Archive for the ‘Four Points’ Category

FOUR POINTS: Flames dying? Rekindle your fire for magic

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

fire

It happens to us all. No matter how much we love magic, our batteries wear down and we find ourselves in a funk. Not a get-stuck-in-your-head uptown kind of funk, but a bored-beyond-belief blue funk.

How does that happen? Especially with this beautiful secret art?

Magic is magic, but humans are humans. We’re gonna get bored. The flames die down. Though we eventually mature and realize that while the glowing coals and embers of a fire are a lot more valuable and functional than all those pretty dancing flames, seeing the flames disappear still disheartens us.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or avocate who enjoys all that magic has to offer, or you’re a professional using your sleight of hand to feed your family, dealing with doldrums is critical. Your ability to impress and amaze depends directly on your ability to get excited about your art.

So how do you get the fire burning again? It depends on how the flames died:

MAKE A PLAN

Review your list of goals or plans. Are they still fresh? Do they point to a location that … wait, what? You don’t even have a plan?! No wonder you’re bored. Magic is a pursuit, and you should never stop pursuing. We’re fueled by a quest to learn and to perfect. So this is the time to plan a new destination. Whether it’s learning a new sleight or planning to land a regular gig at that choice location downtown, your plan is a map that keeps you focused on your destination. And if you’re focused on a goal, you never have a reason to be bored.

BACK TO BASICS

Maybe you’ve followed your plan and don’t like where you landed. Maybe you’re tired of traveling. Perfectly understandable. In this case, what would help is reconnecting with what turned you to the art in general. Maybe it was watching videos of crowd reactions, maybe it was the first routine you learned. Rediscover your discovery — reacquaint yourself with what you love about magic, and that will help get the flames dancing again.

PASS IT ON

It’s one thing to share magic with spectators — great reactions fuel us better than any gasoline, after all. But it’s another to share magic with other magicians. The shared brotherhood of magicians sharing nuances of their art can be addictive. Our own jam sessions between members of Team E are incredibly productive — the shared collaboration produces beautiful results. You can experience the same thing. Find a regular group to jam with. Or if you have a group already, figure out a way to shake things up.

TAKE A BREAK

Maybe you really do need a break. Maybe you’ve been burning too brightly for too long. So let the fire cool down. There’s no problem taking a break from magic. Recharge and don’t feel guilty about it. Your skills won’t leave you, and there will be plenty of new things to discover when you come back. Take your time; we’ll be here.

 

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Make your cards last longer when packing daily

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

cards

Yeah, yeah, our Australian friends and Southern Hemisphere members have already been enjoying warmer months, and sick of summer already. But for us on the higher end of the equator, we’re getting ready to spend more time outdoors. That means more opportunities for get-togethers, meet-ups, festivals and other cool events.

And for us, that means more chances for magic.

Preparing for performances is one thing, but most of our customers LIVE magic. We’re thinking about it all the time, dreaming up schemes, working out sleights or practicing our moves. That means we have cards on us at all times. And that means we’re using them more.

This is part of the reason that we go through cards like crazy. Because the best cards for magic are made of paper, that means we all recognize that a deck will eventually get worn out, and ready to be used as a Wreck deck. But there are ways to keep your decks alive for longer as they become critical-carry items like your keys, wallet, cellphone and Sharpie:

WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS

We’ve written about the biggest deck dangers before: These are your new red flags. Watch for them religiously, which shouldn’t be any problem for a magician who is training to be more observant and controlling of their environment. Just remember that if someone spills an iced coffee on your deck, it’s your fault.

CHOOSE POCKETS CAREFULLY

If you wear cargo pants with pockets that can double as sleeping bags, this is not a problem for you. But anyone who wears regular to skinny-fit pants may have issues here. If the pockets are big enough, then a deck can share space with a cellphone, no problem. While change isn’t a problem for cards, keys can dig into the side of the box, so don’t mix those. If the rear pockets are your only option, then be aware that the curve of your seat can permanently bend things — look at your wallet if you don’t believe us.

And if you’re a woman, the clothing world is conspiring against your magical ambitions. We think it’s absolutely nuts for jeans to not have pockets, and share any frustrations you may have. If you carry a purse, we recommend using one of the smaller, separate pockets for your cards, instead of sloshing around the main area. We’re pretty sure that’s what Hermione would do.

PRO TIP: GET A CLIP

Clips do more than look outstanding and show you are serious about cards — they protect those cards while they are in your pocket. They also protect something else: The box. Experiends card carriers know that many times the deck outlasts the thing that holds it.

MONITOR TEMPERATURES

This isn’t a life or death thing, because the worst that can happen from going back and forth between hot and cold areas is a little bit of a click-bend. Still, that jacks with handling, so if you know you’ll be performing, take some extra steps to prevent the back-and-forth. But for casual use, this will annoy only perfectionists. For the most part, this is good practice, because it acclimates us to the different states of our cards and how our fingers should compensate.

