10 easy mistakes to try to avoid...

There is a definite art to capturing "magic" in a single still photograph. Over the last 42 years I have had some success with professional art photographers like Tashkah

Tim Ellis - Melbourne Magician

and Jonathon Pearlman


and some... slightly less successful images trying to do it on my own


Some of the professional images have been so effective they've ended up in magazines.

newave  al&in  disney

But I always like to think that you can learn something from the less successful attempts as well.

So today I'd like to offer you ten tips so we can all learn and not make the same mistakes over and over again...  




They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. Try to keep yours open during the moment the photo is actually taken. The chap here has used so much lighting that not is he blinded by the flash but his doves have almost completely disappeared!

010.Zombie Ball    



Try to use all of the elements in your photograph to communicate who you are and what you do. This photo, for example, suggests that the magician is possibly a child at heart based on his choice of head-wear, though his vest appears to have liquor bottles on it and he's puckering up either to whistle or to blow a kiss. Meanwhile, he's either taking out or putting a hamster into what appears to be a Church offering collection bag. Maybe he's an alcoholic prankster who never grew up?

Anth 12  



Try to limit the number of playing cards in your shot. Just because you can grip one extra card with the loose skin of your neck doesn't mean you have to. In fact, this magician has another 26 cards clenched between his butt cheeks as well.

Anth 23



Believe it or not, some styles of clothing do actually go out of fashion. A good stylist will help you to avoid costumes that make you look like the love child of Willy Wonka and Prince. They'll also explain to you what the phrase "choking the chicken" means and why your photo shouldn't plant a visual image of that metaphor in the minds of your audience.




Though this chap has avoided the "choking the chicken" metaphor simply by holding his chicken upside down, his facial expression in combination with his body language and costuming does make him appear a tad like a serial killer... just a normal, happy guy who lived next door... but one day just cracked...




If you manage to find a really glittery shirt AND pull an appropriately astonished face to communicate that your magic is so mind-blowing it even amazes you... then you probably shouldn't pose with a trick that 99% or more of your audience already knows how to do,


Again. here we see the "Even I have no idea how I'm doing this one!" face and the trick is marginally more deceptive than the clinging wand... but a magician who levitates Ken dolls instead of people? Is there really a market for that?





Here we have a man who seems to have it all together. He looks suitably astonished, his ball is dangling mysteriously from a white handkerchief in a manner that has us not only asking "how?" but "why?"... Note the clever red-hering of the power cord plugged into a socket in the lower right hand corner to suggest the ball is somehow electrically powered. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten his jacket. Either that or he has borrowed a Chippendales costume and put it on the body of a computer programmer.


It's not only the male magicians who forget to bring their costumes to photo shoots. If you've only brought your tie and your belt it's probably better to reschedule than improvise.




Nothing says magic more than a beautiful white dove. Unless, of course, that dove appears to be dead.


If a gravity defying dove doesn't do the trick, you can always try a poodle of a flying carpet. Not exactly the traditional image everyone thinks of when imagining a classic magic trick... but it will definitely get people talking about you


Of course, you can always go for the traditional 'rabbit in the hat' image. This PR photo from Dave J Castle teaches us several important things:

  1. People can tell if you don't use a real rabbit
  2. Don't hand write your name on the hat. If you're worried you might lose it you can always order name labels to put on the inside of all your clothing just like Mum used to.
  3. Don't use a photo where it looks like you are about to back hand the rabbit across the face or you'll look like a dick.
  4. Don't be Dave J Castle.




Try not to create weird mutant tricks. For example, it the effect below a beautiful waterfall of the cards, or a frozen waterfall levitating in front of his hand.


In this shot, is the magician vomiting cards from his mouth, or is he so short of gigs he's had to resort to eating his own deck?




Your camera has a delete button. Sometimes you really should use it.


The Paulie Awards

What the Oscars are to movies, the Emmys are to television and the Tonys are to theatre, the Paulies are to magic's hairdressing industry.

Named after the great Paul Daniels who is best known for his penchant for hairpieces (here is one he sold on ebay in 2011) the Paulies are presented for the most amazing hair in the industry.

Previous winners have included David Copperfield and his amazing animated hair (courtesy of several well placed wind machines) and his successor Hans Klok 


who has kept the tradition alive long after Copperfield moved on to what one commentator cruelly referred to as "painted on hair". As well as the multi-award winning Criss Angel for his legendary "chameleon hair".



