Mandrake the Magician

Mark Panner’s Genius Magic Idea: TUBER

Inside Magic Image of the TUBER InterfaceMichigan magician and estranged relative Mark Panner continues his contribution — in a sense — to our virtual pages.

Genius is what I call it.
Unless you have been living under a rock or have had a rock hit you in the head, you know the hottest thing in the world is UBER. It is a remarkable service that allows ordinary people to summon a cab or a limo to take them places.
It used to be the only way you could get a cab or a limo was if you lifted your hand in the presence of a cab or booked a limo. Now, you can use an App (a shortened version of the original “applique” – a hold-over from the early days of the inter-net when it was all based on handicrafts from the 1970s; decoupage, tie-dye and LSD) to summon a cab or a limo without raising your hand in their direction.
Everyone is doing it and when “everyone is doing it” I know it is a goldmine waiting to happen. That’s why I am launching TUBER. Inspired by – not copied from – UBER, it lets you summon a magician to your location to perform anything from a single trick to a full-evening show.
Let’s say you are on the corner of Fifth and Main in Anytown, USA. And let’s say you want to get a good Oil and Water or Cups and Balls performance and you want it right now. You click on the TUBER app and you’ll see all the magicians able to do the trick – literally. You click their icon and they will be there in a hurry.
Uber has a couple of different levels of service. You can use Uber and get a limo or town car. You can use Uber-X and get some guy with a car and possibly a valid driver’s license and less than bald tires. There is a price difference – obviously – but you get what you pay for.
Tuber will act the exact same way. Tuber will get you a magician with real skills, dressed appropriately for his or her act. Tuber-Ex will summon a guy or gal who knows some tricks but might need to borrow props from you (like coins or cards) and will probably be dressed like a normal person.
But I am adding a third level. Under Tuber will bring a person who will tell you about a cool thing they saw on YouTube and may even share his or her guess on how the trick is done. This will be the cheapest level but just as entertaining as the top-flight magician you could hire through the top-level TUBER service because you will be seeing videos of real, talented magicians.
I have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the first million but after that, I will be selling shares to investors and then, I hope, selling out to Google or Microsoft.
The best thing is that even if the magic angle doesn’t work, I have already gotten leads from a consortium of potato growers who like the name and would like me to do something similar to deliver potatoes to people.
I don’t know how I come up with these genius ideas. It is truly a gift. You’re welcome.

Guest Essay: Rip-Off or Research?

Inside Magic Image of Favorite Melvin the MagicianEditor: Mark Panner is filling in for us whilst we work our day job during this busy season.  His essays are not edited or approved by Inside Magic.  In fact, we usually disagree with everything he says and does.

Some call it deliberate theft, others call it inspiration. I call it inspiration because I don’t like all of the negatives that come with the word “theft.”

But I also call it pure gold.

I am talking about using great ideas from other fields to make great hordes of cash in the magic field.

Let’s face it, magicians don’t get paid what they deserve. Some practice hours and hours to perform a trick that takes 30 seconds. If you get paid by the hour, that means all of the practice gets you some money but not much money. We won’t go into the complex math here (but we could if we had to) but say you get $15.00 an hour and you do a trick that takes 30 seconds to do. That means you are only getting a part of the $15.00; like a dollar or something. This is a magic blog not an accounting blog so you can figure it out for yourself later. Take my word for it, though: you are not getting the full $15.00 for all of the work that you put into learning the trick, buying the props or making them after watching how the trick is done thanks to YouTube.

So how do magicians make the money they deserve?

First, don’t buy tricks. As I said, you can learn just about any trick out there on YouTube. Thanks to people looking to make a name for themselves, there are plenty of videos where people expose really good trick and even show you how the props they bought work. It cost them something to buy the original trick but if they are stupid enough to show the world how to make it, that works out fine for the rest of us.

Everybody knows magic tricks cost a lot because of the secret, not the props. So, if you can learn the secret from some teenager on YouTube who is showing off how proud he is to have bought the latest miracle, you don’t need to pay a dime.

Wait Mark, isn’t that stealing?

No. Because I didn’t do the stealing. I just watched a video. The guy who did the video showing how a trick worked bought the trick (or learned it from someone who bought it) and so I am pretty far down the line from anything that even looks like stealing.

