Lounging Around


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As is traditional, the December meeting of The Sheffield Circle of Magicians was a social evening for members and their partners. There were nibbles, a little magic, and a magic-related quiz (replacing the Christmas Puzzle Sheet of previous years following complaints from certain quarters that this required a level of thought and concentration unfamiliar to some of those attending…).

So the quiz included some general magic questions and some SCM history questions; most were fairly easy, especially for anyone with a little basic knowledge of their craft and their Circle. If you missed it, here’s a chance to try it for yourself:

1. Who was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

2. What would you use a French Drop for?

3. What was Houdini’s real name?

4. How many cards are there in a standard tarot deck?

5. The motto of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians is “Ars est celare artem”. What does it mean?

6. Who is generally credited as the inventor of the Olram Subtlety?

7. Who said, “A conjurer is not a juggler, he is an actor playing the part of a magician.”

8. Who was the Sheffield magician who gave Houdini the idea for the upside-down suspended straitjacket escape?

9. Who wrote The 13 Steps to Mentalism?

10. Balducci, and Asrah are both types of which commonly seen magic effect?

11. Under what name did the stage magician, debunker, and scientific skeptic Randall James Hamilton Zwinge perform?

12. In magic a ‘restoration’ is an effect in which something is seemingly destroyed or multilated, and then ‘magically’ reconstituted. What well-known restoration trick was patented by Horace Goldin in 1923?

13. Who invented The Curzon Envelope?

Tie-Breaker: In what year was the inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians held?

The winner of the cheap bottle of wine was Ashton Carter with 11 correct answers. Can you beat that? (Without the aid of Google!) Answers will follow with an appropriate minimum of alacrity.

I’ve been working recently on a new DVD Making Magic, with Craig Frith, Travis Carter and Adam Bell. This is designed to offer the student magician a sound introduction to the basics of close-up magic… the sort of instructional DVD we would have liked to have had when we started in magic.

We discussed the old adage that if you know ten ways to find a chosen card and one way to reveal it, you essentially have one trick. But if you know just one way to find a chosen card and ten ways to reveal it, you have ten tricks.

Of course that’s something of an over-simplification; and you wouldn’t do all ten at one performance, would you?

So I thought it would be fun to drop in a few example revelations at an appropriate point in the DVD. So on Saturday I roped in a few of the layab…, sorry, Loungers, to perform some quick card revelations. Things escalated somewhat so I decided to put them all together in a short, and possibly amusing, film.

 

The ‘silent movie’ theme seemed to fit. There are no explanations in this particular section; we’re just looking at ‘the what’, for ‘the how’ you’ll have to wait for the DVD. And for ‘the why’ you’ll probably need to consult with someone better versed in the convoluted psychology of the average card magician.

Nevertheless, we optimistically hope that it will be a small step in encouraging new magicians to think a little creatively about their card magic!

A

Andy the Clown (in civilian dress) and Sam

A definite touch of deja vu in the Lounge yesterday. Came down from my office and found a small white poodle rushing happily around the feet of the assembled Loungers. For an instant I was transported back almost twenty years… Who else remembers Brandy the shop dog?

It wasn’t Brandy, of course; he must be long gone. But just for that moment I thought it was. In fact it was Sam (another coincidence?), Andy the Clown’s poodle. Here they are on the right..

And below is Brandy himself, guarding the stairs leading to what was the costume department and is now my flat.

Brandy

Many thanks to everyone who enquired after me and sent messages, texts, cake and DVDs. I’ve tried to reply to as many as I can, but I thought I’d give a little progress report here for all those who asked.

Just to recap, I’ve had shingles on the right side of my head for over a week now. This is not to be recommended. Last Monday the doctor gave me tablets to ease the symptoms and half a kilo of Cocodamol for the pain. She was also concerned about my right eye; it was very swollen and I couldn’t see too well from it. Arranged an appointment at the eye clinic at the Hallamshire last Tuesday. They dropped in various potions and shone assorted lights.

