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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.

Daily Dose of Magic – Pop Haydn “The Intricate Web of Distraction”

Daily Dose of Magic – Pop Haydn “The Intricate Web of Distraction”

Pop Haydn (www.pophaydn.com) has posted a number of recent videos on his blog at pophaydn.wordpress.com, but as this is one of favorite routines of his, I decided to share this one. There are a number of great Color-Changing Knife routines, and while trying to work out what routine I want to do, I’ve read and studied his lecture notes on his. Still, it’s not the same as seeing him do such a classic routine and he’s still at the top of my bucket list of magicians I want to meet. Seriously, if I can even channel a little of Pop’s charm and ability as my acts develop, I’ll consider it a personal win.

Pop Haydn “The Intricate Web of Distraction”

Daily Dose of Magic – Pop Haydn “The Mongolian Pop Knot”

Daily Dose of Magic – Pop Haydn “The Mongolian Pop Knot”

As I think about what routines to have in my act, although I love doing “Ropes Through The Neck,” I’m still thinking about doing something else instead. I’ve got Pop’s booklet on this routine, and it’s a consideration, even though so much of this routine is just the Pop Haydn personality shining through. Even if I didn’t use anything else from the routine, though, I am so using the Pixie Dust lines.

Pop Haydn “The Mongolian Pop Knot”

Daily Dose of Magic – Eugene Burger “Thought Sender”

Daily Dose of Magic – Eugene Burger “Thought Sender”

Eugene Burger (http://www.magicbeard.com) is one of the contemporary Great American Magicians. He’s got the awards and recognition in the magic community and in performance and interviews is a great storyteller. The beard might be one of the first things that catches your eye when you see him, but with his performance and skill, it won’t be what you remember him for. This is one of his most noted mentalism routines. Enjoy.

Eugene Burger “Thought Sender”

Daily Dose of Magic – Tom Stone “Benson Burner”

I love working with sponge balls, and this is Tom Stone’s (Wikipedia article)  take on the classic “Benson Bowl Routine.” I’ve linked to his Wikipedia article due to his site being unavailable at this time. The footage of the routine is not necessarily the best, but you do get to see the effect. I seriously do love this routine.

Tom Stone “Benson Burner”

My Backstory, Part 2, and Finally Getting Around to Why I’m Writing This Blog

Last November (in the event that this blog lasts long enough, I mean in 2012), my wife and I ventured into Gibbol’s. Being from Ft. Wayne, IN, she had never been there, though she had taken me to Stoner’s Funstore, which we later found Gibbol’s is modeled off of, as the owners of the two stores are related. Suddenly, I found myself immersed in magic again. The seal was broken. I walked out with a new Hot Rod set and another bit of close-up magic closely related, and she was entranced with a prop item for doing an Ambitious Card routine. Okay, why they recommended that to her as something to start off with, I have no idea, seeing how there’s an awful lot of fundamental work that needs to be learned before doing it, but that’s a whole different story. She was happy with her item, so that was all that mattered.

On my way out, I grabbed a card for the local Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) chapter, Assembly 8, and went to their website as soon as I got home. This led me to a link to the local International Brother of Magicians (I.B.M.) chapter, Ring 1, website and I found out about a lecture Ring 1 was hosting given by Dan Fleschman, a local magician who has been working the restaurant scene in Colorado. We misunderstood who was all invited to the lecture and ended up crashing. While we were there, the first person to approach me was Harry Monti. Harry (and I’ll probably rave a bit more about this man, later. Hell, it’s not just likely, but more like inevitable) was warm in welcoming me in, and had I known more about him at the time, I would have probably been way too much of a fanboy and gotten flustered. But, as it was, we just talked together like two fans of magic. Combine that with the few other new people I met, I felt welcomed in and was looking forward to my first meeting with Assembly 8, which was, due to the way the calendar fell, the next night. Now, if anything, Dan’s lecture was pretty inspiring to me.