Wait Mark, isn’t that taking money from inventors of great tricks?

Again, I am not taking anything from anyone. I am just watching a video. It is a free country and I am allowed to watch videos. If someone wants to show me how to make a trick that would cost $45.00 on some over-priced magic web store, who am I to complain.

Wait Mark, won’t that keep magicians from inventing new tricks?

No and so what if they do? It will teach them to price their tricks right. Charging $45.00 for the latest miracle is too much no matter what the trick is – especially if I can make it with stuff I have around the mobile home or in my company’s supply cabinet.

Plus, most of the times once I learn the secret, I don’t want to do the trick any way so there really is no loss. I just saved $45.00 and avoided the hassle of paying and waiting for the delivery and then finding out it is a stupid method and not for me.

I have always said that magic reviews should tell you exactly how a trick is done so that you can determine for yourself whether you want to buy the trick. I bought a trick two years ago at a convention here in Michigan and the guy said it was easy to do and didn’t really require any sleights.

Well, he lied. To do the trick, you had to force a card and last time I checked, that’s a sleight. If I had known that the only way the trick would work was if I forced the card at the beginning, I could have saved $45.00 and bought something from someone more honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do a force. In fact, I can do maybe 15 different forces but why should I if I don’t need to? Just to look cool? The guy demonstrated the trick and the way he described it was like this: a person takes a card and the card ends up in some impossible place. Now I know why he was so vague. He was hiding the secret. If I knew the secret before I bought it, I could have saved my money and bought something useful like really cool decks of cards or food.

Wait Mark, shouldn’t we reward people who work hard to invent magic tricks?

We do. We get them press in the magic magazines and they get to travel around the world doing lectures and selling their “secrets” to magic club members. We had a lecturer at our Mystic Hollow Magic Club last month who said he had been in five states in three weeks and lectured five times before coming to Michigan. I know for a fact that the club paid him over $100.00 plus paid for his hotel room at the La Quinta by the airport and some members of the “executive committee” took him to dinner at Denny’s afterwards.

So the inventor gets to put on a show for about three hours, gets paid $100, free room, free dinner plus he gets to sell his special tricks at super-inflated prices. I watched pretty carefully and he sold about $50.00 worth of lecture notes and gimmicks. So, put that all together and he is taking in $150.00 for a three hour show. Math is not my strong part but that is close to $50.00 an hour. Is he a brain surgeon or a lawyer? No, but he is charging those kinds of rates. So who is really “stealing” here?

He would keep touring and visiting magic clubs even if he didn’t sell anything because he is getting a free room and free food plus $100.00 a lecture. Sounds like a sweet gig if you ask me. I do table-hopping at the IHOP (I have a whole bunch of jokes about “hopping at the IHOP” – they are really funny) and have never cleared $100.00 from a weekend of work. It is hard for me to feel sorry for someone who gets to travel, stay in nice places, eats for free (yes, I get free breakfast at IHOP but that is something I just do, they are not “officially” giving it to me).

I am writing a book (my fifth one this year!) about this secret to learning secrets and I will be selling it on Amazon and eBay. And before you get any ideas, don’t even think about trying to rip me off because I am going to get a copyright on it.

My dad used to say, “It’s a dog eat dog world, Mark. Make sure you’re the dog and not the other dog.”

Mark Panner Fills In for Us

Inside Magic Image of Frustrated MagicianWe have been very busy at our daytime job.

That has kept us from the spacious office suite here on Santa Monica Boulevard where this humble magic news outlet makes its home in West Hollywood, California.

It is good to be busy but bad to be neglecting of the tens of people who read Inside Magic religiously – and by “religiously” we mean by candlelight, copious amounts of incense and chanting.

We have asked one of the least qualified but most available magic writers (so it averages out) to take over for the next few days or until readership drops below the web equivalent of anemic.

Readers of Inside Magic may remember Mr. Panner for his contributions in the past to this and other magic websites. You can read his horrible review of Inside Magic Favorite magician Bob Sheets here.

He is related to us through a complicated story of inter-marriage and bad life-choices but we offer him space here only as a matter of convenience for us, not because it is in the interest of marital bliss.

