Tag Archives: Card Magic

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

Experience Review – St. Louis Fringe Fest Performance, 24JUN2014

Once I got confirmed for this show, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have anybody watching. Outdoor festival, Sunday afternoon, 4:30 pm. I was less worried about the show going well than I was about anybody being there to see it. A dear friend of mine was in the area, and where I had hoped that she would be able to make it, it was the same time and day as her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party. (Which, had I known about earlier, I would have been at. Again, Happy 50th, Tom and Linda, and thanks for being one of my sets of surrogate parents during high school.)

I had thought about publicizing the show a bit more than just the week before on my blog and on Facebook , LinkedIn, and Twitter, but I couldn’t come up with a flyer I liked. I had tried for something more like black and white punk show flyers that I collected from college campuses, either from local bands I liked or just because I dug the artwork so much, but I really couldn’t come up with something I liked. Plus, knowing this was mainly a free show, I didn’t want to try to bum decent artwork from some of my more artistic friends. I had one friend in mind that probably would have come up with something perfect, but I value his artistic ability too much to have done that. As this was to be street performance done a little bigger, though, Ben’s artistic direction on a flyer would have been perfect. Maybe next time.

Anyway, I pretty much just settled on word of mouth and the little bit of publicity.

I worked through my routine, and where they wanted about a 45 minute show, I had everything timed to about 38 minutes, and, knowing that there would be a lot of additional patter as I played with the crowd (see, I’m still working under the assumption there will be a crowd), I figured I was in a good safe zone for time.

A couple of days before, I got an email from the organizer for the street performers, and she gave the alternate plans in case there was rain. We’d move the stage to across the street from the park. Not a problem.

I had planned to busk during Saturday, but when I got to the park and saw the arrangement, it wasn’t going to work. The park was crammed, with displays, and to try to get a small circle show was not going to happen. The heat and humidity had people pretty much sitting watching the main stage and there was only one busker working, To Yo, a top spinner. I did get to see what the staging situation would be, though, watched Martin Bronson from Tapmen Productions tap dance on the stage, and got to watch To Yo performing some seriously cool top spinning.

Okay, getting into Sunday, I got a call in the morning about everything being moved into the church because of rain. No worries. Posted the update to Facebook, and settled in to relax before final prep for the show. When time came, packed the act and the wife and away we went. Once we got to the park, checked in and was told we were back outside, so another update.

Not many people in the park and most of the vendors had packed up. The act before me had to end really early. It was another tap dancing group, but they hadn’t brought their own surface to dance on, and the stage had started to tear their shoes apart. I was told I could start whenever I wanted (to get ahead of any possible rain), but as I had advertised it was at 4:30, so if anybody I knew was going to show, I wanted them to see the entire act. I was approached by a couple of little girls (who I later found out were named Mikayla and Torrence) who asked if they could help me in the act, and I assured them they would, so at least I knew I was going to have two helpers for the show.

Okay, now, I could go over the routines I did, but I’ll now just focus on some personal observations of the show.

It did go well. For the crowd I started out with, about 15 people, it doubled by the time I had gotten into the third routine, so I must have been doing something right. People who started out watching from the sidelines ended up moving into the seats to settle down and enjoy the show. Not a big crowd, but it was a majority of the people who were left in the park at that point, so I’ll take that as a win.

I was loathe to throw in a Mis-made Flag routine because in general, I tend to feel that it’s kinda overdone. Also, the local Ronald McDonald does it in his act, so it’s always a fear of reproducing routines that everybody has seen before. I say this, even though I open with my Linking Rings routine, but at least that bit of manipulation (with origins in Al Schneider’s routine, but changed over and over with influences by Harry Monti, Levent, Jimmy Talksalot, and Dick Stoner) is my own. Oddly enough, though, the Mis-made Flag was my wife’s favorite routine I did. Okay. For something that, honestly, I really only put in there to pad for time, it worked well.