Apparently the shingles had gone onto the cornea. They said that if I slapped in half-an-inch of the rare unguent five times a day it would help with the symptoms. And apparently it’s something which is difficult to clear up so they booked me for a check-up a week later (yesterday).

I’d gone by bus as driving didn’t seem like a good idea, and it was interesting to watch passersby recoil and cover the eyes of small children and horses.

By that evening my right eye was completely closed and my face had the full horror-make-up appearance with an extensive network of inflamed red blotches covering the right side. (Both doctors, incidentally, commented on how symmetrical my appearance was. I pointed out that I was a tango dancer and such things as coordinated balance came naturally.)

Over the next few days I shall draw a veil, an item of attire which could have come in handy.

So to the hospital yesterday with my hat pulled down well over my right side, which I felt was both functional and gave me a pleasing, rakish look.

More eye-drops, eye tests and air blown onto my eye (I now understand why dogs get so annoyed when you do that to them). Then a wait for the drops to take effect before seeing poorly-eye-due-to-shingles specialist. Spent some time with my head clamped into a machine which shone bright lights of various colours and from various angles into each eye, producing an effect probably similar to drunkenness except that you get the throbbing headache at the same time instead of having to wait until the next morning.

Finally she pronounced the result as excellent and said that the eye had cleared up entirely surprising quickly. And that I could stop dropping in the ointment. This last statement was a relief too as I really hated doing that. And most of it tended to end up in a sticky mess around my luxuriant eyelashes instead of going into my eye.

My face now seems to have moved from X-rated to PG. None of this is life-threatening but somewhat uncomfortable and pretty well put paid to any serious work for a while. So apologies for those waiting for video editing jobs! But I’m definitely on the mend, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the pc screen for brief periods. Which is good.

Meant to post this earlier, but better late…

It’s the Sheffield Circle’s magic auction night tonight at the Lounge… the perfect opportunity to get rid of the stuff you can’t perform (except for those still performing it). Free admission for non-members in good standing.

Just posted an event invitation for this on Facebook and received an email:

“… moved a box the other day with **** in it that I bought 15 years ago at one of them! – err collectables I invested in…”

Well, I reckon one man’s **** is another man’s four-star entertainment spectacular.

Then I’ve always been an optimist. (It was top of the list of necessary qualifications for becoming a magic dealer. In Sheffield.)

Update!
Here is an action shot of the author auctioning an item to one of the many keen bidders (including telephone bidders) at this evening’s event…

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An impromptu video taken by one of the Loungers at last Saturday’s session at the UK’s leading magic emporium!

“Learn How To Perform Magic Like Criss Angel and David Blaine..” Like most magicians with any kind of online presence I get loads of emails with this sort of heading. And I’m getting pretty sick of it. I have nothing again Messrs Angel and Blaine (in fact one of them has bought books from me in the past). It’s the sad concept behind the email headline that upsets me

It really is nonsense! Seems to me that if there’s a problem with magic today it is that people want to perform like Angel, Blaine, Dynamo, whoever… Surely those who take their teaching responsibility seriously should teach would-be performers to find their own style and ‘perform magic like’ THEMSELVES. There are already too many carbon copies of these people and not enough original artists.

Of course we all begin to develop an interest in our chosen art or craft because we are inspired by seeing leading performers. And perhaps it is natural at first to wish to emulate them. Although I would hope that, through our own good sense or the wise counsel of others, we quickly grow out of the ridiculous urge to copy them.

We can learn by watching the ‘stars’; and we should study them carefully. But we must aspire to move beyond copying their style or their tricks. We have our own particular strengths and weaknesses, our own character or persona. The character we play as a magician may not be our everyday self (all performers are actors to some extent?), but I would argue that it has to be grounded within and arise from ourself.

What do YOU think?

(PS. If anyone wants to learn to perform like Derren Brown, give me a ring. We’ve got a couple of books on NLP in the shop….)

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