Before I headed out on the road, I was cleaning up and noticed a book that been kicking around my office forever. I’m not sure how I ended up with the book, but I’ve never read it, so I threw it in my car. The book is Class Act: The Magic of Tony Binarelli.
When I was a teenager I think I had seen Tony Binarelli lecture at the Desert Magic Seminar in Las Vegas. At that time he was lecturing on mentalism from his book My Way to Mentalism. Honestly, I don’t remember much of lecture, but I picked up a set of the lecture notes for a friend of mine.
Ok, back to the Class Act book. There’s a lot of hype in the introduction of the book about innovative moves. The first two card sleights are a top palm and second deal, both of which I think predate Tony. However it’s also entirely possible that they are his.
The top palm is a two handed top palm and it’s not very good as written. It’s something that I was doing as a teenager because I couldn’t quite do the one handed top palm. Essentially, it’s a two handed, one handed top palm. In my version I slightly slid the top card forward with the deck held in mechanics grip. Then my other hand pressed down on the outjogged part and the card pops into your palm. In Tony’s version, he slides a lot of the cards forward, it looks strange. The one advantage to Tony’s that they don’t really mention, but kinda hint at is that it makes it easier to palm off multiple cards. You pinkie count them with your ring finger as you push down and they pop up.
The second deal is a turn over deal, you can’t deal face down from a face down pack. I was just chatting with Chris Beason about this second deal technique a few weeks ago. It looks good, but not a natural looking deal.
So far, I’m glad I’m reading the book instead of getting rid of it without reading it.
Recently I was jamming with some magicians, and the one tip I want to give younger magicians is that they shouldn’t “hog the jam“. What I mean by that it is to share the time by passing it along, not just showing off the whole time. When you’re younger, I think it’s hard to pass it along if you’re getting positive feedback. However that’s what builds a jam is the sharing.
For me the fun thing about jamming is the sharing and seeing what other people are doing, or working on, not the showing off. I think the difference is that I have regular audiences to get my showing off fix, where not everyone does. People who don’t get a chance to show off their stuff often need a place, I get that, but honestly they don’t need to hog the jam, spread it out!
This week performing at the fair, we’re not required to wear masks when we’re performing. That’s great, however I found for my roving magic, people were more receptive when I was wearing a mask. I think it shows respect for them as people that walking up unmasked and assuming they are OK with that doesn’t.
One thing I’ve noticed when performing with a mask is that my whole face is still animated. You can’t see much of it, but I think it adds to the overall energy when I perform. That and it will be automatic to do in the future when I’m not wearing a mask.
We’re finally hitting the “light at the end of the COVID tunnel” and things are starting to reopen. I just updated the calendar on my main website that lists my public shows. Moving forward, I’m curious how much interaction in magic (especially close up) that people are willing to do.
Having spent the last 10 days helping out at a drive thru zoo that was operating when my state lifted its mask mandate (for vaccinated people), it was very interesting how people reacted to the interaction. Before the mandate was lifted about 60% of the cars were wearing masks, and after about 5% were wearing masks.
For close up magic, will people be willing to hold sponge balls? Personally I thought they were gross pre-COVID. If 95% of the people are willing to hold them, what do you do for the 5% that doesn’t? If it’s your main trick, then you need to have a strong backup. Thinking about this now will give you a huge advantage when the situation presents itself.
This week I’m doing a series of hybrid in person / virtual shows for a small school that has about 20 kids in each show. Yesterday’s group upper elementary school age and the rest of the week will be middle school aged kids. Doing the show, I was very chatting with the kids and the kids were very chatty with me, however I held them and no one logged off the zoom as this was an optional event. The principal was impressed that I held them all and kept the kids engaged the whole time.
Now…going forward for the next school that contacts me for a hybrid show, I think if I know it’s going to be a hybrid event, I may try have my daughter run the Zoom part of it. The experience the kids at home got wasn’t the best. They had an iPad in the back of the room, so it was just a blurry wide show of me 30 feet from it. Having a camera that could move (pivot) and zoom in and out would be a huge advantage. They also had a large projector screen with the Zoom screen on it, I think I would ideally have that behind me, so then I could use that screen to my advantage and do some close up stuff.
