Small videos unlock big magic: Wilber inspired by Instagram

May 1st, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

adamigAdam Wilber, general manager of Ellusionist, has a reputation of being one of magic’s most fearless performers. He’ll show magic to anyone at anytime. Recently, he brought his magic to the cameras of Syfy’s “Wizard Wars.”

These days, he’s performing in front of a much smaller camera in a much shorter window of time — and making an even bigger impact.

Since about February, Adam has almost daily uploaded a new video to his Instagram account. The videos range from simple card tricks to effects with coins, ropes, sponges, red Solo cups, lollipops, Peeps, Lego bricks, iPhones, balloons, anything he can get his hands on. The reaction has been tremendous, Wilber said — the videos have lit his social networks on fire.

So why put so much effort into 15 seconds of grainy video? Read more

Never in E history: One day only, free shipping worldwide

April 21st, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Worldwide

The following is an opinion by Joe Hadsall, and does not reflect the views of Ellusionist or its artists.

Free shipping worldwide? I’ve never seen anything like this.

Perhaps you’ve heard about our Free Worldwide Shipping Event? All it takes is an order of $75 that includes a shippable item. That, last I checked, is a phenomenally ridiculously good deal. Geriant Clarke has more:

I have been with Ellusionist since 2008. For six years, I’ve seen some pretty interesting stunts, promotions, events and programs. I’ve helped organize fundraising benefit auctions, done interviews with some unforgettable magicians, seen incredible, jaw-dropping magic and written everything from sales copy to contest rules.

But I have never seen free worldwide shipping. Never.  Read more

Why John Scarne, expert card worker, removed sleight of hand for 150 routines

April 6th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

John Scarne is legend for his skill with a deck of cards.

In his heyday, he was called the greatest card manipulator of all time, and renowned as “The World’s Foremost Gambling Authority.” His hands appeared in place of Paul Newman’s in 1973’s “The Sting,” for which he was also a technical advisor. He consulted with U.S. Army bases around the world, warning soldiers about sleight of hand scams and dice cheats. His routine Scarne’s Aces remains an inspirational mystery to card workers. The plot is nothing short of a holy grail: Cut to the aces in a borrowed, shuffled deck; no prep, no setup, no stooge, only skill. Some say Scarne took his secret to the grave as others such as Bill Malone worked out their own methods.

So why did he write a book with nothing but self-working card tricks?

Our last post about the math behind shuffling got us thinking about the math tricks, the self-workers, where a magician just has to run through a set of instructions. No sleight of hand is used, just logic, misdirection and presentation. In 1950 Scarne published “Scarne on Card Tricks,” a compendium of self-workers adapted from presentations by Harlan Tarbell, Dai Vernon, Blackstone, Cardini and more. There’s more than 150 self-working tricks in this book, and none of them use any form of advanced sleight of hand.

Why would Scarne be interested in any of that? And why would anyone who was inspired by Scarne’s skill give any amount of serious thought to that philosophy?

Simple: Scarne was a magician.

“Five years ago, I decided that the card trick enthusiasts deserved a better grade of card tricks than they had been accustomed to performing. On the whole, the tricks performed by the non-sleight of hand card enthusiasts at that time were so simple that the secret was easily discovered by the person or persons they were intended to mystify.”

As mentioned above, he put out the call to other magicians for routines, but the routines he got still used some sleight of hand. So Scarne reworked them to replace it. Replacing moves with new formulas, dodges, subtleties, ruses, psychology, misdirection and feints, he re-created those submissions into routines that still produced the intended effect.

In case that last paragraph didn’t floor you, here’s the recap: A master manipulator reworked more than 150 tricks to be performed without sleight of hand.

The book is filled with advanced deception techniques and subterfuge. There’s no passes, but there are some deadly peeks. There are no sideslips, but there is a great use of salt. And it’s filled with Scarne’s thoughts, wisdom and plans for misdirection. Incredible stuff here.

We don’t hear much scorn or disdain from our customers anymore about self-workers, and that makes us smile. It takes a different kind of skill to successfully perform a self-worker, after all.

Do you have it?

FOUR POINTS: Math behind shuffling reveals important lessons for card workers

March 31st, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

Usually when magicians think about shuffling, anything random is FAR from our minds. We’re about CONTROL. We don’t need any random chaos, we just want things to look chaotic. When we shuffle, we can keep a card or a packet of cards right where we want them. Heck, we can keep the whole deck in the same order, if we want to.

Mathematicians are clearly not interested in our version of control.

They are much more fascinated by what’s going on with every shuffle, where every card is going and the mathematical principles that govern it — or how to best ensure that cards are sufficiently randomized. Part of that math is discussed in two videos on Numberphile’s YouTube channel, a channel dedicated to videos about numbers.

In two videos (posted below) featuring mathematicians Persi Diaconis, of Stanford University, and Federico Ardila, of San Francisco State University, the mechanics of shuffling are explained in fascinating detail. The two break down what makes a shuffle random, and how a perfect shuffle ends up in its original order. Once you get past how mind-blowing this information is, you can put it to good use. Mainly these four points: Read more

Power in your pocket: Get the most magic out of your smartphone

March 27th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

 

One of our favorite things to see on Instagram are pictures you share with us of what’s in your pockets. A lot of you are fantastic Instagrammers, and you take intricately arranged, beautifully composed shots of objects important enough for you to carry daily.

We always see playing cards in them — your favorite deck is important to you, obviously. We also see card clips, wallets, keys, pencils, knives, bottle openers and magic props. Each one of those things has an obvious magical purpose. But there’s one object we see appearing in your shots that we bet you’re not using to its full potential for your magic: Your cellphone.

These aren’t vintage bricks or monotone flip phones we’re seeing — far from it. They are the latest flagship devices. Y’all love your iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5 or whatever device you chose. You considered it carefully and picked it proudly, because you knew it would be right there in your pocket to meet the specific needs you have.

But are you using your phone to its fullest magic potential? We’re gambling that you aren’t.

Magic apps such as the incredible City Prediction go a long way, of course. But we’re also talking about so much more. That smartphone is a personal computer, capable of holding a tremendous amount of data and apps that can help you pursue the art of magic. Here’s a few ideas:  Read more