Mr. Panner has published several books on magic, all self-published and, as we understand it, still unread. He has claimed to have invented several of the greatest effects in our art including:

The Balls and Cups (his take on the classic “The Cups and Balls”), Card to Walet (intentionally misspelled in an effort to avoid litigation and scorn by the creators of “Card to Wallet”), Torn Newspaper (the review in Magic Magazine noted that it was a fine effect but lacked the ending audiences have come to expect from similar routines like “The Torn and Restored Newspaper”), and the now disregarded Paint Ball Catching Trick.

The Paint Ball Catching Trick was marketed as a safe alternative to the deadly Bullet Catch. In the litigation that followed the meager sales of the effect, we learned that while the trick did not risk being shot in the face with a real bullet, the content of the particular brand of paint balls sold with the trick contained enough lead to shave years off the life of even a casual performer and “condemned his or her progeny to a dramatically higher risk of mental disability.”

Mr. Panner decided re-market the effect with instructions discouraging the “chewing of the paintball or rolling it around in the mouth for an extended period of time.”

You can still find the original version with the now discredited instructions on eBay.

Mr. Panner complained to the magic community that he was being undersold by “cheap, Chinese imports.” The magic community apparently did not care.

Mr. Panner has performed shows for hundreds of paying customers and clients throughout the Midwest – but never for the same client twice. He says this practice is due to his “constant, driving forced (sic) to keep things fresh.” He also points out that the Better Business Bureau rating is “probably wrong because people only complaint (sic) and never say good things to the BBB.”

For the record, he denies ripping off Criss Angel’s Believe with his own, limited tour of “Bee Leave.” Also for the record, Criss Angel denies caring at all about Mr. Panner’s two hour illusion show featuring the magician dressed in a costume described by a reporter for the Urbana, Illinois daily as “cross between Criss Angel and a effeminate bumble bee.”

Mr. Panner’s contributions will begin later today (or possibly tomorrow) and, as is our practice, will be unedited. Mr. Panner describes the process as “keeping it real, raw.” We describe it as “being lazy, real lazy.”

We should be back in the office with renewed energy and new stories in the next week or so.

It is entirely likely we will be back sooner if Mr. Panner performs as predicted.

Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians

Inside Magic Image of Lisa Cousins in the Magic Castle's Parlor of PrestidigitationJoining the Magic Castle has been a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to meet people who share our passion for Magic.  Lisa Cousins works keeping the prestigious The William W. Larsen Memorial Library the fantastic resource it is for all members of The Magic Castle.  We are honored that she allowed us to print her essay in our humble magic news outlet.  You can read more about Ms. Cousins in an article published on LosAngeles.com.

I.  Obsessions

Harry Houdini is remembered first as an escape artist, but he was also a “séance-buster” who despised fraud in the séance room, and did all he could to expose it.  His 1924 book, A Magician Among the Spirits, is an account of his experiences with the spirit mediums of his day, and in no case did he discover anything but scams and shams and magic tricks.  He conducted his investigations with both an open mind and a wishful heart, as it was the death of his mother that led him to his inquiry into the realm of spirit in the first place.  He sincerely hoped that life continued after death and that communication with the departed was possible.  He was mortified to discover nothing but hokum, and morally outraged that bereaved people were being fleeced by con men using standard magician’s effects.

While he maintained that he was not a skeptic, his activities as a debunker inspired several generations of skeptical magicians to embrace him as their mascot.  There is a branch of magic called “gospel magic” where standard magic tricks are presented with a religious-instructive twist, but in the main magicians are a skeptical bunch.  They have direct experience with how easily people can be tricked, controlled, manipulated, and deceived, and using Houdini’s example as something of a guiding light, are in general quite dismissive of spirituality in any form.  This is all perfectly understandable, but for someone like myself, an avid reader and tremendous fan of spiritual literature for decades before I took up the study of magic, I entered the world of magic and magicians and found myself a stranger in a land already famously strange.

