Free Things to Do in Corona Quarantine

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Please note: This list is currently being updated regularly, with further links and suggestions coming in from loyal blog followers and Genii Forum readers. Thank you all!

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Bored to the bone at home? Or even quarantined? Here are some tips on what you could get and do now. In total, it easily adds up to more than 2,000 free pages of magic to digest:

Chief Genii Richard Kaufman has just kindly provided a link to a free read of his classic work, CardWorks. Enjoy!

KaufmanCardWorks

Or take the time to read Paco Nagata‘s fine book, The Passion of an Amateur Card Magician, which is an enlightening labor of love on 554 pages. It’s huge, and you can download it for free here.

Jamy Ian Swiss wrote 71 (!) masterful essays for Magicana featuring and analyzing many of the leading practitioners of magic, accompanied by carefully selected performance videos. You can find them here.

The Science of Magic Association has provided their newsletter readers with a lovely list of “SOMA’s Social Isolation Suggestions,” which includes several links both to videos and interesting websites. Check it out here.

Magic historian and publisher Marco Pusterla kindly offers you free access to any back issue of his “Ye Olde Magic Mag.” Learn here how to get access.

Or check out Paul Romhany‘s VANISH magazine. It’s a change bag full of diverse topics, and I feel there’s always at least one interesting piece in each issue. The eight latest issues can be downloaded for free here.

Go see my recent post on some of my personal heroes and wizards of the world wide web. There’s a lot more free stuff to get and to digest via the links I have compiled there.

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Head over to lybrary.com or to any other magic dealer. Check out their free downloads, but also try to spend a few bucks, if you can, to help support the magic community in the new age of anxiety. And get some new books, manuscripts, or tricks in order to learn and improve in the arts. Just two examples that will keep you busy for a while:

Lybrary.com offers, among many other things, three volumes of Lives of the Conjurers by Professor Solomon for free here. Hundreds of pages for a nice and easy read. In fact, they currently have a total of 135 (!) publications that you can get for free – see them all here.

Vanishing Inc. has, among other things, Magic in Mind for free. A few years ago, Joshua Jay “set out to assemble some of the most important, influential, and helpful essays on magic ever written, and make them available to all serious students of magic for free.” That’s 500 pages of great thinking and inspiration!

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Whoops, we have just missed a weekend of free access to Kozmo‘s site, Reel Magic, which he offered in order to “enjoy the weekend, learn some magic and forget about all of this crap that’s happening around us.” Nice! However, one issue of of his DVD series (No. 41) remains accessible for free. Check it out here.

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Chris Michael and Danny Orleans (the latter a co-founder of AmazeKids) are working on a preschool theme show. In their words, it’s “about how to prevent the spread of the virus. You can bet it’ll be a perfect program for them when schools re-open.” Both are currently writing a complete script for it, but they allow you to create your own themed show based around their ideas, which I find quite amazing, kids, and very generous. The Title is “Scrub-a-Dub-Dub” and you can download a free outline here.

Silly Billy (David Kaye) was quick in putting together a free ebook called “11 Things Every Performer Should Do During The Coronavirus Qurantine.” It’s useful and a quick, fun read.

KayeCorona

Videos: As the Portland Magic Jam also had to be cancelled, each of the four headliners (Max Maven, Shawn Farquhar, Stephen Bargatze, and John Shryock kindly agreed to do a small online lecture – for free. It’s scheduled for Sunday, March 28, 1:00 p.m. in Portland, Oregon (which should be Pacific Standard Time). Check it out here.

Haven’t heard much from the UK’s Magiflix project recently, but they do have a small free video section available here where you can learn the “Pre-Prefiguration” card trick (by Jennings/Elsdon), which is astonishing, simple, and totally impromptu.

The inimitable David Stone has uploaded a quick and funny short Corona Card Virus Trick here which you really shouldn’t miss!

And then there’s coin master and all-around wizard Helge Thun, who keeps us spellbound with his Chinese-American Corona Virus Coin War:

If you are rather into High Brow entertainment, why don’t you check out Teller‘s production of Macbeth which he directed a few years ago?

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Plus: Already looking forward to this treas(h)ure from Milk Can Magic Motion Pictures!

HarryandHarryIG

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Work on new ideas, thoughts, moves, tricks, and presentations! Time is on your hands. Bingeviewing may make you happy, bingeforumsurfing may make you miserable, but both options won’t make you much smarter or better in anything…

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Read or learn other stuff outside of magic. The other day, my younger boy created this fine rendition for me of America’s Premier Illusionist, Master Deceptionist, Bizarrist and Contortionist, THE GREAT DONALDILI. And it just took him a few minutes. Pure magic! I’d like to learn that, too! (So far, I can only move around stuff in Powerpoint, see above…)

Donald Sternenkrieger

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Make plans for the future, or at least give it a thought: How will we emerge from this global crisis? What changes are likely to happen in your personal environment, your business or maybe in your career? Do you already have a plan B? What do you want to change?

