you're being fooled bySo, of course, do I. But alas, I'm not much of a magician. Standing up, or even sitting down, before an audience I clam up like an oyster — and it is the irresistable "patter" that makes a trick tick. Then I'm liable to start fumbling, dropping essential things and making a general mess of the entire proceedings. I don't want to be the center of attention in the first place, so how much of a show do you expect from a guy like that?
If you like puzzles and optical illusions, I'm sure you love magic.
But I still like magic. There's (almost) nothing that gives me more delight than, after much puzzling and brain breaking, solving the trick. Frustrating is how the best tricks, by general principle, are the ones hardest to solve.
Another aspect of the matter is that there are many scoundrels, charlatans and rip-off artists around, who all want to relieve you of your heard-earned cash and often resort to magic to convince you. It starts with reverent rabbis and pious priests to go on to con artists, fake scientists and their like, to culminate in power crazed politicians. You'd better recognize their techniques, even if you can't use them yourself. Many of those guys are plainly hated by real magicians, who do not look at them as legitimate members of a legitimate entertainment profession and who will get so burned up that they expose them.There is one branch of magic I did work in, though: motion pictures. One of the oldest names in movies is that of Georges Meliès, a French magician who had to buy a movie camera via a friend, as the Lumière Bros. thought him too crass a fairground artist for their great invention. His funny and entertaining work is still very much worth looking at. One of his shorts is included in Mike Todd's immortal Around the World in 80 Days. The apex of movie magic may well be animation, where literally anything that your eyes can see, can be made for them to see. But achieving the illusion of life is a pretty good trick by itself. So, magical juggling is going on all the time in movie production. Indeed, with The Lord of the Rings special effects techniques have grown so perfect that we need better screenwriters and directors much more than we need better special effects: Back to the patter.
The Skeptics' Motto
Looking through books on magic, it's amazing how many tricks there are that use cigarettes, packs of cigarettes, lighting cigarettes. A very common item until the 1990s and even later, around anywhere, always available as a prop. Same in movies, plays and books: An author needed to be photographed with his pipe firmly clenched between his teeth.
Books on Magic
One of the best, but out of print:
The Amateur Magician's Handbook
Houdini on Magic
Edited by Walter Gibson, Morris N. Young. How he escaped; exposes of fake spiritualists; instructions for eye-catching tricks; other fascinating material. 155 illus.
Written for amateur magicians.Enables readers to learn and start performing 65 well-known tricks that professionals use, offering a well-rounded repertoire on which beginners can draw.
Rare photographs, lithographs, woodcuts, engravings. Costumes, stage settings, magic apparatus, ads from the Pharaoh time to Houdini.
Tricks, stunts and magical effects based on math principles as magic squares, Fibonacci Series, Moebius strips, cycloids, topology. Simple props: playing cards, matches, coins, etc. No magic or math skills needed.
Crowd-pleasing mental magic feats. Insider's tips, expert advice on techniques, pre- sentation, diversions, patter, staging. Any trick a foolproof success. Lucidly written, thoroughly diagrammed book by a legendary figure.
Magic: Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography
Detailed techniques of classic stage illusions, fire eaters, sword swallowers, jugglers, acrobats, ancient magic, automatons, magic photography.
Tricks with ordinary objects. Coins appear or disappear; matchsticks jump into the air; classic cups and balls; pierce balloons without them bursting; tricks with dice, rubber bands, eggs, safety pins, pens and pencils, more.
Astounding feats with few or no props and a minimum of sleight of hand. Advice on psychological misdirection and dramatic presentation. Step-by-step directions, many illustrations."The best book yet on easy-to-do magic."-Martin Gardner.
Mind reading with cards, instant ESP, identify owners of objects, number prediction, draw- ings reproduced, book tests, hand- writing tricks, mind- reading done from a room away, much more.
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