The patter, in general, worked really well. I’ll be the first to admit, I try to pull out as many laughs as I can. I had a crowd that was all-ages, and from the littlest kids to the oldest adults, everybody there seemed to be laughing and having a good time. Another personal victory.

A downside I’m looking at, and I’m still wondering a bit about it and how I want to fix it, is I seem to play the “Magician in Trouble” plot in a large percentage in my routine. For any of the laypeople reading this, that’s a case where the trick doesn’t seem to be working for me, but it works out in the end to big laughs. Off the top of my head, four of my routines use this plot in some way. Now, usually it’s used to get laughs and a bigger response as I capitalize on it throughout the routine, but maybe four is too many. I still don’t know. Hell, Tommy Cooper made a career out of bumbling through his routines, most often failing, and was hysterical in doing it. Check the links in the Tommy Cooper tags in this blog or even search YouTube for him to see what I mean. I’m still wondering about this, so it’s a consideration.

I had timed the act for 37 minutes, thinking that I take even more time with playing with the audience. As it was, the entire act ran in about 30 minutes. It reminded me of when I was in rock bands lo so many years ago and we would blast through our set in performance in almost half the time we had timed ourselves at while rehearsing. I’m sure this will settle as more shows develop, but wow. I didn’t cut or leave anything out, so yeah, I blazed through it. As it was, I think that it was probably the right length, so there’s that.

Finally, the last routine I did, my finale with a spring rabbit named Reggie, failed. He got the chosen card wrong. Now, I played with the audience and had them with me until the very end, but damn, that scenario happened. The routine failed. I had gone over and over in my head about how I would end the routine if that happened. I was pretty certain it would work, though. It’s not failed before, but there’s always that first time. For all my contingency planning, my solution was not even close to anything that had been considered before. If I had a Tommy Cooper moment, that was it. Even with the failure, though, the routine got big laughs and it didn’t detract from the show at all. This time around, the magician really was in trouble, but the overall payoff was still pretty good. May not have been the routine ending I wanted, but that’s all right.

In general, it was a good show. For a late Sunday afternoon festival show, I had a better audience than I had feared I’d have, and my two young assistants that had approached me earlier gave me watercolor paintings they had done earlier. The sound guy who had worked the entire festival seemed to have a good time, and I figure he would have been one of the toughest sells, but once I got started, because I wasn’t using the PA, he sat down in the middle of the audience and laughed along with us.

Again, for all the laughs, I don’t think anybody had a better time of it than I did, but because they were laughing and having a good time along with me, I definitely will chalk it up as a win.

Mikayla thoroughly unimpressed by the two sponge balls trading places in our hands

Mikayla thoroughly unimpressed by the two sponge balls trading places in our hands

My assistants, Shannon and Torrence, getting ready to strangle me

My assistants, Shannon and Torrence, getting ready to strangle me

Stupid rabbit

Stupid rabbit

My lovely assistants, Mikayla and Torrence, getting a photo with me after the show show

My lovely assistants, Mikayla and Torrence, getting a photo with me after the show show

Daily Dose of Magic – Don England “Zig Zag”

I’ve gone back and forth as to whether or not to go to the Don England (www.dmksingle.com) Night Before Workshop that is happening in Springfield, IL at the 2014 Central Illinois Magic Get-together (www.cimgt.org). I started going through articles and YouTube videos, and man, I’m sorry I hesitated. He’ll be lecturing at the convention, but the chance to do a workshop with him in a relaxed and casual atmosphere seems like a good learning opportunity. Of the stuff I read and watched, this was the trick that amused me the most. The videos are all close-up without really any audience involvement (I tend to want to see audience reactions), but getting the feeling of “this is really cool” sold me on wanting to spend more time learning from Don. Most magicians are familiar with a trick called “Card Warp,” but this takes a similar plot and turns it on its ear.