There may be lots of problems ahead; but what about the opportunities? If you’re a magician, conjure up some good spirit for yourself and for others and get to work!

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Finally: Use your head! Be cautious, be sensible, take care of your loved ones and yourself, and please stay safe!


 

Scamming the Magic Lemmings?

TEATCT_Fig101_ST

Phew… Michael Close posted this very interesting link in his Jan/Feb newsletter. The headline sounded rather compelling:

“How a Magician Made $200,000 in Sales on a $100 Budget”

I certainly cannot validate the claims raised by marketeer Geraint Clarke in this article. However, it does sound fully possible to me. The product under discussion here is Ellusionist’s 2017 bestseller, “Erdnase x Madison” by Daniel Madison, which caused some stir in the magic community – and especially among Erdnase worshippers – back then. As we learn, the rage was well planned and planted.

From the introduction of Clarke’s article:

In 2017, I was asked to work on a campaign and product launch for a new training set for magicians. The product was called Erdnase x Madison.

Taught by Daniel Madison, a famous magician turned YouTuber, it was his re-telling of the methods Erdnase once shared. Bringing those methods and magic tricks into the current day.The product took the magic industry by storm, but not for the right reasons. To many, it was the butt of a joke they assumed we weren’t in on.

However, the sinister truth behind that negativity is… I manufactured it. With one bold quote [“I’m better than Erdnase, and I can prove it”–Daniel Madison] and less than $100 worth of marketing spend, the product sold out and grossed well over $200,000 within its first month of release.

But why did it work?

Shock and awe are online media’s bullet train. The fast route to awareness.

(…)

Click here to read the full article.

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Done? OK.

Quite a sobering read, isn’t it?

Now, leaving aside the specific product, why don’t we take this as a free lesson and a well-meant warning to all of us magic lemmings? It’s just plain wrong and stupid how we tend to jump, in best stimulus-response fashion, time and again on every latest overhyped gimmick or trick or the most outrageous claim out there in our fierce and tireless quest for the next holy grail of magic, searching and spending, spending and hoping, praying and spending…

Remember the First Law of the magic trade: Tricks can be bought. Magic can’t.
(And don’t forget the Second Law either: Never preorder! Never ever.)


 

 

A Hocus Pocus Minded Comic

Wiseman Hocus Pocus

Just out: A new psychic comic magazine by Prof. Richard Wiseman and friends. On 28 pages, issue #1 of “Hocus Pocus” features stories about Washington Irving Bishop, the cataleptic mentalist, J.B. Rhine investigating a psychic horse and Alexander, The Crystal Seer spilling his beans to two Laurel and Hardy type FBI investigators.

For magicians and mystics, the magazine contains some simple, but fun interactive features. Stories and texts are enlightening and often tongue-in-cheek (“Who is ‘Alexander’?… Man, who knows!?”). The best thing for you pennypinchers: While you can order a print version for £6,99 in the UK, you can download a free PDF version here.

Issue #2 is already in the making. I enjoyed this first, quirky ride and learned some interesting bits along the way. Have fun with it, too!


 

On the Svengali Deck

Svengali

By and large, magic forums are a constant source of annoyance and depression to me, paired with an uneasy feeling of waste, both of precious time and positive energy.

On the other hand, there is something new to learn or discover almost every other day, which makes browsing through various forums rather rewarding. For example, like many other majishuns, I had never heard of the fact, until recently, that the French call the Svengali deck “un jeu radio” because of the long and short waves on which radio transmission operates. And what became the “Stripper Deck” much later, started out as the biseauté deck, even in English (see Prof. Hoffmann‘s Modern Magic, for example). Not earth-shattering, but quite fascinating to learn, isn’t it?

Which reminded me of an alternative, unsuspecting Svengali Force I came up with many years ago. I guess it’s likely that others have had the same idea before me, but I haven’t seen it in print yet. Here it is:

1. Divide the Svengali deck into two packets by separating the force cards from the regular cards. Put the regular cards on top of the force bank, all face up.

2. In performance, casually spread through the different cards face up. Then turn the deck face down, cut it at the break and riffle shuffle (or, even better, faro) the two halves together, but without squaring them.

3. Instead, spread them into a huge, even double fan and have a spectator take any card. Naturally, he’ll pick one from the outer bank. It will be one of the force cards.

4. Square the deck and have the selected card replaced anywhere. With the two halves now neatly mixed into each other, you are all set to move into your Svengali routine.*

*If you don’t have one yet, make sure to check out the work of master Svengali pitchman Mark Lewis and his oldie-but-golden booklet, The Long and the Short of it.

Have fun exploring this idea!


For more Tricks & Ideas just click here!


 

Do You Know this Magic Ad or Company?

On the cover of the latest issue of “Ye Olde Magic Mag,” editor Marco Pusterla has featured an old advertisement from his collection, which you can see below. It’s probably around 100 years old. However, the publishing “BM” company has not been identified yet. A textiles or yarn company? Or makers of fine linen playing cards? Or something totally different? Maybe from France or Belgium?

