FOUR POINTS: These are the biggest hazards that threaten your new cards

December 30th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

So, you got some cards for the holidays. And not just any cards, but some of the custom playing cards designed by Ellusionist. You were awed over the art and amazed at how they glided and snapped — definitely a step up over those cards you bought at the big-box retail store.

Whether you spoiled yourself or got a thoughtful gift, chances are you’re going to be packing a deck with you everywhere you go — if you weren’t already. Who are we kidding — OF COURSE you’ve been packing a pack. You’ve been carrying around those boring red-backed cards for weeks, and now you have some world-class design to show off. Besides, you know you need to practice, and you take every chance you get to do so. You’ve already learned some incredible things, and that practice can be thrilling and addictive in the pursuit of a new move.

That means you’ve likely learned some hard lessons about taking care of cards.

How did you lose your first card? Did you drop it in some liquid? Get food on it? Did some goobsmack bend it like Beckham trying to keep you from spying its identity, leaving it looking like an Ozarks hillside? Whatever that was, you learned an important lesson about keeping decks together. You learned that even the best cards are still made of paper, and that there is much more deck-buying in your future.

Don’t fret: There’s plenty of things you can do with an incomplete deck, and we’ll cover that in a future blog post. For now, you’re probably interested in keeping your new deck alive as long as you can, while carrying it as long as you can out in the field. It’s a noble goal: You can get so much more out of our decks when you care for them properly. And the best way to do that is to always keep an eye out for these four hazards to playing cards. Spotting these red flags will keep your deck golden.

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Ollie Mealing: Norms stifle our creative thinking into a rut, so break from them

December 25th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Ollie Mealing,creator of Control and Recoil, is a consultant for Derren Brown and created some of magic’s most-buzzed about videos on the Internet. On a break, he got a chance to check in about norms and how our magic may be littered with them — at the expense of our creativity.

Norm: A standard, model or pattern regarded as typical.

Within life we all passively fall prey to conformity, a set of behavioural norms that ultimately serve to shield us from conflict, by encouraging us to fit in with our environment. It’s a vast and complex subject that really is worth reading into. For the purpose of keeping this blog short I won’t digress too far, but know that as useful as these norms can be, they impair our creative thought.

Hiding in plain sight, there are countless norms within the performance of magic that have become so deeply rooted we struggle to see them as being questionable — they align so habitually with our performance that we take them for granted, allowing our performances to breathe such elements as imperceptibly as we breathe air.

Still unsure what I’m talking about? This indicates just how veiled and accepted these norms are. Let me quench your curiosity:

  • • When we perform we’ve always either sat or stood — what if we were lying or crouching?
  • • We’re always facing our audience — how could a different orientation serve the performance or experience?
  • • We’re always present in the room — where else could we be and what would be the repercussions?
  • • The magic is always in close proximity to the performer and the audience — where else could it be happening?
  • • The effect is always performed sequentially and continuously — is that really necessary?
  • • There’s always light — could darkness be beneficial?
  • • There’s always an effort to acquire an audience — what’s our other options?
  • • There’s always a space considered favourable to performance — how could we embrace a different space?
  • • There’s always an observable effect — could we experience magic another way?
  • • There’s always a desire to delight — what other emotions could we wish to stir?

Aside from their advantages, these and many more commonplace norms restrain our creativity by becoming undisputed requirements. They act as filters, hindering our ability to quite literally think outside of the box that they create. They impose limitations and therefore scope for diversity. Of course there are exceptions to these statements, but overall they remain ubiquitous within performance; we accept them without questioning the consequence of their absence, we lose sight of the fact that they CAN be disputed, resulting in fresh, unconventional revelations.

When it comes to the approach and execution of magic we adopt the norms of those before us, which have evolved through extensive experimentation and time-tested realisation of preferable combinations of circumstances — but collectively those norms are the result of a chain reaction, one which has formed a stratosphere above our creativity by creating the illusion of what magic is.

But really, that’s just one direction and comprehension of it. Of course while within this model we’re in no grave danger of exhausting ideas, but by gravitating towards such norms we effectively solidify a perceptual embodiment of magic. Progress requires change; we should be regularly considering everything we can, asking, “How could this be different?”

Because it always can be different. Art has no limits.

