Our Magic Confession

Inside Magic Image of Avid Readers of Panther PrideMagicians, as a whole, are prideful.  We worry about our image, practice sleights to perfect them before presenting, write and rehearse patter, and of course comb our little remaining hair and clip or appropriately decorate our nails.

So our admission is hard to make.  We are shaking at the keyboard as we type – likely attributable to the unsteady shocks in the Los Angeles Metro Bus – but still we’re shaking so that means something.

The person reading this post next to us on the bus – and that is very nosey and they should be looking forward and not correcting our prose – says we should just get to it and stop being so dramatic.  Further, he says it doesn’t look like we remembered to take pains to improve our image before leaving for work today and why would a famous magician be riding a bus along Santa Monica Boulevard instead of traveling by limo or at least Uber?

We hope he gets off soon.

Okay, here’s the admission: we cannot do a perfect pressure fan.  We can do all sorts of fans but not a proper pressure fan.  There, it is out in the open now.  You can judge us.  Our fellow rider said if he knew what a “pressure fan” was he would judge us.  He is laughing now.  Probably at his own joke or maybe he is laughing at us.

We have been trying to do a proper pressure fan since we were twelve-years-old.  We can do a one-handed shuffle with either hand and lifts that would impress anyone except they’re so good they can’t be detected.  The fellow rider has stopped reading and is now eating Fritos very loudly.

We’ve read the technique, we’ve watched young children do perfect pressure fans with cards bigger than their cherubic faces.  We fail.

He is now drinking something from what looks to be an adult sippy cup but because he hasn’t opened to top properly, it is making a thunk-pop noise with every suck of liquid.  We wish he would go back to the Fritos but fear this will be a constant part of the ride for a while.  He’ll eat the Fritos, loudly, get thirsty, drink from the sippy cup and then back to the Fritos.

At The Magic Castle we watch with envy as magicians perform their wonderfully practiced routines but become irrationally jealous, insecure and diminished when they perform a pressure fan with such a smooth handling that it appears the cards perfectly align about their fingers with ease.  If only, we say silently, we had such skills.

We have thought of asking the more talented members at The Magic Castle, to teach us how to do a perfect pressure fan but we feel so much shame for not knowing at this point in our career.  We feel we are an impostor, a fraud; in an art that relishes impostors and frauds — so there is that philosophical, logic puzzle to work through.

He is back reading and corrected our characterization of his chocolate milk container as a “sippy cup” and does not think it should be our concern about his eating and drinking habits.

Perhaps that is the key.  Maybe we should not jealously covet the skills of other magicians, accept that we are at this time, unable to do a pressure fan and even though we haven’t for the last 90-years, we may one day develop the skill.  Just as we should not be concerned about others’ drinking and eating routines, we should be focused on what we can do and not what others are doing.

Our fellow rider has pulled the stop cord and is gathering his full meal and drink to depart.  He read the last part of this post and disagrees.  “You shouldn’t care what other folks are eating and drinking but you should at least know how to do a pressure fan if you’re going to call yourself a magician.”

We are pierced.

Our seatmate has left the bus now and we have a vacant seat next to us.  It is time to close the computer before we encounter another critic/editor for our long ride.

Nick Lewin’s Ultimate Color Changing Deck

Nick Lewin's Ultimate Color Changing DeckWe first met Nick Lewin through Pop Haydn when Mr. Lewin was performing on the same bill with Mr. Haydn.  To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect.  Mr. Lewin took the stage with a befuddled look on his face and seemed to be overly relaxed in his approach to the magic.  Yet, he blew us away.

His Slow Motion Torn and Restored Newspaper was a thing of beauty, his Linking Finger Ring was a thing of beauty as well but also a thing of mystery.  We know or thought we knew how the routine should be done to achieve the effect but Mr. Lewin was doing something slightly different and yet achieving the same effect plus.