This year the nominees include Tony Hassini who, at age 74 when most magicians are losing their hair, is actually gaining even more.

Here he is back in 2002


and now in 2015



Steve Carrell as Burt Wonderstone channeling the unique style that only a magician can wear.


And Deddy Corbuzier channeling the unique style that only Max Maven can wear.



But the winner of this year's Paulie Award for MOST MAGICAL HAIR OF THE YEAR goes, once again, to Johnny Thompson for both creativity and ingenuity. A true master of all facets of the magical arts. Congratulations!



Communication - how hard can it be?


With the internet, SMS, tweets, texting, MMS, mobile phones... it's getting so easy to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

Unless they happen to be a communication company... like Optus.


A month or so ago I noticed Optus advertising a new plan which bundles your internet and home phone for only $90 a month. As I was already paying Optus $115 a month for the same deal (well, a lesser deal actually. The cheaper new deal also included bonus items like Fetch TV and Netflix) I was surprised they hadn't contacted me offering to change plans (as they usually do) or even just automatically switching me over instead of letting me pay $25 a month more than everyone else.

I tried to change my plan online, as their website says to do, but the website then said it couldn't allow me to do that online.


So I popped into the Optus shop.  #Optus

After waiting for quite a while I finally collared a staff member who told me I need to phone Customer Service and offered me a chair I could use while I call them from the comfort of my own phone. I explained I have tried calling but the wait times average an hour and include frequent disconnections. She gave me a special phone number and assured me I would get through in 2 minutes.


So I went home and called the special phone number... it put me through to the Optus main switchboard and, sure enough, it only took two minutes to select each of the various options to guide me through to the right department. After two minutes the automated service switched me through to customer service and I was placed on hold where, after about an hour of waiting.. I was promptly disconnected.


A friend assured me that I should try the Optus Live Chat. He said he always get through to technical support. I spent about twenty minutes on the Optus site trying to find live chat, then eventually he sent me a direct link. Optus live chat was down.


I posted on the Optus Facebook page (as their main webpage recommended me to). However, my comment was never replied to.. nor were the five or six subsequent messages answered either.


I got on my Twitter account and posted a public complaint about Optus and, lo and behold, an Optus rep responded within about 5 minutes! He sent me a link to a form I needed to fill in on the Optus website.. where a staff member would then call me back within ten days.

All I wanted to do was change my plan!

In about a week I was finally called and the lady was very helpful. She changed my plan and emailed me a confirmation and reference number (at my insistence).


So three days ago, the internet here was suddenly ridiculously slow. Speed checks came in at 12-21kbs.. KBS not MBS.

Screenshot 2015-05-18 11.03.58

It took 18 hours to upload an 8 min video to YouTube. I tried to upload one to Vimeo but the frequent "connection lost" crashed the browser and restarted the process from scratch every time.


Again, I attempted to communicate with Optus. 


Phoning them was a fruitless exercise - 2 hours plus on hold and hung up on again.

Posting on their Facebook page is pointless as my posts (about 30 this time) were lost amidst a sea of literally thousands of complaints.

Their website offered a box into which you could type your question - but it never gave a reply - and the suggestion to register for 'Optus Community' (a long registration process) and ask other consumers what they think the issue might be.

I couldn't find Live Chat anywhere.

Again, Twitter was the answer. I tweeted about the 12kbs speed I was experiencing and got the reply "Sorry for the wait Tim. Did you speak with tech support though? Tris". 

I explained that I was disconnected and another guy tweeted to help "What speeds do you typically see on the service? Can you confirm how it's connected? Dave"

This made me very cross. A multinational company trying to do tech support through a series of tweets. The ultimate example of cutting costs at the customers's expense. That was all I heard from Dave.


Last night I went online and submitted an online complaint to the Telecommunication Ombudsman #TIO. 

Well, I spent 20 mins filing out the form and when I finally pressed SUBMIT.. nothing happened.

This morning I tried calling them (otherwise it's deliver your complaint in person or "send a fax" lol) and I was met with the recording "Due to the overwhelming number of complaints we are experiencing at the moment, you will experience long wait times." They then advised me to submit my complaint on their website...

So, out of curiosity, if you have NO INTERNET AT ALL and your PHONE is out of service... the only way to complain is to visit the TIO office in the city personally... 

Communication - how hard can it be?

