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6 entries from November 2012

From my wall - #1


I have two walls in my downstairs office covered in odd bits of memorobilia. Visitors will often spend quite a bit of time just checking out of all odd photos and posters but I realised that most of you will never see these strange frozen moments of magic history so I thought it might be fun to share a few with you here.

The photo above is an original, signed David Copperfield poster dating back to the early 80's. 

I really have no recollection how I ended up with it, but it is definitely made out to me. What makes it special is (so I'm told) David signed his whole name. Apparently he only did that during the early part of his career and now, due to demand, he signs with a quick 'DC' type scrawl... so I feel very lucky to have this.

It's also a reminder of what many say was the "golden time" of his career. The early TV specials with the romantic vignettes, the routines that blended close up and grand illusions thanks to cameras, and slightly geeky more approachable DC.

Here's a clip from those days of David doing a more traditional illusion presentation. 

But boy, does he do it well.


My very first poster


Going through some old shots on my hard drive I came across this, my very first poster. It's from waaaay back in the 70's and I still have the original on my wall.

The price has changed a little, but you can still get me via that phone number if you add a 9 to the front.

As for what sort of a show I would have done to brighten up your "kiddies party"... take a look at this!  


The MMF12 on KidsWB

Earlier this year we staged the 2012 Melbourne Magic Festival. In addition to the 125+ performances spread over two weeks at the Northcote Town Hall, we had our good friends at KidsWB join us and shoot an entire episode right in the heart of "magic central".

For those who missed it, we've finally been able to get a copy of all the magic segments and post them online.

Big thanks to all the magicians both on screen and off screen, hostens Lauren and Andrew, the team at the Northcote Town Hall, the KidsWB film crew and, of course, producer Robert Mond who pulled it all together even though he was overseas at the time and missed out!


The strongest reaction I've ever had to any trick - ever!


Last week I was invited to perform at the launch of the 'Embracing the Difference Foundation' - an organisation founded to support people on the Autism Spectrum including those with Aspergers. The founders, Dr Julie and John Peterson, had heard about my Aspycadabra show and asked me to fly up to Sydney and speak about my life with Asperger's and do a selection from the show.

I thought long and hard about which piece I'd like to do as I really wanted it to make an impact on many different levels but I had no idea just how strong that impact would end up being!

I decided on a routine where I have a volunteer assist me in a card trick, but I don't say a word and they have to really think hard to try to follow my actions and do what I need them to do to help bring the trick to a successful outcome. The subtext is that I'm giving them a small taste of what it's like being an Aspy dealing with people in a normal, neurotypical social situation.

You see most Aspies can't pick up on body language, nuances, and - quite often - sarcasm. If we talk non-stop about our special interest and a person at a party says... "Hmmm... that's very interesting." while edging away from the group, we don't get the subtle message that they've had enough. We take them at their word and think they're loving what we're saying and go on... and on... and on.

As a consequence, at parties, when someone says something to us, we process the literal meaning of what they said, then about a dozen alternates of what they really might have meant, and we try to calculate the correct one. Neurotypicals usually do this automatically and naturally, but to Aspies it can be exhausting.

So I decided to change the routine a tiny bit to make it even more like the Aspie experience by adding random sentences to the routine, that have nothing to do with the act, that the volunteer must first ignore, then figure out by my actions what I really want them to do.

So, routine designed and it was showtime. After a brief introduction about my life I asked for a volunteer, specifically someone who was NOT on the Spectrum so they could get the full experience.

Nobody raised their hand so one of the organisers volunteered herself and came up on to the stage. 

I explained the premise and began by shaking her hand and saying "Thankyou. You can go back to your seat now."

She stayed. I congratulated her on passing the first test and we began.

I opened my case and mimed taking a small object out and handed it to her saying "While I was driving here, I ran over a possum and squashed it." 

She took to object and feigned disgust.

I said "No. That's actually a deck of cards. You need to ignore what I'm saying, and concentrate on what I'm doing."

"It was a good day weather wise today." I said as I mimed shuffling cards.

"Do you want me to shuffle the cards?" she asked. I nodded and she began shuffling the invisible deck.

I took it back from her and mimed opening the box "You'll need to take the cards out of the box first."

She smiled, took the invisible cards back and shuffled wildly.

"The drinks are very cheap here today. In fact some are even free." I said as I mimed lining up invisible cards in the air.

She looked very confused so I explained "Here are the cards: Ace, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, Jack, Queen, King. You can choose any card."

She did.

I took out an invisible envelope saying "Here I have a banana"... she tried to eat it... I corrected her and I could tell she really was starting to feel the stress Aspies experience when we attend social gatherings and struggle to keep up.

