Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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

Friday, March 27th, 2015

 

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:  (more…)

David Copperfield reminds us about magic’s power to bond people

Friday, March 6th, 2015

There’s a lot of reasons we’re proud to be magicians. The art has enhanced our lives in so many different ways, from the way we can size up situations instantly, to the way we share joy and beauty with all sorts of people.

David Copperfield reminded us of another reason we’re proud.

The legendary illusionist, who has inspired so many modern magicians, wrote a column for the New York Times about the power of magical thinking. It’s a testament to how magic profoundly affects the human psyche.

“My fellow artists and I are here to create, if only for an hour or two, a concord among every member of the audience. Art has the ability to unite people into a collective mind. That’s the real magic, what those in the hate business can’t countenance.”

In making his point, he takes a trip through history, and how people have tried to suppress art, from how King James I in 1584 tried to destroy all copies of a book about sleight of hand to how a street magician was beheaded by terrorists in Syria. He also ties in other pop culture and efforts to suppress it, from the hacking of Sony Pictures to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

And for those who think Copperfield has never had to deal with any of those issues, they would be wrong. He tells a story about a trip to mid-1990s Moscow, where the Russion Orthodox Church claims his upcoming performance there is anti-religion.

Of course he won them over.

“Boris N. Yeltsin invites me to the Kremlin. When I arrive, who’s there but the patriarch, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Through interpreters we talk, we hang, titles and official roles fading as the night (and the vodka) wears on. At the end of night, the patriarch smiles and gives me the thumbs up. We’d started as strangers, suspicious of each other, and ended as pals. He realized I’m not Satan’s emissary, just a hard-working guy from New Jersey, as controversial (and, I hope, as entertaining) as a Cole Porter melody.”

His column is definitely worth the read, because it reminds us that we magicians are on the frontlines of a war against division. All that practice, all those performances; every business card we pass, every card we have signed, torn and restored — it all works toward bonding people together, and sharing a beautiful experience.

“Those of us in the entertainment business have a duty to vanish the idea that there’s an “us” and a “them.” When audiences unite in joy and wonder, you realize that the key isn’t the suspension of disbelief, but the suspension of divisive beliefs.”

Thanks for that reminder, David. Bravo.

Network debut: Adam Wilber, Justin Miller featured in Syfy’s ‘Wizard Wars’

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Tonight is the night. Two of magic’s boldest performers will appear on one of their biggest stages yet: A prime-time cable network show.

Ellusionist General Manager Adam Wilber and longtime performer Justin Miller team up and compete for $10,000 on the Syfy show “Wizard Wars.” Developed by Rick Lax and Justin Flom, the show gives a “Chopped”-style spin to magic shows: Pairs of magicians must develop magic effects and routines based on mystery objects given to them before the show.

How do Adam and Justin fare? Do they advance past the preliminary round and take on the show’s pros? We have high hopes. But no matter how they finish, Adam said the experience was a blast.

“We were pretty comfortable about the challenge because we set out to make our performance as entertaining and fun as we could with what we were given,” Adam said. “I’m happy with the way it turned out and, most importantly, we had a blast putting it together.”

Both Justin and Adam have reputations for performing fearlessly in a variety of situations. A performer with Ellusionist since the company’s early days, Justin recently completed filming The BOLD Project, which featured one of the craziest, riskiest performances we’ve ever captured on video — and he KILLED. Before Adam’s promotion to general manager, he had cemented his reputation as a worker by performing for anyone, anytime. He is the creator of The Working Man and the author of Creative Magic.

Adam said they were approached by Syfy to appear on the show. After a Skype interview, he was on a plane to Los Angeles for filming, he said.

But those are in close-up, street situations. How did the two interact on a stage, working as a team? Pretty well, Adam said.

“Justin and I are very close friends, so working with him was like second nature,” Adam said. “Two minds make the workload easier, for sure. Justin and I have a similar style of magic, so there was not a lot of teaking that had to be done. It all felt pretty natural.”

The performance went… well, you’ll see. Audience members reacted well, and connected with the two afterward to say how much they enjoyed it. Reaction elsewhere has also been overwhelming, he said. And some of the best performance feedback came from two of the show’s celebrity judges, Penn and Teller.