I mean seriously... why is the communication industry in Australia so incredibly BAD at communicating with its customers???


This morning I received an email from Optus confirming that my new plan starts today. Remember, I switched from $115 to $90 a month? I had them email me to confirm it

"Confirming your rate plan change for your home phone and broadband service. Unlimited home phone and broadband bundle. $115 at $90 per month for 24 months."

This mornings email said:

"The Monthly plan for Username, timellismagic, will change from: Optus 'yes' Fusion $110.00 Unlimited to $115 Entertainment Bundle"

Seriously Optus.... 


Mass murder

In 2006 the US Government approved the use of firefighting foam to kill chickens en masse in the case of an outbreak of bird flu




Now the use of foam to kill chickens quickly and cheaply ("mass depopulation" they call it) has become common place.




The practice is spreading worldwide as demand for cheap "product" (as chickens are referred to) rises. 

If you can watch the video below and not be absolutely abhorred at the treatment of these animals... maybe it's too late for humanity.


The Melbourne Magic Festival - Tickets selling fast!


The Melbourne Magic Festival is back from June 29 to July 11 at the Northcote Town Hall and already several shows have SOLD OUT!

THE MAD HATTER in RETURN TO WONDERLAND has SOLD OUT for Tuesday June 30 and Friday July 3 is already half full.


THE MMF STAGE MAGIC GALA is almost SOLD OUT on Monday June 29 so if you don't want to miss out on any of the magic this year, even though it's two months away, book now! Plus, if you do book early, you can choose VIP seats (if they are still available) and for no extra cost you get GUARANTEED FRONT ROW SEATING!


The Melbourne Magic Festival 2015

The Melbourne Magic Festival is back for it's 8th year, bigger and better than ever at the Northcote Town Hall. I'm doing several shows this year but the one generating the most buzz is my Poker Show - FULL HOUSE - OR HOW TO GET BANNED FROM EVERY CASINO ON THE PLANET

It's a great show for people who love poker and tremendously entertaining even if you don't, but there are only 52 seats and 5 shows.. and the seats are disappearing quickly so BOOK NOW!

July 7 to 11, 7.15pm nightly.


Here's a little preview!


Is Fiverr even worth five bucks?

More out of curiosity than anything, I decided to give the website FIVERR.COM a try. I thought it might be fun to see what other graphic designers could come up with as a new logo for The Melbourne Magic Festival.

Our current logo, designed by Carl Knox, is this:


and we like it... so I scoured some of the people listed under the category GRAPHIC DESIGNERS and found a lot with heaps of 5 star listings so, I assumed, they must be worth a shot.

The first one I tried was CAROLINEW who claims 

I will do professional and eye catching logo for $5

Her samples looked quite good


But when it came to delivery she sent this


When I pointed out that all she had done was find free clip art on google and I was hoping she would actually "design" something as promised, she sent this


More free clip art... Okay, so maybe I got a dud designer despite her 60 five star reviews... I tried another "graphic designer".

COOLINTROTOMY had great five star reviews and good looking samples


and said

I will design Eye catching Logo in 24hrs for $5

Great! I sent him the brief, all the examples of what we have had in the past, how we want to avoid cliche images etc... he sent this:


The same clip art that CAROLINEW had found! Different text of course, that accentuated MELBOURNE over the more important words MAGIC FESTIVAL... I pointed this out to him and he responded by sending me a totally new design

"I create your logo design , I feel this is better than the previous and looks professional than it. So PLEASE complete the order with your positive feedback (5 STAR) for my job." 


My reply... "So you took the free vector clip art from here http://cdn2.qvectors.net/downloads/images/vector/misc/12502-free-vector-magic-hat-full.png and put text next to it and you consider that to be a logo?"

His response "Thank you bro"

JPG (1)

After this effort I posted a review (as you must do once any FIVERR order is completed, and gave him a very generous two stars.

His response was to call me a fake buyer and tell me to cancel the order, take my review down, and he'd give me the $5 back. 

I pressed DECLINE on the cancel order button, and he just kept sending me the 'Cancel Order'  request over and over and kept DEMANDING I remove the review and take my money back. The bad thing is that, if I don't press the DECLINE buton, after two days the order is automatically cancelled and the review is taken down.

So this constant email game began with him sending a CANCEL ORDER request, me pressing DECLINE and him sending another CANCEL ORDER request.


In the mean time I had sent the same brief to some other "graphic designers".


