More on Magic and Art

In recent weeks, I have expanded the MAGIC ART section on this site a bit. New entries feature the wonderful and diverse talents of artists–many of them also magicians–like Jonathan Allen, Tango Gao, Tommervik, Jay Fortune, Asi Wind, Antonio Cabral, and Vanni Pulé.

Take a look!


 

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Magic Books versus Conjuring Books…

DavidPrice

On The Davenport Collection website which I mentioned and recommended a few days ago, I came across this funny bit in a fine article on “Booksellers, collectors, and rogues” by David Price (the British one) about the fine line between magic books and conjuring books, at least back in the Fifties:

Magicbooks

Love it!

I wonder whether similar “magic” code words exist(ed) in other languages as well?


 

An Interview with David Regal

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„The process is my favorite part“

David Regal is one of the most original and most prolific creators in our field, and I am a huge fan. He is also a super nice guy who graciously cut out some time from his current schedule of shooting the final episodes of “The Carbonaro Effect” to do this interview about inspiration, creating magic, and considering retirement.

Hi David! Ten years after Approaching Magic your new book, Interpreting Magic, is finally coming out. What has taken you so long? 🙂

It doesn’t seem like a long time to me. It was simply the amount of time it took to develop material, interview people from different places around the world, and write the book.

Besides format and weight, how are the two titles or their content related? Do we read them like a progression, culminating later maybe in Strengthening Magic or Selling Magic, or is it more about a shift in your focus?

You think there will be another book?! I can’t conceive of such a thing. I honestly can’t imagine trying to tackle it again. I do think that Approaching Magic and Interpreting Magic link insofar as both deal with ways to individualize the magic we do. Either can be read alone, though.

Has your magic somehow changed over the past years, and if so, does this show in the book?

I have matured, but I don’t mean that in the way of something I have accomplished by virtue of will, more like something that happened to me. Over the past ten years I’ve written or collaborated on literally hundreds of magic routines, for television and in theatrical venues. I’ve tried to pay attention and learn, and my observations and experiences are part of my current book… in addition to a lot of material.

That is indeed a lot! Besides presenting dozens of new tricks, you have conducted more than 30 interviews with many of magic’s top creators and performers, from Simon Aronson to Rob Zabrecky. With what intention and to what overall effect?

I feel that by looking at so many different people’s “way in” to magic and their process, the cumulative effect is both inspiring and welcoming.

What’s your own favorite approach to developing new material? Do you rather start from the effect, or the method, or with an interesting premise or prop?

There is no one way. It all comes down to “What if…?”

Many creative people will tell you that they have special moments and places where their next big idea is more likely to strike them, like during their morning shower or while walking the dog late at night. How about you?

I come from television writing, where one cannot choose to wait for inspiration. Inspiration is lovely, but my training has been on the battlefield of production demands. Your favorite TV show? The one that seems particularly funny or well-crafted? It was at one time writers in a room with a deadline!

If pressed, who’s your favorite creator in magic, and why?

I particularly like Al Baker, maybe because I was fortunate to be loaned an Al Baker book by a neighbor when I was too young to understand or appreciate it all. As I grew the book magically informed me in new ways.

DavidRegal1

With six big books under your belt now, your magic output is amazingly huge, diverse, and original. What drives and inspires you to go on and on?

The process of putting things together, working out the puzzle of it all, appeals to me. The process is my favorite part. For a while I felt guilty about that. Only recently have I started to accept who I am and what I’m drawn to, but better late than never.

Definitely! You are obviously way too young to retire, but if there was only one accomplishment in magic you wanted to be remembered for, which one would it be?

I am not too young to retire, but I like to occasionally flatter myself by imagining that my new book might one day be looked back on as something that was good for magic. I realize that sounds egotistical, but why would anyone go to the effort of writing a book like this without hoping the same thing?

Right, who isn’t into writing also with a faint hope of leaving a worthy legacy… Final question, totally unrelated: Any chances of welcoming you in Germany, the land of The Mugs & Balls (beer and soccer!) and the home of the Flicking Fingers, in the future?

I’d love a trip to Germany!

Great, let’s hope our convention and tour bookers are listening! Thank you so much for your time, David, and best of success with Interpreting Magic!

(Interview: Jan Isenbart)


MORE REGAL:

Check out the full table of content of Interpreting Magic here (PDF) and his website and online shop here.

