Category Archives: Review

Review: St. Louis IBM Jam – May 30, 2015 (Part Two)

This past weekend was the IBM Jam in St. Louis. For a little about what it was all about, you can read Part One of my review here.

After Ice’s lecture was over, we had around an hour (give or take) to relax, talk, and jam. (Huh. It’s almost like they planned it this way.) During that time, while Joey Night was showing me his home-made thimble that our little group got a dose of Shawn Farquhar’s mind at work as he played with the thimble a bit, but I’ll expand on that a little further down the line. But now, it’s time for our next lecture.

Friends and fellow magi, put your hands together for Chuck Arkin!

First off, I’m not a mentalist and have no plans in the foreseeable future for doing a real mentalism routine, but as I watch each mentalist lecture that comes around, I do develop an appreciation for the art form.

Chuck’s lecture went into depth about some of the systems that mentalists use. I won’t expand too much on that, except that Chuck’s practical handling of some effective methods demonstrated the effectiveness of the methods, both with effective gaffs and without. Okay, maybe I haven’t seen enough mentalism lectures, I’ll admit, but seeing principles I’ve read about done well enough that I didn’t see through the methods impressed the hell out of me.

This was the first time I’ve seen or met Chuck, and of the three presenters that day, Chuck’s the only one who isn’t a full-time magician. He and his friend, Joe Farag, came down from Cincinnati, OH, to the Jam. In addition to being a presenter, he’s also the International Treasurer for the IBM in addition to being a vice president in major banking organization in the Midwest. Be that as it may, he still gigs and he definitely showed why he had his place on the day’s billing.

The thing is, because of the practical applications that Chuck was showing, I found myself rethinking tricks and routines I’ve been mulling over and seeing new possibilities to applications. Now, it’s something that happens with most lectures, but Chuck’s mentalism isn’t clouded with a bunch of ego that I tend to see other mentalists covered up in. and that little difference made it a bit easier for what he taught to sink in.

After another break for talking and jamming, we come up to the final lecture of the day.

Please give a warm welcome to the IBM International President, Shawn Farquhar!

In all fairness, I’ve been a fan of Shawn’s since before I got back into magic. I saw his appearance on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us a few years before I got into the magic scene and before it made its US appearance. (Thanks, YouTube!) He was also one of the first lecture reviews I did on this blog (without going back to check, I think probably the first) and for as much as he may have a name for himself after appearances on television and world-wide acclaim (the most FISM awards on record to date, in addition to awards from plenty of other organizations), he’s very easily one of the nicest people you’ll meet in this business.

Also, when it comes to magic, he is an analytical, computational machine. The man sees the potential in each trick and gimmick he sees. In this way, I pretty much consider him North America’s answer to Juan Tamariz. In addition to this, in his presidency, he’s been a driving force to add value to being a member of this international club at a time when people have started doubting the value to having membership. In taking on the presidency, Shawn’s worked hard to make sure that taking the job did not just render him a figurehead by adding resources like Ask Alexander to member magicians and giving value to the membership that far outweighs the cost of dues. Before I keep doing the gushing fan-boy thing, though, let’s get back to his lecture, though.

Quite a bit of his lecture was what we saw a couple of years ago, but Shawn’s one of those magicians that even when you know some of his tricks, he still hits you in a way that you don’t expect. I know that viewing one of his routines, even from an extreme angle that should have given it away, and even knowing the damn move, I was still just as caught off guard. Even Dan Todd, who had sat in the same lecture before I had and was on stage with Shawn assisting, was just as taken in by the effects.

And here’s the maddening thing: In general, outside of the use of some specific gimmicks for an effect, most of the moves he is using, especially in cards, incorporates moves that most magicians have in books that they have on their shelves. The man sees all these applications that can be applied to the moves. Using psychology and human perception (after reading Tommy Wonder’s “Books of Wonder,” I’m loathe, for good reason, to use the term “misdirection”), he pulls off stuff that, if you realized what was going on, you’d have a bruise on your forehead from clapping it for being suckered in.