I will design Eye Catching LOGO for you for $5

This person sent two options. The first (which is actually the logo for DISCOUNT MAGIC but altered slightly by adding stars)



I gave her a reasonable review, at least she tried with the second one, but again she messaged me demanding I cancel the order and remove my review because it wasn't FIVE STARS.

She even tried to explain why her work was not up to the standard of her samples saying:

"Sir please accept my request. Sir I tell you reason why I not send you your update. Sir I was in high fever and I was admit in hospital and my friend do working on your logo. I'm still in fever but feel better. Sir I apologize for it."


I also tried a guy called GRAPHICS123 who offered

I will design a beautiful flyer, poster or brochure for $5

He had 1138 FIVE STAR REVIEWS and an amazing selection of professional samples. He sent this:


Not something I would use but at least he put a bit of effort into it and I was impressed. The only drawback was that he delivered it a few days later than promised and didn't communicate accordingly. Even FIVERR automatically emailed me to let me know he was late on delivery and did I want to cancel. So when I wrote what was an overall positive review, the rating ended up 2.5 stars.

So... he wrote to me asking for me to cancel the order as well....


It seems that FIVERR is all about getting nothing but FIVE STAR RATINGS. 

Obviously, there are some genuinely talented designers on the site, but unless they are prepared to harass and badger people into giving them ONLY five star reviews, they get relegated to the bottom of the page while people looking to get art work done end up dealing with the "TOP RATED" designers who send them rubbish.

I message CUSTOMER SUPPORT, as you are supposed to do if there is a dispute, and explained that when I gave COOLINTROTOMY a negative review he accused me of being a fake buyer and Kevin from Fiverr replied "After reviewing the order I can see that the seller has sent you a mutual cancellation request in order to refund you. You may go back to the order page and accept that refund."

Seems to be the way FIVERR operates...

Sure, it's only five bucks, and many would say "What do you expect for $5?" But the point is there are many talented graphic designers on that site who simply can't even earn $5 because of the hustlers and hucksters exploiting the system.

I went to FIVERR to get some logos designed and ended up being harassed (I got A LOT of emails demanding I remove my reviews... and I am STILL getting them) 

Is that worth five dollars? Not in my book.



Why spammers spam

Last week I got an unsolicited email from an SEO company - you know the sort, "We can improve your web rankings on Google". The thing that stood out for me was the fact that this company, CELLSIX listed their address as

Headquarters: Office 7003 X2 Tower, Cluster X, Melbourne Vic. 3000 Australia
Other Branches: Sydney | Perth | Brisbane | Adelaide | Hobart

Obviously, this is NOT a Melbourne address. It is, in fact, the address of

United Search Engine Optimization: Office 4003, X2 Tower, Cluster X Jumeirah Lake Towers, United Arab Emirates.

However, I do enjoy responding every now and then so I replied to Jia saying I will be in Melbourne on Monday and will pop in for a visit. I asked him to let me know what time suits him.

Obviously, I got no reply.

However today, Tuesday, I had a phone call from an SEO company in Sydney who were "following up" my conversation with Jia and wanted to help me with my SEO.

As I explained that I would not be doing business with a company that has such a blatantly false address, they explained they had bought the "conversation" from the other company.

So the spammers like CELLSIX send out mass spam emails, and if anyone replies AT ALL they then add that email to a list (in this case of people interested in SEO) and onsell it to other SEO companies.

The second company continued to ask if they could help me with SEO and I told them that I would never do business with a company that buys email addresses from spammers.

Fascinating the lengths people will go to to get a "lead"....

It probably looked like a toy...


Earlier today the website 'Ammoland' proudly announced "Other states, like Georgia and Idaho, have greatly expanded the locations in which guns can be carried for self-defense."

A few hours ago the news we read the tragic news "A two-year-old boy in an Idaho Walmart accidentally shot and killed a woman Tuesday, authorities said. Early reports of the incident said the woman was the toddler’s mother."

The woman had a concealed carry permit for the weapon - the weapon the toddler accidentally discharged while reaching inside her purse.

How a two year old, with very limited strength, could trigger a handgun is beyond me... unless it was a semi-automatic.

From 'The Well Armed Woman' website "Revolvers and semiautomatic firearms have different trigger pulls and these can vary model to model. Semiautomatic guns tend to have lighter, quicker trigger pulls and revolvers will have a longer harder trigger pull. A double action revolver will have a very long and hard trigger pull. Revolvers typically do not have external safety mechanisms so the long, hard trigger pull acts as the safety. You must really intend to pull the trigger to fire the gun."