In addition, here’s a recent podcast interview of David by Scott Wells from The Magic Word.

And finally, do yourself a favor and enjoy one of his shows from The Magic Castle, featuring Herman! (Spoiler alert: Watch out for the cheese!)


 

Wishful Thinking and Automatic Rejections: Erdnase and Voynich

ZZZauber_Erdnase_Fr
An early quest in Genii Magazine

This fascinating article by medieval scholar Lisa Fagin Davis published in The Washington Post was brought to my attention the other day via a post over at the Genii Forum.

Dealing with the annoying recurrent and premature claims by various authors for having solved the riddle of the legendary Voynich manuscript, Davis shares a number of critical observations and very reasonable recommendations. With striking similarity they also match the proceedings and the heated discussions over new “findings” about the Erdnase authorship in our field of interest.

Thus, I have extracted the relevant paragraphs from the article below and added the corresponding Erdnase references, so ((double brackets)) around original text and bold additions are mine:

Why do people keep convincing themselves they’ve solved this ((medieval)) mystery?

For ((centuries)) decades, the ((Voynich Manuscript)) Erdnase authorship has resisted ((interpretation)) discovery, which hasn’t stopped a host of would-be readers from claiming they’ve solved it.

Every few months, it seems, a new theory is trumpeted ((by the new media)) beneath a breathless headline.

But most would-be interpreters make the same mistake ((as Newbold)): By beginning with their own preconceptions of ((what)) whom they want ((the Voynich)) Erdnase to be, their conclusions take them further from the truth.

Like others before them, ((these)) authors tend to go public prematurely–and without proper review by the real experts. Word of each new solution spreads across the ((globe)) Genii Forum in minutes.

Almost Dozens of solutions have been proposed in the past ((century)) decades alone, most of them more aspirational than they are substantive.

I recently received an ugly and threatening direct message . . . referring in detail to my critique . . . For some, apparently, the stakes appear to be irrationally high.

. . . undercooked solutions presented without context lead readers down a rabbit hole of misinformation . . .

Every new ((Voynich)) Erdnase theory offers an opportunity for readers to exercise healthy, critical skepticism . . . Proposed solutions shouldn’t automatically be rejected (the default reaction of most ((medievalists)) Erdnasians), but they should be approached with caution. Seek out expert opinions, and do some follow-up reading. It shouldn’t take ((a Voynichologist)) an Expert expert to spot a leap of logic or an argument based on wishful thinking instead of solid facts.

. . . we tend to bring our preconceptions with us to the table. The more we burden the manuscript with what we want it to be, the more buried the truth becomes.

To truly understand the past, we have to let it speak for itself. The ((Voynich)) Erdnase Manuscript has a voice–we just need to listen.

Chapeau, Ms Davis, I’d say you’ve nailed it! For Voynich, Erdnase, and beyond.

I think it would be fun and revealing to browse through the Erdnase thread over at the Genii Forum again with this checklist in hand.

This brief text should be required reading for all (amateur) historians and over-enthusiastic secret-solvers, don’t you think? Please help spread the word!


Addendum:

Here’s a related article by the same author. It ends with this plea:

To those of you out there in Voynich-land who are even now working on decrypting or deciphering this “elegant enigma,” please take heed of Manly and Mendelsohn’s words of caution: in order to be accepted as legitimate, your solution must be logical, repeatable, take into account the verifiable published scientific analyses, and result in a reading that makes sense both intellectually and chronologically.

Solid advice!

Ah, were it not for the chronological discrepancy, I might have solved the Erdnase puzzle back here… 😉


 

A Card Aficionado’s Exemplary Labor of Love

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Granted, a lot of things are wrong in magic today, among them the ridiculous, breathless magic industry that keeps spitting out overpriced and underworked trash (tricks, moves, one-trick DVDs or downloads) in a daily frenzy.

Thankfully, a lot of other things still feel so right and so great and thus make magic the most amazing and most gratifying hobby I could ever imagine. Here’s one reason: The endless creativity and dedication which some amateurs put into their projects, be it in developing new tricks or routines, performing, or teaching others, without a price tag, simply out of sheer joy and the belief in sharing.

