Welcome / Willkommen !

Hello, fellow majishuns,

and willkommen inside our very personal change bag

full of 1,000 things magical!

(390+ posts since 2009 and counting…)

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By establishing this English and German blog called ZZZAUBER (meaning MMMagic) we have set ourselves on a multi-purpose magic mission to entertain and enlighten you:

  • to advance the art of magic by sharing valuable insights, fresh ideas, great magic and pieces of art related to conjuring and deception and by connecting the past, present and future
    (Hint: This is signified by our minimalistic, homemade logo, <<>>>)
  • to poke some good-natured fun at magic’s top brass and everything that may be wrong with amateur majishuns and the majic community today (at least according to our own questionable standards)
  • to share some pieces of interest from magic’s vast history and from our own collection, like magic postage stamps, magic programs, magic in advertising, etc. (more to follow)
  • to showcase, and sometimes show-off, some of our own meager attempts in the arts, be they in written form or even rhymed, drawn or painted, photographed or photoshopped.
    (Note: Please respect the copyright on all our original materials, even the cheap, risqué and shallow ones. Thank you!)

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Since this site is all about the friendly art of deception, you will encounter the occasional trick or misdirection being played on you. We hope you have some fun exploring these little hints and secrets.

Just scroll down endlessly on this main page to get all the latest magic news and tidbits! For special interests, like MAGIC ART, POSTAGE STAMPS or INTERVIEWS, you may find the main chapters helpful. Just click them in the bar above.

As for your comments and opinions, frankly, we don’t care much. This is a blog, after all, and not another forum. And since most of our musings are purely based on personal opinions, tastes and observations, what would be the point in telling us your dissenting views and start quarreling here?

We deeply appreciate your occasional visit, read, link, nod or smile, though.

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P.S. This blog is not apt for beginners in magic. You may find the link section helpful, but then move on, please. The same goes for secret-seeking dumbwits. Thank you!


Zaubern, bis der Moderator kommt

PUR+, das beliebte TV-Wissensmagazin für Kinder von ca. 8 bis 12 Jahren, das beim KIKA und im ZDF läuft, hat sich in den letzten Jahren auch in der Zauberszene einen guten Ruf erarbeitet, dank flotter, respektvoller und kindgerechter Sendungen, etwa mit den Ehrlich Brothers, Topas und Thomas Fraps oder zum Thema Optische Täuschungen. Moderator Eric Mayer hat dabei stets die Aufgabe, als “Stuntman des Wissens” selbst etwas zu erlernen, und er stellt auch Nachwuchszauberer vor.

Von PUR+, das gerade seinen 20. Geburtstag feiert, sind derzeit einige der letzten Sendungen und Beiträge rund um Zaubern und Täuschung in der ZDFtivi Mediathek abrufbar.

Screenshot ZDFtivi/PUR+

Craig Petty is Back with Rants, Reviews, and Tricks

CraigPetty

YouTube Screenshot

Craig Petty, magic performer, inventor and co-host of the original “Wizard Product Review” is back on the magic scene. After a few years doing one thing or the other, he has started a YouTube channel called “Slightly Unusual” and is back with a daily dose of tricks, reviews, rants, Q&As, and more, slightly matured, but still with explicit lyrics guaranteed.

Here’s his latest rant on the ridiculous flooding of the magic market with daily truckloads of download trash:

He has also produced a very funny, self-deprecating video about the trick RED (not his trick at all, as it turned out) “that literally killed his career.” Kudos for that!

Magic certaily needs much more honest trailers like this one!

What I rather dislike is how Craig shoves his little boy into the poisonous world of YouBurp. I don’t feel that little kids belong there and that they should be protected from all the jeer and filth and hatred until they are old enough to decide for themselves.

But then, I’m old-fashioned and also believe that political leaders should have a bright, honest mind, respect for the Law and some love and understanding for the people and their needs and concerns… What do I know?


M. D. Smith: A Key Figure in Finding Erdnase? (Part 2)

Erdnase_MDSmith

(Continued from my last post)

Smith was the only real person mentioned on the frontispiece of TEATCT. This means that there is also a chance that he was “in on it”, a friend or partner of Erdnase, so he may have given false clues in order to protect his anonymity, even all those years later. Who knows, he might might might even have been Erdnase himself, a notion that has not been looked into deeply and seriously yet, as far as I know. S.W.E. = Smith Was Erdnase???