Any helpers or ideas?

Pusterla_MagicAd_CarteForcee

By the way, once you are interested in this, why don’t you consider subscribing to Marco’s wonderful little journal? It’s available both in print and in PDF format, and it makes for a great read on magic history and collecting four times a year!


 

Well said: Robert-Houdin on “False Bottom” Conjuring vs. Art

Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, “The Father of Modern Magic,” 1868:

It is easy enough, no doubt, to play the conjuror without possessing either dexterity or mental ability. It is only necessary to lay in a stock of apparatus of that kind which of itself works the trick. This is what may be called the “false bottom” school of conjuring. Cleverness at this sort of work is of the same order as that of the musician who produces a tune by turning the handle of a barrel-organ. Such performers will never merit the title of skilled artists, and can never hope to obtain any real success.

Well said!

So beware of the “false bottom” or “push button” school of (pseudo) conjuring!


 

The 60% Force

Having a spectator freely select one out of four objects gives you a chance of 1:4 or 25% that each single object is picked. By knowing which face-down card in a row of four is selected more often than others, you can increase the chances of having your “favorite” card picked to 60%. (You could call this a force, even though it’s not surefire.) This is the essence of a new piece of academic research by Gustav Kuhn et. al., which has just been published. You can read the abstract online here.

According to the paper, out of four cards, 60% of the participants in an experiment freely chose the third card from their left (or the second from the right–but I’m sure that you’ve already calculated that). Please enjoy my masterful visualization of this key finding:

Graph60%

Yet these participants felt that their choice was extremely free. They also underestimated the actual proportion of people who selected the target card.

(My guess would be that this result is partly due to the overwhelming majority of right-handed people in the world.)

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By the way, Matt Tompkins from the SOMA Committee keeps a constantly updated “Science of Magic Bibliography” with academic papers published in English since 1887 (which means that some important early German and French research on the psychology of magic is missing there.) And here’s a special on the topic from “Frontiers in Psychology” in free PDF format.

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Read more about the upcoming SOMA conference in London here.


 

Mark Wilson’s Illusions for Sale

Mark Wilson Auction

If you have always wanted to own an illusion by Mark Wilson, the legendary TV and trade show magician, your chance is coming up this very weekend! A lot of the boxes have been created by Alan Wakeling and built by John Gaughan, two further legends in the field.

You can download the auction catalog right here. Enjoy browsing!


 

John Gaughan’s Chess Player at the Met

Chess Player_Gaughan_Met
The Chess Player at the Met Museum, NYC (snipped from the Met website, see links below)

If you happen to live or stay in New York City, you have but a few days left to visit the exhibit “Making Marvels: Science & Splendor at the Courts of Europe” at the Met Museum. Its magical highlight is the display of John Gaughan‘s famous reproduction of the even more famous Chess Player automaton (also called “The Turk” due to its costume back then). More than 800 books have been written on this marvelous, deceptive machine and its travels and encounters with the likes of Napoleon.

Which reminds me of a very funny anecdote Dai Vernon once shared in his column “The Vernon Touch” in Genii Magazine:

Concerning the „Chess Player,“ years ago it was on exhibit in Coney Island in the Dreamland Circus Sideshow. This show had twenty-one exhibits. Freaks of all descriptions such as the Ossified Man, Cuckoo the Bird Girl, Half Man/Half Woman, and many others.

The last one was Al Flosso, the Coney Island Fakir. One of these exhibits was the Chess Player. Flosso told me that the person concealed within the apparatus was an escaped prisoner from Sing Sing. It happened one day that another jailbird played the Chess Player and recognized the play of his ex-inmate. Smoking a pipe, he blew smoke inside the base. Presently he heard a cough and and the concealed guy inside had to exit the apparatus. This was a perfect hiding place.

(Genii, July 1989, Vol. 53, No. 1)

It might actually have happened. Even though the original automaton was already destroyed in a Boston fire in 1854, a similar Chess Player called “Ajeeb”, built in England by Charles Hooper, came to America in 1885. Later on, it was displayed at Coney Island until 1929, when it was also destroyed by a fire.

You can read some more about the Chess Player as a popular motif on postage stamps here and find some additional links and books there.


 

A Conference on Magic and Happiness

SOMA_Cards

The SOMA has just announced a new symposium on the “Science of Magic, Wellbeing & Happiness,” which will take place on April 4th, 2020, at Goldsmiths University of London.

As they write,

The symposium focuses on how the impossible art of magic can enhance social, psychological, and physical wellbeing.

Not only will you learn about the scientific evidence, but you’ll also gain perspectives from experts who run wellbeing-focused magic organizations in healthcare, as charities, and more.  It will be a great opportunity to connect with others in this field and explore further research avenues together.

Organized by Steve Bagienski and Gustav Kuhn, the line-up of speakers will bring together academic researchers of magic like Richard Wiseman with representatives of various magic charity organizations.

You can find more information here.