All of that would be the ideal way to do it. Unfortunately, that’s probably not how it would actually play out. How it would probably actually play out is this:
I’d ask them to log me into their Zoom room and they’d say they couldn’t due to privacy reasons.
I’d ask to have the screen behind me and they’d say no because of how the room has to be laid out for social distancing
I’d ask to plug my camera into the computer they are using for Zoom and it would crash it because their computer doesn’t have enough power to run an external camera.
Knowing my ideal hybrid situation now will hopefully get me at least one of the three. Now that I know what to ask for, it’ll be easier to get something!
While I was on the road last week I ran the production for my buddy’s in person show. I’ve been running the production for his virtual show, so I know his show well. I can’t imaging having to run tech for a show I’ve never seen off of a cue sheet!
One of the cool things about doing virtual shows is that it’s taken a bit of the mystery out of using production elements in my show. Typically I’m a one person operation, so one of the challenges for me was how to use video projection.
Here’s what I did the other night:
The ATEM mini camera switcher that I’ve recently added to my virtual shows, I used for the camera feed in my in person show the other night.
I simply used the Fade To Black (FTB) button on the right to turn the video projection on or off. This was on the floor and luckily due to the placement of the button, it was easy to tap with my toe!
This allowed me to add the camera and be able to easily control it without adding a laptop and running the Media Star software to the mix. I’m not opposed to using a laptop as part of my show production…but this is a lot smaller and more convenient for smaller shows.
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.
Months ago I was texting with one of the groups I brainstorm with and I brought up the idea for this gag. You say, “You’ve been a great group, you know, I’m going to give you a free pitcher of beer!” You then reach into your wallet and remove a card with a picture of beer!
The play is on the picture/pitcher words that can sound similar. This would be a gag card similar to the Pride and Joy or the picture of my two kids.
When I have them printed, I also did a set with and empty pitcher. The idea is that I can also use the Out To Lunch principle and make the full pitcher become empty. I’m not sure if I’ll ever use it that way, however I was trying to be forward thinking. It’s much easier to have them both made at the same time, than having to go back and recreate it to make the empty pitcher.
Last week I ended up with a ticket to the Chicago Magic Lounge’s Virtual Happy Hour. I’ve never been in person to the venue, and on video it looks like a cool place. I think tickets are $15 and we had four magicians, a mixologist and a host. All of the performers were performing live at the venue except for one that was in another country.
I didn’t get a picture of the host Benjamin Barnes, however he did a great job introducing the acts. Personally, I would have liked to see him do a set in there somewhere.
All of the acts used audience participation, with the helper on screen. They were in engaging, and the audience was fairly active in the chat.
One interesting thing that happened during the show was at one point when someone was picked to help out onscreen the guy said something like, “I thought this was all fake…“. What he meant was that he thought everyone helping was a stooge.
That comment raises an interesting question: Do most audience members think these shows use stooges? I don’t know if there’s a way to keep people from thinking that. People have the same thought at in person shows, so it’s not unique to a zoom show. This is more of a concern for a ticketed show than it is for a corporate zoom show.
Back to the Chicago Magic Lounge, for $15 it’s a solid show and worth checking out online. I think the overall run time was about 2 hours.
When I posted the nut and bolt trick the other day I mentioned that what I posted wasn’t quite what I had envisioned the trick to look like. Ideally it would be a penetration type effect, with the nut penetrating through the thread of the bolt.
I just recorded a quick video of sort of what I’d like it to look like:
That video isn’t exactly what I’d like it to look like, but it’s pretty close. I think that makes for a more interesting effect than a visual animation of the nut unscrewing itself. Moving the nut while it’s covered by your fingers allows the spectators mind to fill in the whats happening may make it more magical.
The important thing is that if you have a gimmick, you should play with it. Figure out what else you can do with it besides simply what the instructions say.