Keep Focused…

Right now I’m reading the book Stolen Focus, it’s about how the bombardment of information we get overwhelms us and the distraction that social media is. I’m not too far into yet, but it’s definitely interesting and is motivating me to make some changes in my life.

When I started doing my morning writing first thing in the morning, I was travelling and would do it in the kitchen of the long term Air BnB that I was staying at. As my travels became more hotel based or I was home more often, I did it at my desk with my computer nearby. Just having the laptop next to me, meant I tended to look up things more often, which isn’t a bad thing, until you realize that sometimes end up on searching for things or visiting websites that aren’t necessary to the task at hand.

I did some searching and found a chrome browser extension called Pause. What it does is you have a list of websites that it pauses before you can access them. You can edit the list of websites and the length of the pause. When you go to the website you get a green page that won’t let you access the website you’re trying to get to for 5 seconds (or whatever you set it at). I find this really helpful to keep me on task. Once I see the screen, I realize I’m mindless clicking or trying to mindlessly scroll around.

Adding the Pause browser extension and going back to doing my morning writing at the kitchen table really have gotten my creative productivity back on track!


Save Your Back…

For about 4 years I’ve used a Pelican 1615 Air as the main case for my show. I like 97% of the things about this case. The 3% I don’t like is that I think it could be a little bit bigger and still not be oversize for checked luggage.

pelican 1615 air

My case has travelled all across North America, from Panama to Alaska and from Seattle to Florida. I noticed last week that the wheels were getting sluggish. I think the bearings were going bad. I got a set of replacement wheels and in 5 mins I was up and running again!

Moving your gear around is one of the things that will wear you out, and having good wheels that reduce effort is important! Keep up on the maintenance of your gear, your back will thank you!

Watching Acts…

One of the great things about performing at fairs is you get to work with all sorts of acts. Not just various styles of acts, but act all from different points or their careers. Sometimes you’ll get a newer local act, and huge, international headliners and sometimes you’ll get an amazing act that’s retired, but lives in town and that’s the one gig a year they do…and everything in between.

When I’m at the fair, I try to watch everyone’s show. There’s so much to learn from the any act you watch.

  • I’ve written about this before, but I got reminded of why having a “high” show is important and why you need to keep all the action in your show (in most venues) above your belly button.
  • The importance of having some sort of music in the background (in most routines).
  • Why to keep backups of props that could break…because they will!
  • And finally to play every gig like it’s a sold out show…even if it’s raining and the bleachers are uncovered and virtually empty.

All four of these things are things that I already know, but it’s a good reminder to see them and having them moved to the front of my brain!

Using Light to add Punctuation

While in Arizona last week I visited Organ Stop Pizza and I wrote a little bit about it yesterday. Today I’m writing about something else that I noticed with performance. In many of the songs the organist played, there was lighting changes:

The room was normally dark, and when he got towards ends of song and it had a big ending, he would lighten up the room for the finale, then darken it at the end. While these songs were songs that had more exciting endings, the lighting change end really signaled the crowd to clap and cheer louder.

This is a technique used in many theater shows, sometimes ending the trick with a blackout. I’m sure there’s a name for it in theater terms, I just don’t know it. However it’s a way to signal the end of a trick or routine that may have less off a definite and hard punctuation at the end.

The organist used the lighting very deliberately and very effectively. Personally I’m a pretty basic lighting guy, and that’s probably because I came out of stand up comedy rooms, and not theaters. However it’s something I would like to explore more.


Suspension of Disbelief…

When I was in Arizona last week I went to Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, AZ. This is pizza place that has a guy play a giant Wurlitzer organ.

One the the things that I found interesting was the people around me commented about all of the songs he knows. He takes requests and they are pretty varied in genre. What the people didn’t notice was that he had device to his left just out of view that he was using for the songs he didn’t already know.

This is an interesting suspension of disbelief, which is different from when you see Peter Pan and ignore the wires that make him fly. This a suspension of disbelief closer to doing magic. The audience wanted him to have a huge catalog of music in his head, so that’s what they believed, despite all of his typing.

In magic you want the audience to believe you can do the trick…not necessarily by “magic” but you can do the trick successfully. Once you convivence them that you can you can take a lot of risks and they will unconsciously suspend disbelief and be onboard with things.

Juan Tamariz talks about this in The Magic Rainbow. Basically he says that once they audience is onboard with him, he can do things that would be easily explained. He does them after he’s proven himself, and the audience suspends disbelief that he’s simply using a trick prop.

I was watching the organist arrange his set list of requests. He has a couple of songs he knows, then plays a one he doesn’t know, then a medley of 3-5 songs and I think one or two of these he doesn’t know well, but can bookend with known songs and finally he plays a couple songs he knows well. It’s a great plan, it’s also the Juan Tamariz formula.


Briefcase Show in action!

Last week was the first outing of the Briefcase show and it went pretty well. The whole show including the stands fit inside of the Pelican Briefcase. Here’s the show set up at the fair I was performing at last week:

briefcase magic show

The show uses a lot of three dimensional props, which is intentional. I think that a lot briefcase shows select material based on the prop being flat. Obviously that is a concern. But things like the applause sign, which is hollow can have things packed inside of it.

The whole show was done with me solo on stage, except for the second to last effect, which is a game show routine that uses three kids. I have a method for that routine that I haven’t tried yet, but probably should try so I know if it works or not.

I’m happy with how it’s turned out, and hoping to somehow figure out how to expand it to a 40-45 minute show, which would be ideal.


Using the Take Up Reel…

One thing I’ve realized as I’m out there talking more and more about the vanishing birdcage is how many magicians have never actually seen it done live. Many have seen it on an old video of Blackstone, but not live. At a virtual magic lecture someone asked me about my Take Up Reel that I used with a vanishing birdcage, so I gave a quick talk about it.

I think most magicians dismiss the cage as they think it’s much simpler than it actually is. There’s a lot more to doing it consistently than simply pushing your arms forward. However when they see it done in real time they realize how amazing the trick is!

Glass Thru Hat…

About a hundred years ago, there were a lot of tricks where objects when through a hat. Stanley Collins had several giant dice through hat methods, and I think P & L made a dice thru hat as well. Then there’s glass through hat. I have one that’s about 100 years old, and while I think it’s over engineered for the effect, it is fun to do.

Here’s my first time trying it out:

From a method standpoint, it’s an interesting solution to making a glass penetrate a hat. I don’t think it’s the best solution and I would never do it in a show, however it is fun to practice! That the thing with magic is that you have to have fun, I still love magic. It’s not just my job, I love learning about it, I love playing with it and I love performing it.


Mega Illusions…

Over the pandemic I got to know Franz Harary a bit when I helped him out with a project. I’ve always admired what he does with his mega illusions and how he thinks really big. He recently posted a video of his show in Macu, and it’s pretty cool:

It’s crazy how big the show looks as he uses the entire theater. Every trick has a background that’s for it. Before you mention is too flashy or busy, you have to remember that this show is being done in China where their taste may be different that in the USA. I think it’s a great lesson, that using video elements can make things play a lot bigger. Even smaller tricks with a video could play bigger.