If this sort of incident had ocurred in ANY OTHER COUNTRTY there would be an immediate investigation and re-assessment of the laws that allowed this tragic accident to take place. Instead websites like Ammoland post artlcles like this claiming gun control is a war against women, intimidating women into gun ownership with statements like "where gun control is stringent, crimes against women rise."

Less than a month ago another mother was shot with her own semi-automatic handgun by her three year old in Oklahoma. Could more stringent gun control or better training have prevented this tragedy? (The argument that keeping a gun locked away in a home gun safe defeats its purpose as a tool of self defense against home invasion. Lobbyists say it must be loaded and accessible at all times).

Unfortunately, the gun manufacturing industry in America has very deep pockets (they spend almost 20 times the amount the gun control groups spend at elections). In 1990 the NRA established the TAX EXEMPT NRA Foundation in order to continue promoting their agenda of guns for everyone.


Tighter gun control? No way! Ammoland is proud to report (also today) that yet another state (Ohio) has just passed "comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation."

HB 234 makes a number of positive changes to Ohio’s firearm laws.  HB 234, as signed into law:

  • Improves the concealed handgun license process by (1) reducing the number of training hours required from 12 to 8 hours, (2) eliminating minimum length-of-residency requirements, (3) allowing non-residents who work in Ohio to apply for a CHL in the county or adjacent county in which they work, and (4) makes special provisions for members of the military who have been honorably discharged or retired, extending their competency certification from six years to ten years after honorable discharge or retirement.
  • Expands concealed carry reciprocity to visitors and persons temporarily in Ohio who have valid out-of-state licenses, regardless of whether the license-issuing state has entered into a reciprocity agreement with Ohio.
  • Repeals the prohibition on Ohio citizens buying and/or selling long guns or ammunition from only the five contiguous states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  Citizens of Ohio can now purchase and/or sell rifles and shotguns in any state as long as the firearm laws in both states are obeyed.
  • Includes a “shall certify” provision which requires a chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) to sign off on an application to transfer an item regulated by the National Firearms Act, once the application procedure and requirements are met.  This provision eliminates personal bias towards NFA-related items, requiring CLEOs to sign off and process the application in the same way they do a concealed handgun license.
  • Allows for the use of firearm sound suppressors while hunting in the Buckeye State.
  • Brings Ohio’s definition of “automatic firearm” in line with the federal definition, limiting it to only any firearm designed or adapted to fire a succession of cartridges with a single function of the trigger.

The pro-gun movement continues towards its goal to arm all USA citizens, with as many guns as they can sell, with as little training as possible, no pesky waiting time and ideally with zero background checks.

Concealed carry permits are now obtainable in every State with the pro-gun lobbyists now pushing for these permits to .

Six states, the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia fully prohibit the open carry of handguns. On the other side, twelve states permit open carry of a handgun without requiring the citizen to apply for any permit or license. Thirteen states require some form of permit (often the same permit as allows a person to carry concealed), and the remaining seventeen states, though not prohibiting the practice in general, do not preempt local laws or law enforcement policies, and/or have significant restrictions on the practice, such as prohibiting it within the boundaries of an incorporated urban area. Illinois allows open carry on private property only.

As of August, 2009, four states that currently restrict open carry as a remnant of the post-Civil war Reconstruction era (Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas) are considering making it again legal.

Pro gun websites are filled with false statistics, claims that gun control in Australia was a failure and our murder rate has increased, and even claims that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by the government in order to pass tighter gun control measures.

As guns become more freely available, acceptable and almost compulsory in the USA, expect to see more and more reports of accidental shootings and gun tragedies over the next 12 months. Think I'm exaggerating? Here is a list from 2013 of 11 deaths over 5 months where the shooter was 3 to 6 years old.

Contrary to the pro-gun lobby's claim "Guns save lives, more guns save more lives." The reality is, the more guns out there, the more chance somebody is going to get shot.

Currently, 80 million Americans own 223 million registered guns. Undoubtedly there are many, many more unregistered guns out there too. 

America will never become gun free like Australia - but I would love to see a day when the people can see past the manipulation of the gun manufacturers and the fear mongers who scare them into arming up and they institute some form of responsible gun control. 

One accidental shooting is one too many in my book.