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.
Last month when I was at the Abbott’s Magic Get Together, I was doing my trick Out For Beers. This combines a brand new gag card with a classic principle. Many of the magicians who I showed it to asked if I would sell it to them. I didn’t have any with me to sell, so I couldn’t. Because of that demand, I made up some sets for sale.
Here’s what it looks like:
What I like about it, is you are using the gag to get into the trick. Where most of the tricks that use the Out to Lunch principle, the cards are the focus of the trick. They have no reason to be there aside from the trick. That’s what makes Out For Beers great, the trick is unexpected.
Here’s What You Get: *Gimmicked card to show the full beer pitcher *50 cards showing the empty pitcher *Rubber band *Instructions *BONUS: 5 extra cards that show the full beer pitcher
Awhile ago I realized I collected vanishing birdcages. At the last Potter and Potter auction they had an old brass vanishing birdcage.
The description said they think it’s from the 1930’s. I personally think it’s more modern than that. I decided to bid on it, and I’m the only one that bid, so I got it for next to nothing, which is great for me!
I’m very curious how heavy it is and how well it collapses.
The blobs of solder look like they’ll rip your forearm open if you vanish it with any force. I wish I knew a little bit more about the cage’s history. That’s the thing, so many makers worked for different companies and people. It’s hard to know what came from who. When I was at Abbott’s Magic Get Together, I chatted with a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about the vanishing birdcage to try to figure out who made the one I use. Everyone gave me a different answer and told me that the other people were wrong.
Do I need to know who made it?
Not really, since they aren’t made anymore, I can’t just go out and buy one. Knowing the history of your props does make you a better performer. I’m not sure why, but I think when you know your props on a deeper level, the audience can sense that. The prop becomes something more to you, and that comes through when you use them.
I’m still going through the book The Artist’s Way, which is a book about being more creative. It’s a 12 week program that has a lot of writing you need to do. I’m just starting week two, and I’ll say, I’m getting more than I expected to get out of it.
For me, the big thing is the morning writing you do each day. It’s just putting a pen to paper and writing for three pages. It’s a free writing scenario, you write whatever’s on your mind. I’ve had a couple of great ideas come out of the writing. It’s also giving me more depth as a person on and off stage as it’s making me explore some internal things that I might not really have looked at.
One of the ideas that came out of the daily writing is a trick with a jar of candy. The jar is full, then I produce candy and when you look back at the jar, it’s now half full. You then put the candy you just made appear back into the jar and it’s full again. The method is solid, and practical. I wouldn’t really have this trick it if it wasn’t for the daily morning writing. I still need to make the trick…but it wouldn’t exist on paper at least without the morning writing!