“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.
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.
The Conjuring Arts Research Center has just started their “FREE Quarantine Book Club” which offers six classic books of magic while you are stuck ast home.
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. No. 69 also contains some corona quarantine tips from various magicians (plus a nifty card trick of mine!).
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.
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 this 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 Solomonfor 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!
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.
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.
Nick Lewin shares “Five ways to be positive” in these times in his blog post here.
Silly Billy (David Kaye) was quick in putting together a free ebook called 11 Things Every Performer Should Do During The Coronavirus Quarantine. It’s useful and a quick, fun read.
Magician and magic publisher Wittus Witt and FISM Honorary President Eric Eswin are sharing their thoughts on the magic future after COVID-19 in a special issue of Witt’s magic magazine. Their text is printed in English, Spanish, French and German, and it comes with a nice paper-cutting trick to make corona virus disappear from our planet. You can download the issue for free here.
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 video lecture – for free. It’s scheduled for Saturday, March 28, 1:00 p.m. in Portland, Oregon (which should be Pacific Standard Time).
Tim Ellis currently interviews other magicians nightly from his Laneway Theatre in Melbourne, Australia. Recent guests have included Michael Close, David Regal, and Gaston.
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.
Carisa Hendrix shares her lovely magic comedy stage show “Indulgence” with her alter ego, Lucy Darling, for free here.
If you are more into High Brow entertainment, why don’t you check outTeller‘s production of Macbeth, which he directed a few years ago?
There are two magic streaming events coming up – and they are free of charge. But please consider donating to the artists or to charities which help coping with corona!
Vanishing Inc. will be hosting “ShareMagic:Live” on April 5th at 12 pm NYC time. You need to register in advance for the event. Artists include Morgan and West, Harapan Ong, Caroline Ravn, Jim Krenz, Daniel Garcia, Andi Gladwin, Joshua Jay, and more.
Update: If you missed it, you can now download and watch the entire session for free here.
German magicians Marcus Weissenberg and Till Frömmel have also gathered together a great line-up of artists for their “Magic at Home Livestreamfestival” on YouTube and Instagram. It will run on three consecutive nights from April 3rd to 5th, always starting at 6 pm German time. Featured artists include Topas, Wolfgang Moser, Gaston Florin, Simon Pierro, Moritz Müller, and many others more. Follow the event here (Day 1).
Plus: Already looking forward to this treas(h)ure from Milk Can Magic Motion Pictures!
NOT FREE, BUT…
Many famous pros and teachers like Alexander de Cova or Roberto Giobbi are using the current hiatus to offer or intensify paid private coachings. Check them out if you have the time and the money to improve on your techniques, scripts, or creativity!
Do you remember the world’s first magic online convention a decade ago? The Essential Magic Conference ran for three consecutive years, with an amazing line-up of talents, and produced a total of 97 lectures on 48 hours of tape. You can get the entire Trilogy set of 24 DVDs currently with a 50% Covid discount here.
Upcoming: The Magicians Forum will be running a Live gathering on Friday, May 15 and 16th. Its a 2 day virtual event with a nice line up and break out sessions. Performers include Rafael Benatar, Allan Ackerman and Mike Powers. Registration is $5.99 per person. You can find out more about it here.
This is probably how the late great Ricky Jay would have attacked and killed the coronavirus:
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…
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 Showman Deceptionist, Mindblowing Mentalillist, Global Bizarrist and Super-Factual 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 cut out and move around stuff in Powerpoint…
Maybe you are more into arts and craft? Then check out the art of Orimoto. It’s about cutting and folding book pages in order to create relief-like images or words. Barbara Giobbi does them beautifully, and they are for sale. Learn more about it here.
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!
Finally: Use your head! Be cautious, be sensible, take care of your loved ones and yourself, and please stay safe!