Now, for those who aren’t part of the magic scene, when guest lecturers come in, typically the lecturers are not just magicians who do a series of tricks, but they’re working performers. Most of the time, they’re selling tricks and lecture notes, but they also give advice from their perspective about working both from a technical and performance perspective. Most of the advice you’ll find in books or on video, but seeing it life with the chance to do some Q & A brings it all to the forefront and you see it in a very practical way. Dan’s lecture was no different, and seeing this all in practice just pulled me in deeper. I already had the magic bug, but now I was getting hooked deeper.

So, now the next night, I headed to my first Assembly 8 meeting. The tone here was a lot different. After the business meeting portion of things, we got into magic. At that point, basically there was a theme for the evening and anybody who wanted to perform that night could. I probably saw as many tricks backfire as worked that night and found a new appreciation with this group. Even if you went up and the trick failed, the group was with you. They might laugh, but they have all been there, so they are laughing with you. I got a good sense that this is a nurturing group. The majority of the members (and this applies to both clubs, which share a large amount of the same members) are hobbyists. There’s a smaller group of semi-pros who still keep day jobs and a handful of pros that do this stuff as their sole income. Once again, I saw Harry, but this time, the warmest welcome was from the assembly’s Vice President, Dan Todd. Like me, he works in databases and we hit it off. Seriously, Dan’s one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and any organization that has him as a representative has a serious asset.

What I found at that meeting, and later when I went to a regular Ring 1 meeting, was a group of people who had, in general, been doing this a long time and loved to help build new people up. In a future blog post, I’ll discuss what I see as the differences between what the two local clubs offer their members, but for now, I’ll just say I’m now a proud member of both clubs and their respective national organizations, and the past ten months dealing with these people has been a great source of joy for me.

What I can finally get to, though, is what I’ll probably discuss the most in this blog (or at least for a while in the beginning).

When I toyed around with magic as a kid, I learned a few tricks and worked the hell out of them. In the case of the Hot Rod, I had the moves down pat, but then, it really is an introductory trick into this stuff. Now I’m older and pretty much starting out again, I see so much available out there. Add in the availability of tricks, books, videos, etc., that the Internet makes available, and it becomes too easy to get caught up in buying the new shiny or learning a new move just enough before getting distracted by the next in a never-ending line-up.

In just the ten months I’ve been doing this, now, I’ve started trying my hand at busking magic and also competed in my first competition. (I didn’t place, but the experience was worth it!) What I found in this time, though, was that there’s so much out there available, but the stuff that I see working best, either for me or for the performances I watch, works because of a lot of fundamentals that aren’t necessarily pushed by the vendors, even though, when you watch the lectures or read articles by the pros, are absolutely necessary for the best work. Uh, that is why they’re called fundamentals, after all.

I’ve started back in with a magic course that was offered as a correspondence course in 1928, The Tarbell Course in Magic. I’m starting back with the course doing it as it was originally intended. As it was a correspondence course, you had seven to ten days between the arrival of each new lesson. Now, in 1941, the course was restructured as a set of books that is a serious library of magic, and I’ve got those, also. The beauty of the original course, though, is that the lessons and the amount of time given for each lesson make a pretty solid base for all sorts of magic as you develop the methods and sleight of hand and performance skills.

As I’m writing this, I’m into lesson four, and intend to proceed through the 61 originally intended weeks developing my skill. I’m probably going to discuss a good amount of what I find along the way, but for those who aren’t part of the magic community, I’m going to try to do this without giving anything away. A couple of reasons for this. First, I’m not going to give any of the secrets away because as a magician, that’s just bad form. Secondly, I find that sometimes if I know how something is done, some of the mystique is lost, and I don’t want to take that away from anybody else. I still like to be amazed, and I like it when the people around me still have that “Wow” moment.

So, now I’ve got the initial preliminaries to this blog out of the way, I’m ready to start focusing on the next topics. Sorry that I didn’t take the short way around to get here, but if you’ve ever talked with me, you’ll know that’s typical of me.