Since that experience, we have seen Mr. Lewin perform in various locals and he is the same.  Always smiling, slightly  befuddled, easy-going, and amazing.  He has the classics of magic finely tuned from years of practice and actual performances in his hands and is in no rush to perform them.

He is not being chased and so there is no need to run.  His jokes and humorous approach to the effects do not overwhelm or take away from the magic, they fit in the routines because there is time for them to fit.  He is going to amaze and there is no reason to rush to what will be a wonderful conclusion – he is a friend of the audience and we are all looking at it together.

We have bought several of Mr. Lewin’s routines and we will have reviews in the future but we received one just the other day that seemed perfect for our act – at least according to the advertisement.  The Ultimate Color Changing Deck is an effect that would be the right ending for our card routine as performed in the basement of the Magic Castle.  We currently end with the emotional equivalent of “Yeah, that’s about it.  No need to stick around, there ain’t no more.  Skat! Get!”

We order the effect and received delivery within a very few days.  We watched his DVD, checked out the props and smiled with the gleeful look of a very satisfied magician or someone in need of further attention by trained professionals.  It would work, it would work really good.  (When we become gleeful, annoyingly gleeful (“AG”), we lose our ability to think in proper English.  The effect could even be transferred to our pet deck and we already could do the relatively easy sleights to accomplish the apparently impossible.

There are other color changing decks on the market.  Some of them might be good.  We have seen many of them in person either being performed or explained in lectures but none of them come up to this standard.  Mr. Lewin credits Ken Brooke for the idea and effect and even provides an interlude that may or may not fit your style.  The last sentence makes sense once you receive and review the effect.

The cost for the pre-release is $65.00 and it is well-worth it.  This is a color changing deck that will really work in real situations for real magicians in front of real audiences and leave them really amazed.

Check out Mr. Lewin’s site today.  We do not know how long the deal will be available on the Ultimate Color Changing Deck he is offering so it is best to get there as soon as possible.  Go! Get! Skat!

Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!

Magnetic Magic is Marvelous.

Inside Magic Image of Magnetic AttractionThis article is about magic and magnets.  If you are offended by either, you can skip to the website listed at the bottom to see the best array of magnets but we don’t know why you would, if you are truly offended unless you are only offended by the combination of magic and magnetics and like each individually just fine.

Just like we don’t know why we read from the back of the magazine first or try to invent new methods of throwing our used paper towels into the trash, we love magnets.  Maybe it’s just the way we were raised.  We recall, fondly, spending summers out at our uncle’s magnet farm and watch as he harvested them – each  year hoping for a good planting season and each year being a bit, just a bit disappointed but hopeful for next year.

The freshness dates on magnets are close to forever but our family was never one for storing things, so we’d rush the magnets to market and offer them to those who waited the entire spring season for new magnets.  Some had plenty of magnets already but they wanted the latest model or one with more strength.  We didn’t blame them.  Magnets are magic in their own right.

It was years after those blissful days at our uncle’s farm that we learned that magnets can be used for things.  One can use a magnet to hold a note to a steel refrigerator door to show off artwork or attach a “to do” list – named “to do” after the Earl of Sandwich youngest daughter, Toodles.  She would bring him sandwiches during his all day card games and make a list of ingredients for the household staff to purchase.

In the past year, we have learned that one can even use magnets in magic tricks.  We don’t know if this has been considered before but we found a way to use magnets with different polarities to hold things together or even (with one of the magnets reversed) to repel.

We are currently working on a levitation where our assistant (and applications to be that assistant are still available because of the alleged “danger”) wears a special costume composed of magnets set to repel magnets in a specially designed, high-power electrically wired base.  This would cause – to the best of our estimation – the assistant to appear to float.  We have tried it with store manikins (our other true love) and the effect is a bit clumsy still. For instance, if the assistant rotates even a little, he or she will slam to the base with a horrible, fracturing thump.  We have also abandoned the steel ring we were using to show there were no wires.  We nearly broke our shoulder when we were pulled to the base because we wouldn’t let go of the ring – again with a horrible thump – and then struck by the manikin constrained by the ring and now attracted to the base.