As the routine progressed, she put the card in the envelope and wrote a number on the invisible envelope with an invisible pencil. Then it was placed into a real (empty) envelope.

I explained "Everything that has happened so far has been in our imaginations. Now it's time to bring it into reality." I opened the envelope and showed her there really was a smaller envelope inside. She looked quite stunned.

I explained that this could be just any enveloped, that's why I had her write on hers. She told me she wrote '2' on hers... I showed her that '2' was written on that envelope. 

She started shaking.

I asked what the card was that she chose to put inside the envelope. She said "The Jack of Diamonds". I opened the envelope and as soon as she saw just the indez of the Jack of Diamonds emerge she screamed and collapsed on the floor.

Now I was stunned.

The audience laughed for a moment, thinking she was just playing up, but then an awkward silence filled the room as people rushed to her aid and everyone realised she really had fainted.

After a few moments and a glass of water, she was alright, just very embarrassed as she had never fainted before in her life.

Speaking to her afterwards she said she was finding it very hard to both ignore what I was saying and interpret what I wanted her to do as she really wanted the act to be a big success. So there was a fair degree of stress generated. When she saw the number on the envelope, I don't think she was prepared for such a powerful magic moment and when she saw HER card she said she just saw stars and collapsed.

As hard to comprehend as it may be to neurotypicals, this isn't very different to my own personal Aspy experience at parties. I have been out socially and been asked a few simple questions while a loud band was playing and lights were flashing around me, and I almost became comatose. Simply incapable of processing what was going on and unable to respond. It's known as sensory overload.

I had never intended to give such a dramatic recreation of the experience on stage but it is truly astonishing to look at our routines and effects in the new light of this reaction. 

Once you go beyond the standard patter presentations and express your own world view through your magic - anything is possible.


21 Great Magic Tricks

After coming across this piece on '7 Blatant Movie Rip Offs', I was inspired to do a similar list dedicated to magic. Try as I might, I simply wasn't able to cut the list down to 7. I was able to trim it to 21 but, sadly, there are hundreds more out there. Visit MAGIC FAKERS for a few more samples.



Let's start with one close to my heart. Within hours of 'Healed & Sealed' appearing on David Blaine's TV special 'Re-Pop' was released as an instant download. A few weeks later Magic Makers joined in with their trick (note the tauntingly similar name) which they defend by saying "Learn an improved method and performance of an old soda can trick." It's neither old nor improved!




Someome brings out a coin bending device concealed in a pen. Clever idea. So Magic Makers decides to do exactly the same, though it might be confusing to consumers as they've given it a VERY similar name.




A simple packet trick using just a handful of pictures of girls. How cheap is that to make? And when you don't have to spend any time coming up with the idea and the method in the first place it couldn't be easier!




An extremely original (and quite complicated to design) take on the appearing straw from Wayne Rogers. Once the hard work has been done it's easy to mass produce a cheaper version.




John Cornelius has created so many fresh and original magic effects he's been a prime target for those who's creativity is limited to buying a trick and sending it to a factory to have it copied. Eventually, John just got fed up and stopped inventing tricks. Is this how we reward creativity?




Ton Onosaka has come up with some ingenious close up effects. Through his company Magic Land he was able to manufacture and market them world wide. But a new generation of magicians has emerged with no respect for creativity. Not only have they copied Ton's tricks, but they've even released them with the same names.




Even David Regal is not immune to being plagiarised. His Disposable Deck is simple to do and easy to manufacture. But just to avoid any copyright issues, Andy Magic has disposed of the letter A in the trick's name...




Way back in 1993 Chazpro purchased the rights to Die-Cipher and re-released the trick as an improved version. Since then, dozens of other 'manufacturers' have brought out their versions of Die-Cipher... all exactly the same as Chuck's and not a single one has even attempted to purchase the rights.




Surely everyone in magic knows that Dan Harlan invented Card Toon? Apparently not. Rob Stiff claims his trick, Cartoon Deck, is "Based on an original effect in the same playing card flip book format with an animated magic top hat and dove flying out from 1954 & 1959 by Educards of Canada-" Nice try at spin there, but I'm not buying it...