In conclusion, I really would advise not too rely too strongly on Smith‘s “clear and undoubtful recollections” and to not exclude other options or a promising candidate just because “his height or age doesn’t match with Smith‘s description at all.”

To be fair, there are two points to consider: First, unless proven otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that Smith tried his best in remembering and describing his mysterious customer. But then again, a free-lance artist may have met hundreds, if not thousands of clients over the years, maybe with quite a few of them having very “special” assignments. And was drawing hands a totally odd job at the time? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows.

And secondly, yes, maybe a fine artist would pay special attention to the hands of this strange client. But maybe he was so busy getting the finger positions, cards, and angles right that he wouldn’t remember a thing about the man’s real hands…

When it comes to estimating a person’s age and height, this seems very thin ice to me, as there’s a huge subjective factor involved in it. Also, from today’s perspective, a lot of people on photos one hundred or more years ago seem to look so much older then they actually were at the time.

As I’ve learned from Joe Posnanski’s interesting book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini (see my short review here), even the world’s most famous and most publicized artist of his time, who undoubtedly was a short man, had quite a huge range of heights attributed to him.

My biggest point though is the indisputable limits of our senses and our brain when it comes to attention, perception, and memory. Please feel free to take my little online test for you here. If, after 10,000 hours or more of shuffling and toying with playing cards right under our noses, we are unable to tell which Jack looks which way or which Kings do not sport a mustache, what kind of peripheral information are we supposed to remember and report reliably then decades after an insignificant incident?

No wonder that we marvel at the few enviable people with eidetic memories, as this incredible trait is so many light-years away from our own experience in daily life!

That’s why I wouldn’t bet more than a dollar or two on the reliability of Smith’s recollections about Erdnase. Yes, I would consider them for what they are, but I certainly wouldn’t use them as “conclusive evidence” against or in favor of one Erdnase candidate over another.

(End of rant.)


M. D. Smith: A Key Figure in Finding Erdnase? (Part 1)

Erdnase_MDSmith

In discussing Erdnase candidates, sometimes someone objects that this or that guy simply cannot be the man because he doesn’t match in terms of age, looks or body height with the book’s illustrator Marshall D. Smith‘s recollections of meeting the author some 40+ years earlier.

This simplistic view seems rather daring to me, as there are at least six points to consider:

1. In general, people are lousy observers and make horrible witnesses (even though they usually believe otherwise). You can ask any police officer, criminologist or judge about this. Also think of fascinating phenomena such as inattentional blindness and change blindness, which both reveal and debunk our allegedly “super observation powers.”

2. More than one hundred years of research into memory, mind and brain have also detected major flaws and tricky secret mechanisms running in our head. There is recent research that suggests that we are constantly and inadvertently creating false memories over time, and we fully believe them. For a memory bit is not a fixed, tangible asset that is safely stored away on a shelf somewhere in the back of our head and can easily pulled forth once we remember it; on the contrary, it is probably more like a tangled web of loose bits and ends scattered somewhere on our neuronal memory hard disk drive, and as we try to retrieve a file and pass it on (e.g., tell it to someone else), there is a good chance that we are actually rewriting and reediting our own “memory” in that very moment. But we swear that “it happened exactly that way, because we remember it so vividly!” (For a fascinating read on these and other brain-related topics, you may want to check out The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways Our Intuition Deceives Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons.)

3. Try to remember any single, insignificant event in your life 40+ years ago in detail, and describe the look, height, manner, speech etc. of any person you have met only once or twice back then… Good luck! Except for some major events (like „…and then that shabby magician at the country fair smacked me several times with a big yellow stuffed rabbit!“) you are very likely to fail or misremember. And even if you think you do remember in detail, you may have fallen victim to the mechanism described above in #2.

4. Smith was not under rigorous professional interrogation, but likely prodded and influenced by an enthusiastic and biased Martin Gardner, who may inadvertently have forced many „facts“ on Smith, seeking affirmation.

5. Besides, it’s not that Smith had displayed super memory powers, right? He seemed to remember some details clearly, but he failed miserably, for example, to remember other vital details as to the man’s name (how he introduced himself), even how often he met him and  how many drawings he had actually made, and from which bank the check he received was issued. Duh!