BONUS POINT: CRAM THAT CASE

Remember that each deck comes with 56 cards, and two of those you likely set aside or throw away. We’ve made a habit of putting a double-backer in most of our our custom playing cards, and the Black Kings have an Angle Z gaff card. It won’t hurt to cram in a few extra cards on a regular basis. Whether it’s a gaff card or presigned card, it’s real easy to leave those in the box, leaving you free to work with a full deck anywhere. And if a chance to perform pops up, you already have a card or two ready for some next-level magic. In fact, practice taking the rest of the deck out smoothly while leaving those cards behind in the box — no one will ever suspect there are cards left in it (or if someone does spot ‘em, just say they are the jokers).

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Important magic lessons learned in Army of 52

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

We revolutionized the gaff deck, so of course we revolutionized the gaff deck instruction video. And what resulted in the Arcane Gaff, Ultra Gaff and the Gaff System started with Army of 52.

Featuring Justin Miller, it showed eight incredible performances and an arsenal of sleights, moves and instruction. Created to show magicians how to use our Blue and Red Bicycle Gaffs, it expanded the concept by using our Ghost deck.

Released in 2006, it’s one of our older videos, but it’s remarkable how much of it holds up today. It’s worth a rewatch for many reasons, but mainly these four:

Magic shouldn’t always be clean

Not everything has to be impromptu, and there’s power in preparation. SPECTATORS DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. All they see is the magic you want them to see. When combined with good sleight of hand, a gaff card introduces a new realm of impossibility. That’s worth figuring out how to get out of a dirty situation, or packing a few extras on you.

Sleights are meant to be versatile

Forgive us for going meta here, but Justin has used Jack Carpenter’s Impulse Change in so many different ways that we lose count. Army of 52 is where he first taught that move in an Ellusionist video, alongside Hartman’s Pop-Out Move, Marlo’s Tilt and KM move, TG Thompson’s Deck Flip and more. Even though the sleights were taught within the context of using them, the uses of each one with a normal deck of cards popped in our heads instantly.

Power of presentation

Watching JM perform is a treat, and the reactions he got while filming A52 rank among our favorite (especially the dude with the afro reacting to Doug Conn’s pip matrix). Watching his video is a master class.

Motive matters

Gaff cards are tools. We’ve written about how the use of gaff cards is a sign of either sloth or skill, and we know a lot our customers lean heavily on their skill, and are unafraid of ending dirty. But in watching Justin perform, you quickly realize that these strange things are happening for reasons, even if those reasons aren’t always known. In other words, there is a lot of thought as to how the revealed gaff cards are revealed, in order to get the most magical impact.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Snow days are bonus days you can use to better your magic

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Ellusionist is a worldwide company, so we know about the different weather our customers deal with. For North Americans, snowfall has been a problem, especially in the New England area, where Boston has dealt with record amounts. On the other side of the globe, summer has hit particularly hard in Australia, marked by the second-warmest February on record.

Whether it’s extreme cold or extreme heat, what those two things have in common is that you’ll be stuck inside. And maybe that means you get a day off. Classes canceled? Boss tell you to stay home? It’s a surprise extra day that you can use to veg out or catch up on work or a TV show.

Or you could use it for your magic.

A weather-related vacay day gives you the perfect chance to level up your game, and get ready for when the weather is better. And that shared cabin fever between you and your neighbors means the community is primed for your performance. Here’s four suggestions: (more…)

FOUR POINTS: Remember these when trying to get media coverage

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Check out this story about magician Jay Shatnawi, of Windsor, California. It’s a great piece with an amazing photo, a good write-up of his performances at a Petaluma steakhouse and a a ballsy performance for Criss Angel and his “Believe” audience. The Press Democrat isn’t the New York Times, but that doesn’t matter to its readers. It’s a great story about one of their own community members, a rising star with talent to share and a story to tell.

That should raise the question: Why not you?

You live near a newspaper, or TV station. You perform magic. You have a story to tell, and you’d make a great subject for a story! You’re gonna start writing press releases right now, right? Wait, no! Just drive to the TV station! They’ll put you on live instantly!

Slow down. In addition to writing for Ellusionist and a performing close-up magician, I am the features editor for a daily newspaper in the Midwest, and I can tell you exactly what happens to most overly aggressive news seekers. To put it in magician’s terms, there’s a lot of ditching involved.

That doesn’t mean I’m a heartless editor. My position as features editor means I’m a little more accepting and flexible for a variety of stories, because I’m in charge of the sections people WANT to read, not what they NEED to read. I’m always looking for stories about people in our coverage area, and your story may be quite newsworthy.

So you should definitely pursue media coverage, if you think it will benefit you. But you should have reasonable expectations of the reception you’ll get from the media, and what — if any — kind of coverage you’ll get. We could dive into how to write a good press release, how to ask for coverage, etc. — but for now, the best thing to know is a little bit about the media business. I’m happy to share these four points, and hope they help you get good local coverage. (more…)