showed them the picture and told them to call Jeff and he’d vouch for me. As soon as they saw the picture, they let me in!

Sure, asking the event planner for a badge is 100% reasonable. However I try to be easy to work with and minor problems myself. That’s a big secret to success in entertainment, be easy to work!


Smile Harder!

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do show wearing a mask, but recently did one!

magic show for seniors with mask

This was a show at a senior assisted living facility and many still have mask policies, however most allow you to take it off while performing. This show didn’t allow me to take it off during the show.

senior magic show

Performing while masked makes connecting with the audience soo much harder! One thing that I do is I smile soo much bigger than I would do in a normal show. People can tell when you’re smiling while wearing a mask, but you need to smile BIG to have it play further back.

Also the show that I do at senior facilities can be done as a “no contact” show with no audience volunteers onstage or handling any props. This is a good option to have for your senior show as its not always an option to bring people onstage.


When The Stage is the Floor

A common thing when performing in ballrooms is that your performing area is the floor. For whatever reason there is no stage, or the stage is unusable. Working on the floor is like performing standing in a hole. Pretty much anything held below your armpits can’t been seen by the second row.

Here’s my “stage” from a recent gig:

corporate holiday party magic show

To add some height to my show I travel with a folding stool.

folding stool

I stand on the stool for a lot of parts of the show to elevate me to make my hand held props much more visible. It also makes ME much more visible to the audience and makes it easier to connect with them as I can look them in the eyes.

A folding stool is cheap and easy to travel with. Get one, put it in the trunk of your car and you’ll always have it ready to go!


My Favorite Deck of Cards!

My favorite deck of cards are the old Cincinnati, OH Bicycle Cards. They moved to Kentucky in 2009, so these cards having been made in almost 15 years! As I travel I visit junk shops and whenever I find these unopened or decks with the seals intact, I buy them.

Here’s my current hoard of them!

Cincinnati stock bicycle cards

I don’t use these cards for shows, I use them as my person practice/fun decks.

When I find something I like, I stock up on them!


Placeholder Card Trick

Inspiration comes in some strange places. I was cleaning out my storage closet in the office and found a gimmick that was for an ACAAN that was marketed in the late 1990’s. The trick was garbage, and was about to throw it away when I realized part of the gimmick had potential for a different trick.

Here’s the video I sent to my brainstorming group a while ago:

I like the concept of the card turning blank from a deck that’s in order. It makes it very easy to determine that the selected card is the one that’s blank. I don’t think I’ve seen a trick like this before, where a card turns blank in a deck that’s in order. Usually trick where the selected card turns blank, it’s away from the deck or it happens from a packet, like Gordon Beam’s Limited Edition trick.

I’ve been having fun doing this trick which I call Placeholder.


Get the Event Flow Schedule!

Here’s a huge tip when performing a events, always try to see the event flow schedule and take a picture of it! Here’s event flow that I from the banquet staff at the hotel:

magic show event flow

I took the picture right after I arrived at 4pm and I was supposed to rove for an hour at 5pm and do an 30 min show after dinner at approx. 7pm. If you look at the schedule, that’s not what’s on the schedule.

For starters, I was scheduled to rove from 5pm to 6pm, but the event didn’t start till 5:30pm. Shifting the roving 30 mins isn’t a big deal as I there was going to be a gap between that and the show. However they had the show listed as 90 minutes and I don’t do a show that long for a holiday party. This was quick to clear up with the booker, and they confirmed they were only expecting me to do 30 mins.

The shift from a 7pm show to an 8:30pm show could be a challenge if I had a late night gig after that one. One thing I was doing this year was only one show on each Saturday in December, so they were buying out my night. This is great for the client, so they don’t have to worry about the show running late and me having to leave. I confirmed the 8:30pm start time and said “no problem“.

I did leave the client a business card with my cellphone number on it and told them that with a gap that long I’m not hanging out in the banquet room, but they can text me and the show can start in 15 minutes.

Lucky me, I got a text at about 7:15pm and the show started at 7:30pm! As a super bonus, they were a great audience!

The takeaway lesson from this year is having companies buyout my Saturdays nights is the way to go. It’s less stress free for me and the client. They can throw almost whatever at me and I can say, “no problem” and mean it! Everyone wins!


Sponge Peeps – 2nd Attempt

Yesterday I wrote about a failed attempt at making sponge bunnies that look like Marshmallow Peeps (read about it here). I made a second attempt, and this one turned out much better. Instead of using actual Marshmallow Peeps to create the mold, I sculpted them out of clay.

sponge marshmallow peeps magic trick

My mold is one full size bunny and then two smaller ones. My thinking is that I can get a full set out of two castings in the mold. I can make additional molds if this is something I want to make a lot of.

I used foam in the mold as I already had that at home, so it was easy to make a test with.

sponge marshmallow peeps magic trick

They came out with a workable density, I think that I would like them to be a little bit softer, so I’ll have to explore some other densities of foam. The next step will be to play with adding pigment to them so that they’re yellow.