That’s not saying that he isn’t an outstanding manipulator, because he’s one of the best. What he’s demonstrates, though, is how when you have that move or set of moves down, you can stop thinking about the move and open yourself to the applications. In his hands, a simple deck of cards becomes a tool he can use the same way a master painter can realize new realities with paints and a brush.

And like said master painter, like most master artists, he’s not limited in just one medium. Going back to the thimble I mentioned before, when Shawn picked it up and started playing with it, he started spewing different ideas and premises that could be applied, riffing ideas out. Later, at dinner, I mentioned a routine that’s just beginning to take root in my mind, and he started riffing on that, opening me to additional possibilities I hadn’t even had an inkling of. Whether I work the ideas into the routine, it started the juices flowing with a chemistry that I hadn’t even considered.

For everything that happened at the Jam, it surely didn’t feel like six hours

For an analogy of methods and styles between the three presenters, I’ll try this: Ice McDonald is the shot of tequila you and your friends taste and drink down to get an evening’s festivities started. You’re not wasted by any means, but you’re fired up for what’s to come. Chuck Arkin’s presentation and manner is the smooth bourbon you share as you and your friends share a good moment of bonding, maybe after having a bite to eat along the way. And Shawn Farquhar, he’s that cocktail you get you ask the bartender to make you their favorite drink to mix, where you know you’re going to get a combination of liquors in a surprising way that knocks you off your feet. Either that, or he’s the jungle juice of every liquor in the house of some rowdy party. I’m not sure which.

Slainte mhath!

For more information on the International Brotherhood of Magicians, go to www.magician.org.

In St. Louis, you can find out about IBM Ring One at ibmring1.com.

Ice McDonald’s website is at icestormentertainmentgroup.com.

For Shawn Farquhar, you can visit his site at www.magichampion.com or visit his YouTube channel here.

Ice McDonald, Chuck Arkin, me and Reggie, and Shawn Farquhar

Ice McDonald, Chuck Arkin, me and Reggie, and Shawn Farquhar

Review: St. Louis IBM Jam – May 30, 2015 (Part One)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted in this blog, and it’s time I got the ball rolling again. Fortunately, in this review, I get to review one of my established favorite magicians, whom I wrote a review for before, and a magician whose lectures I just dig, plus one magician I hadn’t heard of before.

OK, to start off with, one of the things Shawn Farquhar ushered into the IBM when he took the presidency last summer was the idea of an IBM Jam. These are member-only events that are a combination of fellowship and presentations. The lecturers donated their time and expenses to be at these events. Shawn was able to schedule a handful of these, and St. Louis Ring One was able to host the final one of Shawn presidential tenure. Also on hand at each event was Kenrick “Ice” McDonald, who in addition to being an Order of Merlin in the IBM, is also the current president of the SAM. For those readers who may not be familiar with the organization acronyms I’m throwing out, the IBM is the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the SAM is the Society of American Magicians.

The Jams are open to all IBM members, and even though Ring One hosted, we had magicians show up from all over the Midwest and also from the South. I’ve been working with thimbles lately, so I started talking to few guys also into thimbles from other rings, not to mention got some ideas from my friend Joey Night when he pulled out a thimble he made.

After about an hour of everybody talking, jamming different tricks (mainly cards, but also coins and whatever else people brought with them), and just getting to know each other a bit, our first lecture started.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ice McDonald!

Okay, this is the second time I’ve seen Ice lecture, and for me, the man is like a tent revival evangelist preaching the gospel of performing good magic. Seriously, I dig this man’s lectures. If there is one magician who gets me fired up to not only perform, but go out and perform well, giving everything I’ve got both in rehearsal and performance, it’s Ice.

One of the topics he focused on was practicing your outs. An out is what you do when a trick fails, whether it’s at the end or somewhere midway. His delivered thoughts on how to practice outs in a way that, even though I hadn’t thought of them that way before, I’m sure that there were some that had. I could go into detail about his thoughts on this, but it wouldn’t do justice to Ice’s message.