I don’t “believe in God.”  I experience divinity every minute of every day.  This has nothing to do with what becomes of us when we shed this mortal coil; this is strictly here-and-now.  What’s more, I have zero interest in persuading anybody to join me in my opinions.  I don’t see truth as some kind of numbers game, where stacking up the believers makes a truth any truer; indeed, I’m fond of Oscar Wilde’s observation that “A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes it.”  Even if I ardently wished to make you see this splendid world as I view it through my enraptured eyes, I couldn’t do it anyhow.  It’s too late, too unique to myself, the road was too long and full of surprise twists to fill you in on all the parts that contributed to “the making of” my point of view.  In other words, do your own studying.  Or not.
Continue reading Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians

A Thankful Magician

Inside Magic LogoLooking back over the last year, we have much for which to be thankful.  But we are never sure when we are supposed to be thankful.  We may have been thankful at the wrong time, at Thanksgiving and so technically our thankfulness will either be redundant or just for the blessings received since the day before Black Friday.

But there have been many things since the official start to the shopping season that we consider thank-worthy.  For instance, our eyebrows are growing back following what could have been a horrific flash paper ignition accident when we looked down the business end of our flash wand to see if the glow plug was working.  It was but we couldn’t see it because of the over-stuffing of the muzzle with what we thought was too old flash paper.

We are thankful that our neighbor here on Santa Monica Boulevard was evicted and we do not need to lie awake worrying whether he was abusing cats or learning to play a stringed instrument.  The new tenant seems nice.  She operates a “call service” – we’re guessing that means she acts as a human alarm clock and calls customers at appointed times to make sure they get a fresh start on the day.  Apparently some of her customers do not have phones – or maybe they don’t have good phone chargers – because she frequently has to leave her small office to call on them personally.  She works around the clock but is very quiet and frequently brings us gifts of personal-sized shampoo and conditioner from some really nice hotels.

We are thankful that our audition at The Magic Castle is coming up.  We will be performing before the membership committee in February and we were sponsored by the incomparable Pop Haydn.  The extra time before our ten to fifteen minute presentation has given us plenty of time to completely re-work our act at least twelve times.  We know the committee wants to see our skill set and so store-bought magic is eschewed.  So, we dropped our rather lengthy Hippity Hop Rabbits routine.  That could run – with the right crowd – fifteen minutes by itself.

We are thankful for finding Paper Cream to keep our very dry hands more moist and thereby allowing us to perform sleights like dealing seconds and bottoms.  We were getting complaints about our constant licking of our fingers before dealing cards or performing card maneuvers.  It got so bad we were asked to leave a party for licking one of our volunteers’ fingertips before she dealt the cards in a spelling card trick.  It is tough to say if it was the licking or the fact that we did a spelling card trick with someone named Ida.  Maybe the hostess didn’t appreciate us using a name that was so short.  Maybe she was jealous of our ability to triple lift.  Maybe we should have worn pants.  Maybe we should have shown up on time and not the next day, at 3:00 am.  Life is full of questions, just like the police.

We are very thankful for the invention of The Stripper Deck.  We use ours constantly and wonder how magicians survived without it.  We read that Dai Vernon once made his own using a shard of glass he found in a bathroom.  He was very industrious and wise.  We hope he washed his hands after making the deck, though.  We do wish they had a different name for the deck.  If you go to any of the stores here in West Hollywood and ask for a Stripper Deck, they treat you like you are crazy or they try to sell you something that is not a proper magic trick.  Because we take seriously our oath to not reveal magic secrets, we never correct the sales people or explain what we mean by the term “Stripper Deck.” If you ever come to our editorial offices / kitchen / bedroom / guest room / den, you will see piles of odd decks and personal-sized sample bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body cream.  If we are ever raided by the authorities, it will be difficult to explain that little corner of our little space.

We are most thankful for the friends we have in Magic.  Those who we left behind in Michigan and those we have met since coming to Hollywood.  Magicians share a common personality type that transcends the influences of environment and access to sunshine.  The magicians here have accepted us despite our pasty complexion and regional differences.  We would like to think they have been so ready to include us in their magic circles due to our exceptional skills and winning personality but fear it is really just because magicians are friendly and accepting.

Magic is a wonderful art daily brought to life and changed in exciting ways by people who are in it for all of the right reasons; and for that we are thankful.