Rüdiger Deutsch Auction, Part Two

Potter_Deutsch_2

The second part of Rüdiger Deutsch‘s fine and unique collection will be auctioned off by Potter&Potter on October 31. Again, there is a fine catalogue of 100+ pages available than can be downloaded for free here.

A shame to see this collection go and be dispersed all over the magic world, but that’s just the way it is…


Neues A-B-C der Taschenspieler-Kunst

ABC_Band 4

Wittus Witt hat soeben die vierte Ausgabe seines A-B-C der Taschenspieler-Kunst veröffentlicht. Das Buch enthält auf 156 Seiten die folgenden Beiträge:

Olaf Güthling über die jährlichen “Tenyo plus Eins”-Tricks für Sammler

Jan Isenbart mit einer Detailanalyse des ikonischen Gemäldes “Der Gaukler” von (?) Hieronymus Bosch

Peter Mika über Leben und Karriere des Semiprofis Hans-Georg Boginski alias Mister Bogo

Dr. Steffen Taut über die frühen Zauberkataloge und Listen von Willmann und Horster und ihre historische Einordnung (Teil 1)

Einträge unter dem Buchstaben “C” aus Jochen Zmecks Zauberarchiv

Besonders üppig fallen diesmal die Beilagen zum Buch aus: Neben einem Poster mit einer Übersicht der genannten Zauberkataloge und einer Autogrammkarte von Mister Bogo liegen sowohl eine Postkarte als auch ein auf Holz aufgezogener (!) Druck des Gemäldes “Der Gaukler” bei – eine tolle Idee!

Hier gibt es einen kurzen Video-Einblick in das neue Werk:


 

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)


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!


 

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?


 

More Hocus Pocus from Prof. Wiseman

Wiseman HP_2

After a successful premiere, the second issue of Hocus Pocus by Richard Wiseman and friends is out now with more stories and interaction on “Magic, Mystery and the Mind!”

You can download it for free here or get a print copy at selected shops.

It’s fun, it’s clever and enlightening. Enjoy!


 

Debunking the Maskelyne Myth

Maskelyne_BBC
Screenshot from BBC video

Somewhat related to my recent review of H. Wayne Capps’s disappointing book, Magicians at War, a fews days ago I was pointed towards this nifty BBC video animation by Dan John and Michael Bialozej. In less than seven minutes, they give you a crash course about the myth how Jasper Maskelyne supposedly contributed eminently to the British War effort by employing means of magic and ingenious engineering in the North African theatre. (No, he didn’t.) Some experts on magic and deception are also quoted. (Richard Stokes, the main debunker, is sadly not among them.) Recommended!


 

Well Said: Eric Jones on Racism

Eric Jones has a short, but pointed essay on racism outside and inside of magic in the latest issue of Genii magazine (July 2020). Let me quote:

We have to be able to see the racism in the history of magic for what it is. If we cannot understand the complexity of how we can and should evolve from our past, plagued by bigotry and systematic racism, we will certainly fail at building a future free from it. (…)

Let’s not ignore, encode, or erase the stains in our past or use our skills of deception to deceive ourselves about the flaws in our family and even our heroes. Let’s talk about things head on, straight up, and share our stories, learn about each other, listen to each other, and make room for mistakes. Sometimes we have to unlearn what we know to make space for growth and change. This is one of those times.

Well said, Mr. Jones!

For some blatant older examples of racial stereotypes in magic catalogues, see my posts here and here!