The last week I’ve had a lot of people ask me if my Take Up Reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage trick works with an Abbott’s / Blackstone style vanishing birdcage. The answer is yes it does, I made a quick video that I’ve been sending to people who ask, here it is:
The cool thing about the Take Up Reel is that it can be used for more than just the vanishing birdcage, it can be used for any trick where you would use a wrist to wrist pull. If you want it to go up your sleeve and stay there, then it will work for that!
Last night I was playing with a set of mini cups and balls that I have. This particular set was made by Leo Smesters. These are a great little set, however honestly I don’t have much of a use for them. When I originally bought them I had an idea, but haven’t done much with them.
I had the idea of doing a vertical three shell game. The ball would switch places vertically while the cups were stacked. Here’s a quick video of the basic idea:
There’s a little bit more to the full idea I have. Right now the cups are ungimmicked and they will stay that way. However the balls have magnets in them and they stick to each other through the cup. So the cups can sort of function like a chop cup or regular cup depending on the positions of the two balls.
My idea is to have one ball with a very strong magnet in it and then two others with smaller magnets in them. The audience is only aware of one ball. You will steal the ball with the strong magnet and use that magnet like you would a use thumbtip with a magnet inside of it. That will give much more options with what you can do with the cups.
One of the things I’m always doing it trying to improve what I currently do. Right now in my virtual show I do a modified version of my Cee-Lo trick, which is a cup and dice routine. This ends with the production of two large dice. The large dice are 1 1/4 inches on each side. To give you some perspective, the picture below is one of the jumbo dice next to a regular die.
The reason that the trick uses 1 1/4 inch dice is that for a live, in person show, it makes the loading procedure work. The cup will hold two 1 1/2 inch dice, but the method where the spectator loads the cup for you doesn’t work well with a larger die.
I was cleaning up and found the old set of 1 1/2 inch dice I tried using for Cee-Lo. It hit me, since I’ve changed my loading procedure for virtual shows, and there are no spectators to handle the props, why not move to the larger size dice. To give you an idea of visually how much bigger they are, the pictures below are a 1 1/2 inch die next to a regular die and a 1 1/4 inch die.
That extra quarter inch makes it look massive! The nice thing about how I load the cups for live virtual shows is that the size of the die doesn’t really matter. I’m getting a little more visual impact for no extra work! I’m a fan of that.
Recently I started doing a torn and restored card with a postcard. When I started doing it I was using a old promo postcard that had my picture on it. Right now I’m using the idea of a “staycation” for the theme of the trick, so I had my daughter make me a postcard to use for the trick.
One of the things about this postcard that I learned from watching video of the old promo postcard is that the glossy coating makes it hard to see, it’s just a lot of glare. The current batch of postcards have a matte finish, that solves the glare problem.
The thing with creating tricks is that it’s fixing a lot of small problems really adds up to make the bigger picture better!
In May I started worked on a trick that was my version of Albert Goshman’s Cards Thru Newspaper. You can search for those blog posts, but it shows how the trick progressed from the original Goshman trick to what I’d now consider an original magic trick/routine.
Essentially the original trick is that four cards appear one at a time and reappear under a folded up piece of newspaper. I took out what I didn’t like, the cards and newspaper and ended up using an envelope and four polaroid pictures. The pictures disappear and reappear under the newspaper.
It’s been five months since I started working on it, and really, it should have progressed further, it’s been slow going, mostly because of laziness on my part and not putting in as much work on it as I should be. I’ve been doing it as “preshow” for some virtual shows, but really I should be out at virtual open mics doing it and working it in.
I did recently make a change. I’ve been using this trick in pre-recorded virtual shows lately and a problem the trick had was the problems is that the Polaroid pictures are soo glossy, that they are hard to see on camera. They reflect too much light, and you can’t see them clearly. I took some brochure paper and printed the Polaroid pictures onto that paper. It’s a semi-gloss paper, so while it’s shiny, it doesn’t reflect nearly as much as the actual Polaroid picture.
The row on the left are the real Polaroids and the right are the copies. When they are side by side you can see the copies are a little less vibrant than the originals. However without a side by side comparison, you really can’t tell.
Keep working on your magic, even if you’ve been doing a trick for years and it’s a polished routine. There’s usually still improvements that can be made. Sometimes these are small improvements that no one will really notice, but these little things add up!