Edison said invention is 99 percent something and 1 percent something dealing with sweat.  We know some work lies ahead of us to perfect the effect but that won’t stop us from advertising it for sale very soon.

We are trying to come up with a name for the effect that won’t give away the use of magnets.  “Floating Person” and “Floating Lady” are the two we have hit on so far.  We are thinking the pricing will be some amount more than what it costs to make – that is currently $32,000.00.

A downside – or maybe a feature – is that when the base magnet is turned on and electricity is flowing, the platform emits the attractive strength to snatch from their owners: watches, pens, 1943 U.S. pennies (they were made of steel during the war), pacemakers, some orthodontia, steel plates in heads, animal collars (with or without animals), hip replacement parts, car parts and manikin stands.  It could be a feature if we could hide the fact that it was the magnetic base that was attracting these steel parts and if we didn’t kill anyone by having parts ripped from their bodies or injure animals – all of our magic is animal friendly.

Our uncle’s farm went the way of many magnetic fields.  The land was mined with specialized tools and sold off to rich people with a need for magnets and large freshly mined fields.  The 42 acre spread is now an empty field just off the highway in Southern Illinois.  It used to be in Michigan but was moved because it was attracting fish out of the Great (ha!) Lakes.  Now it is just a safe piece of land with an occasional magnetic just below its grassy surface.

In fact, if the farm hadn’t been moved and mined, we could have brought the price down for our illusion to free plus 10 percent of free for profit.  But now we need to buy magnets on the open market.

Fortunately, we found just the spot.  K&J Magnetics have every kind of magnet you could want.  Want a ring shaped magnet?  Want a square magnet? Want a round magnet? K&J Magnets has them all.

You can check out the K&J Magnetics site here.

By the way, we are receiving no compensation from K&J Magnetics.  We just love their site.  It is like a wishbook for magic and magnet lovers.

Read a full history on our uncle’s farm and the magnet price war of 1972 that led to the mining and sale of the farm in our upcoming book, Magnetic Money Maker: The True Story of a Man and His Magnets and the Forces that Sought to Repel Him.

Inside Magic Review of Honeybee Playing Cards

Honeybee Elite Playing CardsAny deck of playing cards are magic cards and if there is one thing we love it is cards.

In the 12 decades we’ve been performing, we have always used cards.  For the first part of our career, when we were young and impetuous (assuming impetuous means what we think it means), and we are reluctant to admit this but know we are among friends, we even used bridge dimensioned decks with borders and kitties.  We don’t mean that the cards had borders or kitties necessarily but that we would perform tricks for animals and residents at our mother’s boarding house in the little town that would one day become Mystic Hollow.

As the Apostle Paul said not about playing cards, “we have put aside childish things.”

On March 15, 1972, we switched to one brand and size and quality.  We made the move to Bee Playing Cards made by the U.S. Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.  At that time, we only knew of Bee deck in the larger “Poker” size and dimension.  They were larger in width and height than the childish “Bridge” deck we had been using.  The also lacked a border.  The beautiful diamond pattern ran up to and past the edges of the card’s back.  Yes, they were a devil to mark (or to read the markings later) but they were so smooth, so wonderful.  We found that our lifelong struggle with dealing seconds seemed to ease.  No border and smooth with great, long-lasting cardstock made for a perfect deck.

If  you were to visit our “house” here in Mystic Hollow, California,  you would immediately notice a couple of things – we have thousands of Bee decks in neat stacks around the place; we have hundreds of Bee decks or cards in the process of being gimmicked, split or marked; and we have too many animals living in too small a space.  We have some Bicycle, Tally-Ho and other quality brands as well but they are under a special stack titled, “Odd Decks.”