6. The fact that M. D. Smith’s name as the book’s illustrator was given away on the frontispiece is somewhat peculiar. If Erdnase desperately wanted to remain anonymous, he must have known that Smith was a risk to that goal. So why mention his name at all? In this case, it also seems unlikely to me that any anagram or wordplay shifting “S.W. Erdnase” around would directly reveal the author’s true name.

On the other hand, Erdnase might have been so proud of his work that he wanted his (magic) peers to find out and just put some minor obstacles in their way, like in a merry treasure hunt.  In this case, publishing M.D. Smith’s name could have been used as one possible key to finding the author. Using “Erdnase” as a simple anagram of the author’s real name (be it Andrews, Sanders, Anders, …) might have been another key then.

(to be continued in my next post)


Is This the Perfect Paddle Pen?

PaddlePen

My artist wife got these nice drawing pens called “Design Twin Marker” a while ago in Copenhagen, Denmark. (As we found out later, it’s easy to order them on this internet thing as well, so don’t worry!)

When I played around with these I noticed that their shape and thickness are about as perfect as it gets for a magical paddle pen! Furthermore, the four rounded sides of the pen can be used for more than one transformation, like blank to brand name / to name of chosen card / to “Vanished!” message, at least when playing to a camera.

Just another idea. Give it a try if you are also a pompous, petty paddle peddler!


Show & Tell from Magic’s Top Collectors and Historians

Ye1
Screenshot from Marco’s live stream with David Copperfield

Marco Pusterla, magic historian and editor of that fine magazine for connoisseurs, Ye Olde Magic Mag, (check out the latest issue for some wonderful 16th century discovery predating Scot!) has just completed a run of ten live streams featuring some of magic’s biggest collectors and historians.

What an amazing experience to see David Copperfield‘s minute recreation of the old Tannen’s Magic Shop from 42nd Street in NYC! Our German friends Michael Sondermeyer and Uwe Schenk were also present with their unique magic collection at the German Conjuring Arts Foundation. Other chats and visits included Mike Caveney, Eddie Dawes and John Davenport.

If you are interested in catching up, you can find all streams here on Facebook (you don’t have to register to watch). But don’t wait too long, Marco says that he will take the videos down at the end of this month!

Ye5
Screenshot from Marco’s live stream with David Copperfield


 

Aus meiner Sammlung: Mandra der Magier

Mandra der Zauberer_Heft 1

Wussten Sie, liebe Zaubersammlerfreunde, dass es drei Versuche gab, die U.S.-Reihe “Mandrake the Magician” von Lee Falk mit etwa 30 Jahren Verspätung auch auf dem deutschen Comic-Markt einzuführen? Und das unter dem etwas ungelenk verkürzten Namen Mandra? Hier ist Heft 1 des zweiten Anlaufs aus dem Jahr 1967 zu bewundern, das ich in meiner Sammlung habe.

Dieser Start war jedoch etwas holprig. Das in Schweden produzierte Heft wurde womöglich auch dort ins Deutsche übersetzt oder zumindest in Satz gegeben; die Titelgeschichte heißt “GEFAHREIM STADTSCHUNGEL” (genau so geschrieben). Auch in den Sprechblasen sind ein paar Buchstaben auf Abwege geraten wie sonst nur die Bösewichte. Kurios liest sich zudem die einfache Sprache von Lothar (!), dem afrikanischen “Dschungelmann” und Sidekick von Mandra. Er spricht so (“Ich nur versuchen zu beschützen Stadtpark”), wie wir es zehn Jahre später im Kino schmunzelnd von Meister Yoda in “Star Wars” hören sollten…

Enttäuschend fand ich, dass Mandra trotz seines schnieken BühBlitzGordonnen-Outfits, das er auch im Alltag trägt, gar nicht mit Zaubertricks arbeitet, sondern alle Bösewichte mal eben hypnotisiert und so zu Opfern ihrer Einbildungskraft macht. Keine Force, keine Blitzwatte und auch keine Spielkarten als Wurfgeschosse aus dem Ärmel… Schade!

Auf der hinteren Umschlagseite des Comics fand sich übrigens Werbung für eine weitere “neue Serienzeitung”, ebenfalls etwas gewollt eingedeutscht: “Blitz Gordon”.

In beiden Fällen war jedoch das Beste: das Titelbild!


