Archive for April, 2008

iKnow, iKnow

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Magician Jason Palter’s latest effect, iKnow, is quite an entertaining bit of mentalism. It begins with you allowing a spectator to borrow your iPod and listen to a song. Then you listen to their ear for the sound of the music “echoing about in their brainless head” (as one frequently assaulted street magician put it) and tell them the name of the song they were listening to. If all goes well, the spectator is so impressed that the idea of running away with your iPod instead of returning it never crosses their devious little mind.

I’ve worked on an effect like this myself, on and off, for some time. The biggest drawback, for me, is the fact that they keep telling me I’m voiding my warranty by opening up my iPod and doing a little soldering here and there to see if I can make something magical happen. So it was nice to find an effect like Palter’s that didn’t require all the hardware and expensive experimental short-circuiting.

The only problem I have with iKnow is that people keep looking at the songs on my iPod and pretending that they have never heard of Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, or other ever-hot artists. One magician who saw me performing suggested that I should “either update the collection or let folks listen to the music right off your 8-track.” As if I’m going to perform out of my car. Ha!

Mayne Events

Monday, April 21st, 2008

I would like to share with you a few things you might not know about one of my favorite illusionists, Andrew Mayne. Mayne is the creator of such memorable body-deformation effects as Chest Burster, Painful Dislocation, and — as made famous by The Amazing Johnathan — Jump Rope with Your Own Intestines.

Mayne has been performing personal transformations for as long as anyone can remember. One of his first effects involved doubling his own height over the course of only a few years, much to the delight of his parents.

He began performing publicly for large audiences as a teenager, and soon learned that he could perform more frequently — and cut down on his medical expenses — if he found ways of creating the illusion that he was (for example) smashing his own skull with a sledgehammer, rather than performing in a more direct manner. This is what led him to create Skullcrusher, the only published effect in which a magician destroys and restores a spectator’s signed, borrowed head.

Which reminds me, Mayne recently released an effect called Tear Down. At first, I was quite curious to learn what it was all about, in that I assumed (as you likely did) that the effect’s name was a reference to Ronald Regan’s famous suggestion that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin wall.

Well, it turns out that the effect has little to do with walls, politics, or the former Soviet Union. Instead, it is a torn-and-restored newspaper effect that can be performed with a borrowed, signed newspaper, regardless of what language it’s written in or how much more it focuses on Britney Spears than world hunger.

This is quite an evolutionary effect. I am in a position to know, in that I used to perform a similar bit of prestidigitation back in the day. I’d borrow a sheet of newspaper from a member of the audience (they were always reading the newspaper during my act), have another member of the audience sign their name in big letters across it, and then proceed to carefully, openly, and visibly tear it into tiny pieces before their very eyes.

Mayne’s effect takes this a step further by actually restoring the newspaper after all that tearing is done, and I have to admit that it is a big improvement over my old method. It makes me wonder if a restoration phase might have improved other segments of my act, such as when I would borrow a spectator’s watch and smash it with a hammer.

I’ll have to give that a try.

The magicians’ code

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I keep hearing about the magicians’ code. What is it?

The magicians’ code prevents magicians from giving away their — or other magicians’ — secrets. This is done because revealing the secrets of magic would ruin magic as we know it, sending magicians out of their fabulous mansions and into the streets to earn their daily bread.

The code works like this: When writing, the letter “A” is replaced with “B”, “B” is replaced with “C”, and “C” is replaced with “D”. Other letters are replaced as well, but I will not give the entire code (or the arcane pattern used to generate it) here because it is proprietary to magicians. By using this code whenever discussing magic, the magician ensures that the uninitiated can never uncover magic’s deepest secrets.

You might be interested to know that some of the greatest magicians can not only write in magician’s code, they can speak in it. It’s quite impressive!

The history of black cards

Monday, April 7th, 2008

A few years back, Ellusionist released their Bicycle Black Tiger deck of cards — a deck with white ink on black paper, scented like a real Asian tiger. They proved so popular that a short time later the company began producing an entirely new deck — a deck with white ink on black paper, scented like a real Asian tiger that had some red ink on it — called the Bicycle Black Tiger deck (with red pips).

But they didn’t stop there. Tally-Ho Viper decks, decorated with the jaunty snake for which they are named, came in two different design — magic fan and inner circle — and were coated with an SUV500 Air-Flow Finish that not only made them more aerodynamic (for throwing), but also gave them the weight and rigidity to crush any lesser cards that got in their way.

Then, because a magician just can’t have enough black cards on hand, came the Shadowmasters. These are black and white like the Bicycle Black Tigers, but have an entirely different back and the SUV500 Air-Flow Finish, and are printed on paper made exclusively from trees on Ellusionist’s Magic Tree Ranch. The deck’s joker has a picture of what will be left of a magician who reveals the secrets of magic on YouTube, and its box sports a jaunty bar code and a UPC number created by an expert numerologist to deliver maximum luck to any magician within a radius of ten feet.

Coincidentally, upstart magic company theory11 — a company so new that they haven’t even had time to properly capitalize their own name — also got the idea to market black playing cards. Their first release was Bicycle Guardians. These black cards are identical to standard Bicycle cards except that they’re black and the angels on the back apparently engage in a regimen of weight lifting and steroids and have traded their bicycles for AK-47s. In keeping with their military feel, the cards have razor-honed Supersharp(tm) edges and explode if dropped.

theory11 continued their redesign success with Bicycle Centurions. These cards are designed to look exactly like cards that an ancient Roman centurion warrior magician who liked black cards might own. They’re printed on hammered bronze and hand stained, with all card values in Roman numerals. A complete deck weighs almost a pound.

But for the black-deck completist, Ellusionist is still the champion. For each black deck they sell, they also offer special gimmicked decks — tiny, jumbo, levitating, half-eaten, warped, bioluminescent, etc. They also sell several varieties of black invisible deck, but you have to take Ellusionist’s word that they are all different.

In the coming year, Ellusionist will be adding to its black deck collection. New editions will include:

  • Night Eschers: With a back design inspired by the surreal art of M. C. Escher, these black cards will be specially prepared to form an Escher-like endless cycle — no matter how many cards you cut to the bottom of the deck, there will always be plenty on top.
  • Disassembled: The ashes of a standard Bicycle deck.
  • Securitypak: A black deck in which all cards have been glued together, glued into a box, and then sealed in bullet-resistant Lucite.
  • The One Deck: An ultra-cool, black-and-white Old Maid deck.
  • Dark Card-toon: A Card-toon deck with an African-American stick figure.
  • Black Deck Socratics: A deck that looks, feels, and handles exactly like a standard Bicycle rider-back red deck, but is metaphysically devoid of color.

Presto recommends you buy them all!

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