“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.” -Bruce Lee

There are plenty of factors which are conducive towards good entertainment and anything presented in the right way can of course be entertaining — entertainment in essence is awakening a perspective, you’re delivering information in such a way that it serves to provoke a notable experience. So surely there’s no reason why magic can’t look or feel different to it’s current disposition and yet still be entertaining — entertainment ensues from the delivery of information, rather than the information itself.

With that in mind, I feel that magic has the potential to be so much more than how we think of it today, but to discover (rather than stumble upon) what those shifts could comprise of, I believe must involve mentally inhabiting a new place for what magic can be by parting with our norms and adhering to an unduly, inquisitive cognition, we empower the potential for revolutionary ideas to reach the fore.

Only the curiosity of today conceives the magic of tomorrow.

Artist Interview: Pyro the result of two years’ worth of work

December 15th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews

The device that Adam Wilber saw in an Internet video looked frightening. It was a handheld fire spitter, but it had a mercury switch and was controlled by the level of the arm. Still, the idea took hold: Three months into the beginning of taking the reins as Ellusionist’s project manager, he dived into developing a device that gave him everything he wanted — which didn’t exist on the market then.

“I wanted something that was self-sufficient,” Wilber said. “It could strap on the wrist, it would be comfortable, you could use it whenever you wanted, fire it whenever you wanted, and you didn’t have to worry about a pull down your sleeve or palming something off.”

Two years of work, research and seven prototypes later, that device exists.

And it has caught the Internet on fire.

Adam Wilber’s Pyro Fireshooter has gone viral and earned a crazy amount of reviews from both magicians and laymen. You may have seen it on one of your favorite non-magic sites lately:

The ultimate compliment to Wilber and testament to the device’s success was a sellout of the device’s first run, days after release. The response is a dream come true for Wilber, the author of Creative Magic and creator of the effects in The Working Man.

He talked more about the device, its creation and applications in this podcast interview. Listen to how he uses the device in his own gigs (including a crucial rule you must follow), problems with the first prototypes and how he got talked into sitting in the middle of a fireworks explosion for the trailer.


FOUR POINTS: Add holiday magic to your magic with these ideas

November 30th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

There’s holidays, and then there’s the holidays.

Most countries have one or two days where everyone goes whole hog with celebration, but the end of November usually brings an entire month of excitement, including Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan and more. The excitement changes us a bit, gets us thinking about the upcoming celebrations, gifts, decorations and more.

The holidays change us. But how do they change our magic?

Does your ambitious card routine go from being about Houdini to Santa always popping out of a chimney? Do you wear more Christmas colors to your gigs? Does your coin box get wrapped in wrapping paper with a bow? Or maybe your performance character doesn’t have room to stretch out into a holiday theme?

Granted, most of you are in the midst of a season full of gigs, so you have already considered those things. If you haven’t, though, it’s never too late. Here are four areas to consider whether a little holiday magic should be part of your magic.
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FOUR POINTS: This is why AI will never make better magic tricks

November 17th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

So you saw that story about how a computer designed a magic trick, and it made you give up magic, right? Seeing that a computer is capable of devising a trick that fools laymen and magicians alike, you threw down your deck of cards, completely gave up on your idea of combining a glide and a cop and went back to browsing listicles involving cats and Emma Watson?

Yeah, we didn’t think so.

The report about researchers from Queen Mary University of London touts that researchers programmed a combination of the mechanics of a jigsaw puzzle, the method of a mind-reading card trick and results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks. From that, the computer came up with some variants. Able to process a larger amount of variants, one of the co-creators of the project said that the amount of variants “keeps audiences guessing.”

Most of you probably caught on that one of the tricks is more of a puzzler, and the other is mathematical. Probably didn’t leave you feeling all that threatened, and you went back to practicing your table faro shuffle. Still, there might have been a seed of doubt — is this just a harbinger of things to come? Will AI progress to the point where we can get fooled by machines? Is this the beginning of technology changing magic?

We feel your pain, and we’re here to assure you that magic will be fine. We may eventually be enslaved by hopefully benevolent robot overlords who at least give us sme food before they use poisonous gases to poison our — you know. But they will never fool us with magic tricks. Here’s why:  Read more