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 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.

Magician Troy Von Scheibner Lauded in UK Press

Inside Magic Image of Avid Readers of Panther PrideAccording to press reports, the entire pop band One Direction asked UK Magician Troy Von Scheibner a very valid question, “What is wrong with you, why have you eaten a balloon?”

We realized as we wrote this sentence that if we failed to mention that Mr. Von Scheibner is a magician, the teen-fave super-group’s question would likely not have garnered such prominent placement in a major metropolitan daily.  It would be just another group of musicians combined for purposes of hitting the top of the charts and asking questions about the eating habits of young people.  Like when the Beatles famously asked 19-year-old Mobile, Alabama car wash cashier Harriet Williamson, “Why do you only eat the tops of muffins?” or the Asian Touring Edition of Les Miserables inquired of Japanese supermodel Nozomi Sasaki, “Why do you eat so little in the way of green vegetables.”

Hardly news.

But because Mr. Von Scheibner is a magician, the question reveals that he performed a trick for the loveable lads that make up One Direction.  He did not really eat a balloon – we think.  He just did a trick that gave the impression that a balloon was eaten.

It is a well-respected journalistic technique employed by Susannah Butter, the smitten writer for The London Evening Standard.

Ms. Butter is impressed with the young performer and star of his own television show, Troy.   She admits she is frustrated by his skills and her inability to uncover his secrets but she clearly fancies him.

Troy Von Scheibner is the closest thing to a superhero London has. He uses his powers to help others. “I was outside a party with Thandie Newton,” the magician tells me. “She asked for a lighter. I didn’t have one but I made one appear. She kissed me on the cheek and I thought, ‘I’ll never wash my face again’.”

We do not know Thandie Newton but she must be very attractive or famous or both to cause someone to risk acne and general scruffiness from a single, tobacco-smoke infused kiss.  For you younger magicians, remember that audiences will judge you on your appearance and hygiene so make good choices and form good habits.  Mr. Von Scheibner notes later in the article that he was kidding about not washing. “Presentation is part of the job done so I’ve always made sure I look the part – nails clean, hair done.”

And as for smoking, as someone once said, “cigarettes and kittens are wonderful and safe until you pop one in your mouth and light it on fire.”

Mr. Von Scheibner seems to have a good head on his shoulders and is unlikely to have it turned by the fawning of amorous media types or smoking damsels in distress.  He became intrigued with magic after watching David Blaine and clearly enjoys the attention our craft brings him.

At school he was known as “Magic Boy”, and if anyone teased him about it he won’t admit it. “I stopped performing for people at university because when you are known as the magic man everyone wants you to do tricks all the time. Sometimes I just want to chill so I kept it on the low.” Does it impress women? “It does. Girls are like: ‘You must be so good with your hands’. I don’t deny it.”

Ms. Butter ends her article with a purr: “Von Scheibner, I salute you – next time I need a cigarette lighter I will try my hardest to conjure you up.”

Editor’s note: we normally would have an image of Mr. Von Scheibner accompanying this article but were unable to find any available for editorial use.

Check out the full profile here.

Dan Garrett’s Heartz Is a Keeper

Inside Magic Image of Dan Garrett's Heartz LogoInside Magic Favorite Magician Dan Garrett’s newest effect Heartz is a winner.

We have spent incredible amounts of money for effects we have never used or even opened.  Most of the items were brought home and immediately condemned to permanent storage in our old steamer trunk or magic junk drawer.

Those effects probably grabbed our interest initially but lost their luster by the time we returned to our estate.  We are neither wasteful nor wealthy so we have tried to break this habit.

We now only buy magic tricks that we will actually perform.  It does not have to be a trick we would include in our professional act.  If we are sure we will perform it somewhere for someone, it is worthy of further consideration.

Few tricks may the cut.

Mr. Garrett’s Heartz is one of those very few tricks worthy of our attention and funds.

Here is what the audience sees.  We know this to be true because we sat in the audience during Mr. Garrett’s lecture last week when he performed.

The magician’s hands are empty.  He or she brings them together to form a heart shape.  The hands are still empty.  Slowly, the hands are rotated and a bright red sponge heart magically appears.

Let us review.

Hands are empty.

Hands are brought together to form the shape of a heart and can still be seen to be empty.

The hands turn slightly and a red heart appears between the fingers.

We were fooled and we watched Mr. Garrett carefully – we were getting wise to his tricky ways by that point in the lecture – and were amazed when the red heart appeared.

He held a red pen behind the sponge heart to resemble Cupid’s arrow.   In one fluid movement, the heart was split into two separate hearts; setting up a nice sponge ball routine with love as its theme.
Continue reading Dan Garrett’s Heartz Is a Keeper

Happy Birthday to Nozomi Sasaki

Inside Magic Image of Nozomi Sasaki in Magic Bunny OutfitInside Magic Favorite Nozomi Sasaki (“??? ?”) celebrates her birthday today.

We do not imagine she donned a Magician’s Rabbit costume as part of her fete but the press release from Fujicolor said she magically transformed into a bunny.

Fujicolor is celebrating its annual post card promotion and apparently wanted to show off the quality of its digital products by having gravure idol Nozomi Sasaki hidden within a big pink costume just in time to celebrate the Chinese new year which coincidentally is the Year of the Rabbit.

Yes, we know that Fujicolor and Nozomi Sasaki are Japanese but the press release said the costume was in recognition of the Chinese New Year.

That’s good enough for us.

Happy Birthday, Miss Sasaki-chan!

Here is a less costumed image of Miss Sasaki.

Inside Magic Image of Nozomi Sasaki