Imagine our glee when we heard that Penguin Magic was offering a deck in both colors we love (red and blue), in a poker size, with a borderless deck and geometric shaped back.  We know people suggest others imagine their “glee” and that it is a popular way to introduce a subject, but we rarely use it.  We only use it as it should be used, when we earnestly want a person or persons to fix in their mind our own emotional and physical reaction to some situation that could be objectively described as “gleeful.”  And so we pause as you imagine it or pretend to imagine it (“we care not for authenticity just apparent indulgence,” Napoleon Bonaparte, 1901).

That glee carried us through the order process for the company’s new Honeybee deck in red and black.  It lingered and reminded us as we waited a very short time for the order to be sent and received.  Our valet let  us know the decks were on premises and we drove the speed limit towards our West Hollywood apartment.  We wanted to floor it but our “Classic” car is also old and doesn’t take to having a driver “floor” anything.  It still has a cigarette lighter for goodness sakes with a small icon of a cigarette but is identified in the hardbound published owner’s manual as a “cigar lighter.”

We made our way into our apartment complex, tossed the keys to the still running and sputtering Classic to the car parker and signed the necessary paperwork to receive the package delivered to someone other than us.  We had the package opened before we began our elevator ride to the 22nd floor.  That’s how distracted and gleeful we were, our building doesn’t have a 22nd floor.  We heard it was because there is some religion that views the number two as okay on its own but really bad when combined with another two.  Then we heard the reason was because our building was only eight stories tall.  Regardless of the reason, we didn’t have 22 floors to open the decks now freed from their mailing packaging.

Still we were able to get them open – each of them, red and blue.  We practiced fanning both decks with one-handed moves that we thought we lost long ago.  And like long ago, we narrated the action like a little league player would fantasize aloud about being in the last game of the World Series and positioned to catch the final out.  “Here’s Lance Burton doing two-handed split fans on Johnny Carson’s show!”  We dropped on occasion but covered with a corny joke or two.

The others in the elevator did not care for our narration but they seemed to like the fanning attempts.  It is a small elevator and was nearly filled with well-dressed folks returning from work.  We remember that feeling.  Considering the work they likely  did all day, it was kind of them not to say anything mean or hurtful during our short ride to the 8th floor.  One of them did get kind of philosophical, “Why are you doing this?”  and one got into kind of a Sartre-specific mindset, “What could we do to stop you?”  We are lucky to live among such smart and well-read people.

We rushed to our apartment, fed the approximately too many cats and crashed on our beanbag chair / studio bed.  The decks felt wonderful to the touch, allowed for easy Faro shuffles and second deals.  The pattern on the back is friendly and life-affirming.  It looks like a honeycomb; likely related in some mysterious way to the deck’s name “Honeybee.”

Half of the cat population came over to see what I was doing.  After a few minutes, half of that group left to their daily errands, but the final four were definitely digging what we were putting down.   They would slap their paw with silent vigor each time we dealt a card.  We would turn the card over to show them that it had changed and they readied to slap the next card.  Cats will not display surprise – it’s not in their genes.  We’ve learned not to be disappointed by their lack of reaction to our miracles.  It’s who they are and we can’t change them.  But we have stopped acting surprised by things they do.  It is a passive aggressive approach but it makes us feel that we have taken some revenge.  Caught a bird and dropped it at our feet? Seen it.  Climbed to the top of the curtains? What’s new?  Used the kitty litter properly? Big woop.

We played with the Honeycomb deck long enough to prove to ourselves that it was a good investment.  We may use it in our performances or at least keep one of the decks on us should the need arise to impress someone who is not a cat.