Don England “Zig Zag”

Daily Dose of Magic – Boris Wild “ACAAB”

Currently, one of the biggest and most exclusive events in close-up magic is going on, and that is Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic. It’s an invitation-only event, and it draws magicians from around the world. Magicians only, spouses and companions are not allowed. Yeah, someday I’ll make it there, and when I do, I look forward to raising a pint with some of the friends I’ve met along this road, and Boris (www.boriswild.com) is chief among those I look forward to seeing there. This video was shot there in 2011 and in it, he does his “ACAAB (Any Card at Any Birthday)” routine.

Boris Wild “ACAAB”

Daily Dose of Magic – Wayne Dobson “Royal Variety Show”

Wayne Dobson (www.waynedobson.co.uk) is a master of entertaining people with his show. He suffers from MS and currently, when he performs, he performs from a wheelchair with limited mobility and use f his arms. Still, he persona and skill in working with an audience gives a top-notch show. This clip is from earlier in his career, and even though he does a couple of standard routines, his presentation puts these at the top of any “must see” list.

Wayne Dobson “Royal Variety Show”

Experience Review – Annie’s Hope 3rd Annual 5K & One Mile Family Fun Walk – 12APR2014

You know, despite trying to get paying gigs in addition to busking, I do love to do shows for charity events. This one was for Annie’s Hope (www.annieshope.org), a bereavement center in St. Louis for children, adolescents, and their families. When the confusion settled, and I got into my groove, man, it felt like I was right where I needed to be.

First off, I planned on doing my busking routine and flipping it over as I was able to get a crowd. The only change from what I had been doing was to replace Rocky the Raccoon with Reggie the Rabbit for the final routine. I had been working with Rocky because of the gags I could do with him, but the more I play with Reggie in my parlor act, the more I like the gags I’m doing with him. It’s mostly the same gags, but something feels more right with Reggie the more I use him. Yeah, I don’t have him jump out and startle like I do with Rocky, but the other gags feel more fleshed out. So that was my only change outside of some adjustments to patter that I wanted to try. Hell, it’s always a work in progress, especially when my act relies on audience participation.

So, after running through the act a number of times the night before, I was ready to go. Case was packed and table was ready for travel.

Saturday morning, after arriving at the event, I was met by one of the other magicians. He was a bit concerned, as I soon became, after we found that a company that focuses on providing children’s magic events was there, represented by one of their magicians and a balloon twister. To add to it, it looked like the only performance space was going to have to be shared. Man, I didn’t want to take away from them, and just as much, I didn’t want anything we did be an assist in promoting their company. They’re nice guys, but when it comes down to it, at some point, I do want to be part of their competition. After talking to the chairperson running the event, I set down my table, grabbed my rings, and started working the crowd. I found it easy to get a crowd while doing the rings, but I had walked away from my table, so after I was done working the linking rings, I was pretty much done with that group. I couldn’t ditch the rings in order to do anything else, so it was time to rethink my strategy. By the time I had pulled my table out to a good spot, the first event, the balloon release to start the 5k run was about to start, so the crowd was moving there.

Facepalm.

By the time the walkers and runners had all returned, Columbus, who was the magician who greeted me, had had to leave for his day job and the two other magicians from IBM Ring One were there and ready to go. So, now for us to really get into our thing.

While the other magicians did their bits, I found I was able to pretty much bally people to my table by just holding the rings looking like I was ready to do something. Admittedly, the crowd was kinda primed, but it was an easy tip to build from without feeling like I was poaching people from the other guys.

As for the crowds, they were small, but good. Very receptive. I think the most fun I had was with one pair of girls who assisted in the Ropes Through the Neck. One was terrified to pull the ropes, while her friend was very eager. I had fun playing off of them, looking at the scared one going, “Don’t worry honey, you won’t hurt me,” and then looking at the other with a “Well, you probably will.” I also learned that when you do the sponge balls with a child who is younger than three, her glee might send you chasing after the balls.