Here’s the kicker, though. Another strong message Ice preached was not just to go out and perform magic, but that we owe it to the art to go out and perform good magic. See, it’s a message we’ve heard plenty of times before, but Ice’s message is not as much a condemnation of bad magic (it’s there, but that’s not the focus), as much as “Go forth and perform Good Magic. Your audience is watching and they deserve it.” Coming from Ice and his passion for the art, it’s a bit inspiring.

Now, Ice is noted mainly as a stage magician who has made his mark mainly for his routine with doves, and his act is outstanding, but where I’ve appreciated his magic from the first time I saw him, I can say I became a fan and thoroughly appreciate why he’s the president of the SAM (first black president, by the way) at dinner after the Jam. This is a bit of a digression, but it is why as much as I think of him as a friend in this business, I’m now a fan.

See, we had dinner at the hotel the Jam was at, and we had one server for the horde of us. As soon as the server found out what we did, magicians at the table started performing for him and frying the poor guy’s head. Now, we’re getting ready to leave, and he wants to see one last trick. Ice has been ready for this. This kid is the only layman watching, and Ice performs a couple of mentalism tricks with cards. His final trick in his routine is one I know I’m familiar with a variation of, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but damn! When Ice finished his routine, it felt like a miracle. His poise and command, it was like watching a wizard with every other magi a trickster. When Shawn said before that Ice sweated magic, he was not kidding. When Ice was done, it was a proverbial mic drop. I saw every bit of why Ice has the respect he has. If I had known what was coming, I would have filmed it. Then again, all I would have filmed was floor as I was pretty much dumbstruck.

Okay, back from the digression.

Next up, Ladies and Gentleman, Chuck Arkin and Shawn Farquhar…

Me, Reggie, and Ice McDonald

Me, Reggie, and Ice McDonald

Part Two can be read here.

A Quick Review of Shawn Farquhar’s performance for the 2013 I.B.M. Ring 1 President’s Banquet

Now, for anybody reading this blog, if you are unfamiliar with Shawn Farquhar, he has more international magic awards, not to mention multiple awards from Canada, than most in this business. I could recap them, but seriously, just read the Wikipedia article on him at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawn_Farquhar or look at his site at http://magichampion.com.  I don’t need to repeat the credits and discuss what’s already been written.

I could tell you how stellar his act is and do a play by play of what he did, but when a magician is in his class, you know it’s going to be a hell of a show, unless things are really off, which was not the case by far. He is bloody well phenomenal. 

So what am I going to review, then? Well, it goes back to what this blog is in regards to: How his performance affects me and where I’m going.

Do I hope to someday win some awards? Hell, yes. I enjoy competing, and doing magic makes that no different. Really, though, it’s his personality on and off stage.

I’ve been reading a book by a busking magician, “To Lure with Spectacle” by Jimmy Talksalot. He references something said by Jim Cellini about when you perform, you have to play with the audience. In addition to the amazing skill that Shawn shows in his show, he is always playing with the audience. He was cheerful and inviting before the show and continued that same personality throughout the show and afterwards as people came up to talk.

Yeah, there was quite a bit of comedy to his act, but I never got the sense that any of the smiling and joking around were purely an act for our benefit.  Yeah, he is a consummate performer, but when he performed his final routine for the night, “Shape of My Heart,” which was highly technical and is one of the pieces he has won awards for, as I watched the close-up on the projection screen, I also glanced up from time to time to catch the look on his face. It was the look of a man who, even though he is doing some seriously technical work, he’s still a kid at play.

Now, he’s still just another guy, and he’s doing what is his career, so he’s got all the hardship and ugly bits of life that go with that. For all I know, when he goes home, he could go back to absolute toil and turmoil. I don’t know because we all have lives behind closed doors, for better or for worse.

As a magician and performer, though, for all there is of that real life, you see an adult kid at play with a room full of new friends.

When I go out and perform, that’s where I want to be. If I’m busking for a few people or for a large crowd, I want to be able to make that moment happen. I’m already feeling it quite a bit when I perform, but I still have enough nervous energy running that it’s not always as evident on either side of the “stage.”

It might sound sentimental or cliché, but when you play like that and that joy is infectious, for all the sleight of hand and skill, that joy is where the magic is.

Yeah, I want a little of what he’s got, and I will get there.