Our one aggravation with the deck is the “P3” and Penguin Magic marking on the bottom of the card case. This isn’t a problem when the cards can be put into a different card case that generally matches the back pattern but is a real problem when one does not have a duplicate, non “Penguin Magic” card case for a back design one wants to use.  It is not a huge problem but it is frustrating.  We would prefer the card case appear without the “P3” or Penguin Magic trademark.  Not that any audience will inspect the card case and we are certainly able to hide the bottom of the case in our performance but still, we don’t know, it’s just kinda, you know…

Check out the Honey Bee deck here.  It is well-worth the price and it is a deck you will enjoy – even without an audience.

Congressional Resolution on Magic Stalls

Inside Magic Image of The Grim Game PosterWe learned today that the Magic Resolution stalled in House of Representatives

We’ve all done it and by “we” we mean “us.”  Read through the U.S. Congressional and Senate dockets, looking for magic-related items so that we can spring into junior lobbyist and fight for or against the bill by whipping up support among the very influential “magician vote” and donate tens of dollars to candidates supporting our position.

We are ashamed (for the purposes of this post only) that we did not notice a bill that remains pending in the U.S. House of Representatives; at least it appears stalled according to the “Actions” tab on the Congressional status page.

As far as we can tell, H.Res.642 — 114th Congress (2015-2016) is dead.  It was referred to committee and never returned.  Maybe it was replaced with another bill in this, the 115th Congress, but we have not found that piece of legislation yet.  The bill read in appropriate part:

Recognizing magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure.

Whereas magic is an art form with the unique power and potential to impact the lives of all people;

Whereas magic enables people to experience the impossible;

Whereas magic is used to inspire and bring wonder and happiness to others;

Whereas magic has had a significant impact on other art forms;

Whereas magic, like the great art forms of dance, literature, theater, film, and the visual arts, allows people to experience something that transcends the written word;

Whereas many technological advances can be directly traced to the influential work of magicians;

Whereas futurist Arthur C. Clarke claimed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic;

Whereas one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, was inspired by magic and co-wrote one of the very first books on magic in the late 15th century;

Whereas modern cinema would not exist today without the innovative work of the accomplished magician Georges Méliès;

Whereas magicians are visual storytellers who seamlessly interweave elements of mystery, wonder, emotion, and expression;

Whereas magic is an outstanding artistic model of individual expression;

Whereas magic fulfills some of the highest ideals and aspirations of our country by encouraging people to question what they believe and see;

Whereas magic is a unifying force across cultural, religious, ethnic, and age differences in our diverse Nation;

Whereas magic is an art that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary;

Whereas the American magicians Harry Houdini and David Copperfield have been the most successful magicians of the past two centuries;

Whereas David Copperfield, introduced to magic as a boy growing up in New Jersey, has been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress;

Whereas David Copperfield, with 21 Emmy Awards, 11 Guinness World Records, and over four billion dollars in ticket sales, has impacted every aspect of the global entertainment industry;

Whereas David Copperfield, through his magic, inspires great positive change in the lives of Americans;

Whereas people consistently leave David Copperfield’s live magic show with a different perspective than when they entered;

Whereas Rebecca Brown of Portland, Oregon, left a David Copperfield magic show with a newfound inspiration to pursue her lifelong, unfulfilled passion for dance;

Whereas three months after Rebecca Brown attended the David Copperfield magic show, she performed her first choreographed recital in Portland, Oregon’s Pioneer Square;

Whereas programs such as Project Magic, created by David Copperfield, use magic as a form of therapy for children with physical, psychological, and social disabilities;

Whereas learning magic through programs such as Project Magic can help these children improve their physical and mental dexterity and increase their confidence;

Whereas learning magic through programs such as Project Magic helps these children realize that they are no longer less able than their peers;

Whereas programs such as Project Magic teach these children that they are more capable and have a newfound ability to do what others cannot;

Whereas cities such as Wylie, Texas, and its mayor, Eric Hogue, recognize and promote the art of magic with official proclamations, summer educational programs, and the first festival dedicated to the art of magic in the State of Texas;

Whereas Mayor Eric Hogue, who learned the art of magic as a child, continues to use those skills to teach elementary school students about the different roles and responsibilities of local government;