 

Neustart für TV-Zauber mit Pan Tau

Pan Tau
Bild: ARD/Caligari/Film2020; Quelle: obs/ARD Das Erste

Er ist wieder da, wenn auch ganz anders: Pan Tau. In 14 Serienfolgen verzaubert er ab 27. September in der ARD Mediathek und ab 4. Oktober in Doppelfolgen im Ersten als Maskottchen die Schüler der Westpark Schule, wann immer diese Hilfe brauchen. Aber damit nicht genug: “Dank ihm entdecken sie ihre eigenen Superkräfte: Mit Mut, Cleverness, Selbstbewusstsein und Freundschaft meistern sie am Ende jede Herausforderung und wachsen so über sich selbst hinaus”, verspricht der Pressetext.

Die Hauptrolle in der deutsch-englischen Koproduktion, die in Bayern gedreht wurde, spielt der britische Comedy-Zauberer Matt Edwards. Mit Armin Rohde, Bettina Lamprecht, Sophie von Kessel, Helmfried von Lüttichau und Tom Gerhardt sind zahlreiche bekannte TV-Schauspieler in den Episoden zu sehen.

Ob mit der neuen Inszenierung an den schlichten Charme des schwarz-weißen Originals der 70er Jahre mit Otto Simanek in der Titelrolle angeknüpft werden kann? Wir sind gespannt!


 

On the Concept of Time in Magic

Karussell

“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”
– John F. Kennedy

The concept of time is a wonderful invention (or discovery?). In short, time is both momentary and eternal, flying and stretching, a constant blending of then, now and soon, irretrievable and virtually inescapable. Except for magicians, of course, be they on stage, in books or in movies.

Incidentally, I believe that time traveling is one of the most fascinating phenomena for people, besides resurrection and floating, as they know bloody well from daily experience that time cannot be stopped, replayed or altered in retrospect. Time wasted is time lost forever. That’s why it’s a strong premise for any trick if it seemingly allows people or objects to travel through time and space.

This got me thinking about various concepts of time in magic, beyond the time-traveling theme. Here are a dozen other aspects:

  • the time and age of magic, way back when and today, with fashions always shifting and sometimes coming back in circles (and magicians sometimes “falling out of time” with their props, patter, or demeanor)
  • tricks with clocks, watches, etc. or about time as an overarching theme
  • the right time (and place) you choose to perform (or not)
  • the specific, measurable time and duration of a trick or performance
  • time wasted during tricks or endless patter (see JFK quote above!)
  • the perception of time passing quickly or slowly during a show from a magician’s perspective vs. the audience’s (and boy, that gap may be huge!)
  • time as a benchmark tool as in Silly Billy‘s laughs-per-minute ratio
  • the right “timing” of doing something, secret or not
  • time as in time misdirection
  • time used as a dramatic countdown towards the climax of a trick (cf. David Copperfield‘s death saw illusion)
  • time as a presentational choice to do tricks either in slow motion or in high speed/fast forward mode, or part of a trick as a replay
  • time as the crucial factor between trigger and effect that determines whether a transposition is actually perceived as a trick in the mind of the audience – a slow sub trunk illusion would not qualify as magic, neither a slow quick change.
  • …?

That’s my list so far, but I guess there’s at least another dozen more out there.

Time will tell…


Addendum:

There is a nice discussion on this topic over at the Genii Forum now!


Aus meiner Sammlung: Kontaktabzüge von Marvelli

Marvelli_sw_Kontaktabzug_2

Aus der Auflösung eines internationalen Fotoarchivs konnte ich kürzlich einen Bogen Kontaktabzüge ersteigern, von dem jedoch ein Bild schon ausgeschnitten war. Ich bin mir relativ sicher, dass es sich bei diesen Studioaufnahmen um Fredo Marvelli (Friedrich Jäckel, 1903-1968) bei der Vorführung seines “schwebenden Stabes” handelt.

Auf der Rückseite trägt der Abzug einen Stempel des Fotografen Konrad Weidenbaum, “Schriftleiter im R.D.P.”, was wohl für den Reichsverband der Deutschen Presse, der im Deutschen Reich bis 1945 bestand, steht. Vermutlich stammen die Aufnahmen aus den 1930er-Jahren.

Kennt vielleicht jemand ähnliche Bilder von Weidenbaum, ob von Marvelli oder anderen Zauberkünstlern seiner Zeit?