This time John Kennedy comes up with a unique locking box design for a classic effect and is given the restrospective spin treatment. Rob Stiff says: "Most people associate this trick to the late great Fred Kapps who used a ring box into which a folded duplicate card was glued. This was one of the highlights of his lecture, where he made it clear that the method used had been shown to him by a German magician named Bruno Hennig. Mr. Kapps had shown it to his good friend Scotty York, who had modified the prop to allow a rattle of the card in a box before revealing it. It was Scotty York who later developed some of the best handlings and presentations of his prop. Later variations were put out by Jamy Ian Swiss, Italian magician Bruno Canaldi, and in 1985 an 8 page section by Tommy Wonder in his excellent Books of Wonder vol. 1, as the Card in the Ringbox. Wild Magic had made a series of these boxes, one for cards, one for money and one for blank billets. Models have appeared from England, France, Germany and various manufacturers here in the states." He forgot to add "Then John Kennedy came up with a tremendous improvement which proved very popular so added it to our version."




Possibly one of the most copied effects in all of magic. Ben Harris came up with this effect in 1986 and sold limited copies at $50 each. You were paying for the secret, not the prop, as it was incredibly cheap to make. Now almost every dodgy manufacturer makes their own Cosmosis copies in house without even crediting Ben. All expect Tenyo, who paid him for the rights and brought out an improved version in 2006 under their 'World's Greatest Magic' line.




Of course Tenyo, who copied some effects in their early days when they didn't know any better, now pride themselves on releasing innovative and original magic with full credits to creators. That doesn't stop other companies from making cheap copies of Tenyo tricks and flooding $2 shops worldwide with them.




Another John Cornelius genius effect which seems to be strikingly similar in both name, design, method and effect to something Rob Stiff came up with a few years later.




You've probably seen this trick for a few dollars in toy shops and junk shops and showbags all over the world. But did you know it started off as an expensive and very deceptive trick released by Tenyo and created by one of their brilliant magicians, Hiroshi Kondo, in 1990. If he only had $1 for every copy that's ever been sold... well really, he should!




This effect, different to Ultra Cinese, is very new on the market and sells for around $160. Recently in China, I saw copies selling for $6. Should we all buy them at $6 because, obviously, the original is way overpriced? No! They can set the price at any point they want. In fact, it can make an effect more exclusive if it's kept out of the price range of the merely curious. Just because we are all magicians doesn't mean we have a right to own every magic trick out there at a price that suits us. Some argue that it's a free market and it's just good business to release a "generic" version of someone else's product - like they do in the drug business. The magic business is a much smaller market. We all know each other and if we choose to cut each other's throughts like that for the sake of a few bucks, not only are we disrespecting the creators of the tricks that we really like, we're driving them out of the business! Just like the title of Andy's trick says, we will all be "Super Screwed"




Different trick, same story. At FISM Beijing Masuda had just released WOW! Despite the FISM policy of allowing no copies in the dealer's room, one dealer snuck in a big box of WOW copies (at least 500) and was selling them for $1. I saw him open the box and went to get Domenico Dante, who was in charge of the Dealer's Room, but by the time I was able to get him out of his office to see what was going on, all of the WOW's had been sold! So who's guilty here - they dealer for manufacturing the copies or the magicians for buying them?




This was another copy in the Dealer's Room at FISM Beijing. Tora didn't bring his, it was another dealer. The FISM official policy was to confiscate any copied tricks on the spot... it's just that they didn't expect to have to confiscate such a big prop. All they did was throw a cloth over it and tell him not to sell it. On the other hand, when Rocco caught a dealer with a box of fake D'Lites in the same room, I remember he threatened to beat them up. Which method do you think was more effective?




Some dealer's have such a blatant disregard for other magicians they not only copy tricks but sell the copies as though they are the original items. I have had several email exchanges with this company and they claim that there are "no copies" of tricks in magic... apparently it's impossible to make copies because nothing is original. Furthermore they explained to me that if I think an item is a copy, because it is cheap, then I simply shouldn't buy it. They have no issue in making copies because they are operating under their own system of ethics where everything is fair game. If they see a product they can make and sell cheaper, they wil! But they are right. It is up to us, as magicians who want to preserve our art, to not purchase anything from companies we believe are selling copies.




Just another example from the same company. A trick that Kevin James tried to keep exclusive by pricing it high and authorising every copy himself. Most dealers and magicians paid him the respect he deserved as a creator. 




This one is astonishing. Not only have they copied one of the most highly regarded levitations of all time, but the inventor just happens to be one of the most outspoken people in magic when it comes to ripping off other magicians. He even created a special license agreement for his purchasers of his creations (you can read it here). He did everything the right way but still got ripped off.




Finally, the ultimate in copies. Tarantula was selling so well when it was released that instead of bringing out a copy and calling it 'Funnel Web', they simply copied the name, and the entire packaging exactly! Of course the trick inside didn't really work very well, but they still sold a ton of them to unsuspecting buyers... and there are still hundreds of copies out there sitting in the drawers of people thinking "I'm glad I didn't pay full price for Tarantula. It doesn't even work!"