To give you an impressive example: Paco Nagata (that’s his stage name) from Spain is one such amazing fellow who has just “surfaced” in the magic community. A lifelong student and lover of card magic, he has written a book titled The Passion of an Amateur Card Magician. As he states (quoted from the Genii Forum),

It took me 25 years to write it. It’s a kind of autobiography card magic life as amateur, plenty of ideas, anecdotes, pieces of advice according to experiences, etc. Interesting especially for family amateurs like me. (…) I’m very happy to be able (finally) to share this work with every card magic lover.

And, oh, passionate he is: Originally written in his native Spanish tongue, Paco has taken up the enormous task of translating his own 550+ pages into fluent, readable English, which took him several years and which apparently was just completed very recently.

Best of all, he is offering his thoughts and routines completely for free, in a PDF file you can read and download right here! (The Spanish version is also available.) And he is not even bragging about this or plugging his product. Maravilloso!

If I’ll ever come around to publishing more of my own stuff in a coherent form, I will try to remember and follow your bright example, amigo!

I’m only about 70 pages into the book at this point of writing, and I have neither the inclination nor the cardists’ knowledge to write a review, but I am already enjoying his style and many of his observations, like this catchy quote:

NagataQ

As another example, Paco gives you some interesting thoughts about the difficulty of the amateur performer to be accepted, unlike the pro, as a “true” magician by his family and friends.

I certainly look forward to diving deeper into this tome as time allows and can only applaud the author for his effort, product, and demeanor. Magic could certainly need a couple more guys like him!

Muchas gracias, Paco! Viva la magia e todos los aficionados mágicos!


 

Fun Friday: Recognition for the Bierglas Effect

According to the latest buzz from overseas, card wizard and beer connoisseur Denis Behr has just been inducted into the Magic Beer Hall of Fame in Shaumkron, Illinois!

The press photo(shopped) below shows the inductee silently admiring snapshots from his own masterpiece, the world-famous Bierglas Effect (sadly often misspelled as “Berglas”), while soothing Herbert, the slightly envious rubber-band, inside his left pocket.

Congratulations, Denis, und Prost!

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Denis Behr Instagram Pictures (selected, hijacked and recomposed by Zig Zagger)

 

Snapshots and Pieces from The Davenport Collection

Speaking of magic websites brimming with inspiring information on tricks, tricksters, and history, I also need to mention The Davenport Collection website, which is fed (you guessed it) by the Davenport dynasty. It was started in 2016, today it already hosts about 900 entries, and it keeps growing.

The layout is so Nineties, but the content is wonderful! Serious students of the past should find the articles and conference papers of magic historians particularly interesting. Here’s an excerpt:

Davenports
Screenshot from the website

Go and have a look, but don’t complain to me later that you have just spent two or three hours of browsing, reading, and marveling over there!


 

Words and Thoughts on Wonder

Speaking of interviews, science magician and professional speaker Dr. Matt Pritchard from the UK runs a fine, scholarly website which I have been pointed to only very recently. In his own words, the site’s concept is quite simple:

I interview a host of creatives, magicians and scientists about their work and how they cultivate & share wonder. They are all people who have inspired me in my own work or just made me go “Wow!”

The 70+ interviews are a treasure trove of interesting people with fascinating ideas or areas of expertise. Advice: Do not only hunt for the magicians! (But make sure to read R. Paul Wilson.)

Highly recommended!

WoW
Website Screenshot

 

Georges Méliès, the Painter

Elsewhere I have already written (in German) about a fine recent art exhibition in Munich and Aachen on “Lust for Deception”–and thus manipulating perception–through the centuries. (You can see some pictures here.) It was a fitting tribute to include magician and movie pioneer Georges Méliès with a number of short, deceptive stop-trick clips which ran nonstop on a special screen.

But later, I was much more surprised to discover an amazing painting by the same artist in the huge trompe l’oeil section. I must admit that I had not been aware of his other immense talent. Had you? His “Self-Portrait of the Artist” (below, exact date unknown) certainly deserves special mention, both out of itself and in the light of his real/reel profession.

MeliesSelf
Web Screenshot

I have asked The Great Googelini for advice, but even he could not conjure up a significant number of other “traditional” paintings by Méliès. But as I learned here, he apparently aspired to work as a painter early on. Instead, he became a magician and a visionary pioneer of filmmaking who painted his own fanciful scenery and smokescreens.

And, as they say, the rest is history.