I love it when I’m working on something and things happen quickly. The connections between problems and solutions are quickly found. What started not too long ago with me and a couple of friends ripping up playing cards, quickly became a solid method. Then in my quest to make it play a little bit bigger, I think I hit on something to make it bigger, but also a presentation hook!
I was looking for some of the Phoenix Parlour Cards that I have around here somewhere, and a stack of postcards I send out as “thank you cards” caught my eye. I took one and gimmicked it for the torn and restored card, and it worked!
The cool thing about using postcards is that they are bigger than the Phoenix Parlour Cards, and they are really easy to gimmick (much easier than playing cards). Also if this is something that I’ll be doing in the show, they are cheap and easy to get.
This brings me to something that my friend Robert Baxt always tells me, which is, “can you do it with anything other than playing cards?“. He’s right. I’m a card guy in my heart, but he’s 100% correct, it’s almost always better with something other than playing cards. Also by moving things away from playing cards, you free up a slot in your show to use playing cards. I know freeing up a space for a card trick is not Robert’s intention, but is also means one less space for a card trick!
A couple of weeks ago I did a magic lecture and was asked about how to me more creative. The first thing you need to realize is that you’ll have a ton of bad ideas, and to get over the fear of failure. Once you’ve done that you are ahead of 99% of people.
The thing that I think is the key to being creative is being able to connect two unrelated things. Whether it’s two tricks or a solution and a problem. This is something I didn’t k now I was doing until I read the book Moonwalking with Einstein. This is a book about memory, and having a decent memory helps you connect things.
The other ingredient to being able to connect two things is having two things in your brain to connect. I recently came across this quote:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
I 100% agree with Steve Jobs, you need to have experiences to connect.
How do you get those?
Simple, you go out and live. I’m always out doing things, seeing shows, having adventures and all of that goes into my brain and it gives me more things to connect. I’m also always reading magic books, that give me methods in my brain. I also try to reasonably work through everything I read in a magic book, that gives me a tactile experience in my brain to pull from.
So go out and live and be a lifelong student of whatever your artform is!
Awhile ago I was visiting Steve Dobson and someone (sorry I can’t remember who) showed me a little trick with cork. You put the cork under a cup and when you lifted it, it was standing up on end. It’s a clever little trick that I learned is Sol Stone’s Abraviagra.
You can watch Sol do it here:
Sol’s version is great, while his presentation is a bit dated, don’t let that turn you off. This is a great impromptu trick. I’ve used it a bunch and and it’s great.
I was recently working on some videos for a client thought about the cork trick. I needed to get a bit more time out of it, and wanted a bit more build to the routine. I don’t think it would hit as hard if you’re not there watching it in person.
Here’s what I came up with:
The trick progresses from fully covered, to partially covered, to just under a clear glass, and then there’s the kicker at the end. My method is a bit more complex than Sol’s method is. Mine was designed for a video, so it didn’t need to be practical. It’s super gimmicked!
I think the trick came out well and while it won’t be moving into my show anytime soon, it was fun to do and it’s something that’ll be in my “back pocket” if I need it.
In the past I think I’ve written about this, however there are a few instances recently that got me thinking about using face masks and hand sanitizer in magic routines. First of all, it’s no longer the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. It was in March and April, but not now.
If you’re shoehorning in a mask to your show to try to be topical, it’s lazy creativity. Simply swapping out a silk or a drink coaster for a face mask and having not other context to it, then you’re fooling yourself into thinking you’re being topical. I think an audience can feel when someone changes a prop for no reason other than to try to make it topical.
If you’re doing a bit with a mask that actually has purpose or a point of view, I’m 100% for that. For example if you linked the ear loops of a mask, that’s using the property of the mask, you aren’t simply finding a place to substitute a mask into your show.
Personally I’d love to see a mask bit by an anti-masker, I think that would be very interesting. Using the mask and magic to show how masks don’t work would match well with and having things pass thru the mask. Of course you could do the opposite and show how the mask protects the wearer by not letting things through doing some indestructible type tricks with the mask. However thing like that take actual thinking and work to do well. It’s not easy to do, which is why you don’t see much of it.
Sometimes there are moments when as a magician, you get to feel like someone who isn’t a magician. I was having a magic jam with a couple of other magicians and Jonathan Friedman did this:
What you see me expressing is complete surprise of the trick. It was great. He gave me all the clues in the set up as to what the pay off would be, but I didn’t see it coming. It worked out like a great joke.
How can you get that level of surprise from your audience and still have the trick make sense?