Whereas magic is timeless in appeal and requires only the capacity to dream;

Whereas magic transcends any barrier of race, religion, language, or culture;

Whereas magic has not been properly recognized as a great American art form, nor has it been accorded the institutional status on a national level commensurate with its value and importance;

Whereas there is not an effective national effort to support and preserve magic;

Whereas documentation and archival support required by such a great art form has yet to be systematically applied to the field of magic; and

Whereas it is in the best interest of the national welfare to preserve and celebrate the unique art form of magic: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) recognizes magic as a rare and valuable art form and national treasure; and

(2) supports efforts to make certain that magic is preserved, understood, and promulgated.

 

We understand that this is a hot button issue but suggest that Congress consider carefully whether they wish to drum-up the ire of magicians by letting this resolution sit.  We agree that “it is in the best interest of the national welfare to preserve and celebrate the unique art form of magic.”  We even agree not to move for an amendment proclaiming the inherent value of magic-based websites such as InsideMagic.com.  We would also leave off our language requiring a grant to such websites to study further the influence of Magic on the general population.  That’s how sincere we are.  We don’t often take political stands but when we do, we stand up tall.

Some will point with scorn at our 1988 attempt to become mayor of Mystic Hollow.  We lost by 15 votes in a community of 45.

It was a hard loss and we took it hard.

We tried to figure out who would vote against us and favor of the mayor who had led our town so ably for 20 years before.  Some pointed to our scandal plagued past (and there is still no proof we used a marked deck in our performance of “Pick a Card” on local cable television); or our inability to name any of the responsibilities of Mayor; or our very fashion forward wearing of Miami Vice colors sans ties.  We think the reason we lost was because Mystic Hollow was not ready for the type of change we wanted to bring to the hamlet.

Our platform:

  1. Free breakfast (meaning at least a donut) for all residents;
  2. Free lunch (meaning at least a potpie) for all residents who did not already have lunch or breakfast;
  3. Free dinner in exchange for a promise to perform a magic trick for other customers at the French Drop Inn;
  4. Free rent for all still living in their parents’ home;
  5. All cards should be made by U.S. Playing Cards in Cincinnati, Ohio (this was a toss to a local job creator that ultimately moved some production to Kentucky);
  6. Rabbit breeding should be inspected by the local vet;
  7. No wearing pajamas in public (this was said to unfairly single out Tony Spain and his family but the Tony Spain – Inside Magic feud was already too far along to stop);
  8. Free late night snack (meaning at least one donut not held over from the previous day although said donut could be of the population of donuts that would be offered for breakfast on the following day);

 

Our opponent, Mayor Niceguy (pronounced “Neece gee” in our campaign advertising) promised only to keep things the same.

After he won, he called to extend his gracious thoughts and appreciation of our down-and-dirty campaign.  We took it the best we could; considering we had used all of the napkins allotted by the always considerate staff at the Dunkin’ Donuts – site of our campaign’s anticipated celebration.  He offered us a job in his administration as a “gopher” or “go fer” to help out around the office and bring / pick-up things for him.  As flattered as we were to be considered for such a position, it seemed like too much work and we were in a bad place emotionally after losing.  As we told a reporter for Time magazine, “It hurts real bad.”  To be candid, the reporter was just in town covering a welding explosion and this was ten years after the election and we’re not sure the reporter heard us.

But our democracy is alive except the bill that would recognize Magic as an invaluable art form is apparently dead.  We’ll follow up on this after the elections in November.   We expect this bill to be a huge issue in the debates and advertising.  We also expect that the McRib will become a regular item available at McDonald’s and not just something that comes and goes.

Read the full bill and the activities behind it here.

Read a great Business Insider article on how the bill got its start here.

See the “I’m Just a Bill” video for further education on the process on YouTube here.

Read just one of our articles attacking Tony Spain here.