Whether it was the humidity or just me that day, for the life of me, I couldn’t do an overhand shuffle to save my life. Strangely, all the other slights worked without a hitch, but a simple shuffle that I’ve been doing since I was kid was beyond me. On the other hand, I think it only added to the final card reveal for Reggie and built things up nicely. I probably won’t aim for that type of shuffling, but if it happens again, it’s definitely not going to slow me down or frustrate me.

Also, yeah, going with Reggie was the right move. The final bit went right and felt right with each flip of my little act. Reggie got his laughs, and I came up with more material while working the act over and over. Not to disparage little Rocky, but he may be dry docked for a while.

Personal criticisms: Okay, I need to get my bubble routine worked out quickly. It’s going to be my bally, and though this crowd didn’t need one, it’s enough of a spectacle to build that it’s renewed my interest in getting it going as quickly as possible. Not that I’m going to perform it until the mechanics are second nature, but it’s going to be too much fun for me not to do it. Plus, it is luring the audience with spectacle.

Secondly, for some reason I was only able to get the final four-ring shape only half the time. I don’t know what’s going on with that, but I love the patter that goes with that (and it tends to get another laugh), so I need to woodshed that more to break down where the issue is. Not a show-stopper, but it’s a reminder to go back and practice all moves slowly.

Overall, it was a good time. For each crowd I stopped after I had my rig with me, I ran the full act without losing the crowd. Reviewing it, I think I flipped the act eight times after the walkers came back, so it was personally satisfying. Despite the chaos when we showed up, I’m looking forward to working for Annie’s Hope again next year if they put the call out. Good people doing a good thing, and I was glad to be a part of their event.

 

Bringing out Reggie for a card trick -photo by Jennifer Jones

Bringing out Reggie for a card trick -photo by Jennifer Jones

Daily Dose of Magic – Dean Dill Tonight Show Appearance

Noted magician and barber, Dean Dill (www.deandill.com), was a frequent visitor to Johnny Carson’s house to work on coin and card tricks with Johnny for years before Johnny convinced him to go on the show, and that probably wouldn’t have happened had Johnny not announced his retirement. I just recently watched an interview with Dean at Reel Magic Magazine (www.reelmagicmagazine.com – subscription required) and just generally liked his easy-going and casual manner. I love watching Matrix routines, and Dean’s is a killer in this clip.

Dean Dill – Tonight Show Appearance

Daily Dose of Magic – Gazzo Street Magic

One of my earliest Daily Doses was of Gazzo (www.gazzoshow.com) doing his Cups and Balls routine on Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us.” (jasonstackmagician.com/?p=145) Considering today was the first day I’ve gone out busking in 2014, I thought I would revisit Gazzo’s routine, but this time in its most natural habitat, the streets where Gazzo performs. In this performance, which is a lot longer than the “Fool Us” version, you get to see all the interaction he does with the crowd. In the pantheon of busking magicians, Gazzo really is one of our patron saints.

Gazzo – Street Magic

Daily Dose of Magic – Richard Turner “The Cheat Double Signed Card Routine”

Richard Turner (richardturner52.com) is a wonder when it comes to card cheats and manipulations. At the top of his class, it’s even more impressive when you consider he’s been blind since he had scarlet fever at age nine. In addition to being one of the world’s foremost card sharps and card magicians, Master Turner earned the ranking of Sixth Degree Black Belt in the Wa Do Kai karate, which just further demonstrates how amazing he is. A documentary is in the works about Richard called “Dealt,” and information about it can be found on his website and at http://dealtmovie.com. This video demonstration was shot with his wife, Kim, and his son, Asa, assisting him and I found it on Asa’s YouTube channel.

Richard Turner “The Cheat Double Signed Card Routine”

Daily Dose of Magic – Bob Sheets “The Card Stab”

As I start getting excited for the warm weather to get here in St. Louis again so I can start busking, I’m drawn to these sorts of acts. Close-up with the crowd right there in your face. Waving a knife around might not be the best idea for me, but Bob Sheets (www.bobsheets.com) keeps the crowd rolling in this Card Stab routine.

Bob Sheets “The Card Stab”