“It’s always great to get criticism from artists you respect,” Adam said.

“Wizard Wars” airs at 10 p.m. EST Thursdays on Syfy.

Marked Dealers marked a new era for this card-reading utility

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Madison Dealers, especially the first Erdnase Green version, are filled with advantages for the skilled card handler. The full-bleed back is reminiscent of the Bee decks long favored by sharps. The stock, discovered and tested by Daniel Madison at great lengths, is one of the finest we’ve found and provides superior strength and handling. And the shade of green is exactly the same as the first edition of S.W. Erdnase’s bible of card handling, “The Expert at the Card Table.”

But the biggest advantage is hidden in plain sight.

Dealers are marked, after all. Each card back clearly identifies what’s on the other side, as long as the secret markings are understood by the handler. It’s a TREMENDOUS advantage, whether the sharp is at a high-stakes, back-room table or in front of an audience.

But the Madison Dealers started something at Ellusionist. Consider these points about the marking system:

  • • It’s something that DM wanted for the price of a regular deck of cards. Before the Dealers, a working set of marked cards could cost $20 to $30, or even more. Handmade decks might have flaws that threatened the deception of the utility. But having a marked deck emerge for the price of a regular custom deck is, quite simply, a game changer.
  • • The philosophy is so powerful that it has been included in other decks. The Kings featured a new, unique marking system, and the 1800 Vintage decks were redesigned to include a marking system. In other words,
  • • The system behind the Dealers remains one of the strongest on the market, because of its minimal alterations. Consider a marked deck one would obtain from a big-box retail store. Those usually have a back that features obvious clock designs, with one “wheel” for suits and another for values. That means there are 15 to 17 points where alterations may be made. Alterations to regular Rider backs reduce that number of points to 9 or 10. But the Dealers have only six alteration points, and those points are small. And the back’s repeated use of the small dots make the alteration spots even more difficult to detect. That means the Dealers can withstand the scrutiny of more savvy laymen.

The Dealers mark a new age for marked cards. Use them wisely — these incredible cards give you much more than just a step ahead.

Syfy becomes a new home for great magic with TV lineup

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Something amazing is happening at Syfy. The network known for so-bad-they’re-kinda-good B-movies such as “Sharknado” and for stepping up its drama game with “12 Monkeys” and “Helix” is finding a new niche for great magic shows — the kinds of magic shows that make us cheer, not cringe.

Look at this lineup:

  • • We’ve already told you about “Wizard Wars,” the show that transforms the spirit of a jam session into an “Iron Chef”-style competition. Featuring Penn & Teller as celebrity judges, the show is the brainchild of Rick Lax and Justin Flom, and starts its second season Thursday. The new season features even more big names in close-up, including Project Manager Adam Wilber, Justin Miller, Messado, Eric Jones, Nathan Kranzo and more. The second season debuts at 9 p.m. EST Thursday.
  • • After “Wizard Wars” is a new show that promises plenty of close-up magic just by the name. “Close-up Kings” features Johnny Blaze, Magick Balay and Loki performing magic and stunts during a cross-country trip. As the journey progresses, the illusions get more orchestrated and turn into “Ocean’s Eleven” kinds of capers. “Close-up Kings” airs at 10 p.m. each Thursday.
  • • Already airing on Syfy is a new show from Troy Von Majik. “Troy: Street Magic” features the UK magician in a David Blaine-style street setting. Interesting use of hidden cameras gets completely different kinds of reactions, and each episode features environmental effects, from breaking and restoring a pair of designer glasses in front of the shop owner to bowling in a unique way. “Troy: Street Magic” airs at 10 p.m. EST each Tuesday.

It’s a solid lineup for the kind of close-up magic we love and live every day. The latter two are our favorite kind of magic shows, where magicians take their art to the street and capture the reactions of amazed onlookers. And though “Wizard Wars” takes place on a stage with an audience, it has close-up and creativity in its heart, and gives one of the best looks into a magician’s creative process without spoiling the magic. Plus, Penn & Teller are the perfect judges to critique a show based on magic creation.

In short: All these shows are great for magic, and it’s awesome that Syfy is highlighting the shows that magic fans and magicians alike can enjoy.

Do you plan on watching? Let us know in the comments below.