Posts Tagged ‘magic’

NEED TO READ: ‘Magician and the Cardsharp’ shows Vernon’s dedication to sleight of hand

Monday, June 29th, 2015

There’s a reason Dai Vernon is regarded as “The Professor,” and is one of the most esteemed, legendary names in magic. Actually, there’s a myriad of reasons, from his attention to detail and dogged determination, to his willingness to share what he’d learned with deserving students.

“The Magician and the Cardsharp,” by Karl Johnson, shows another reason: His dedication to pursuing sleight of hand. As the title suggests, the book covers two people: Vernon and Allen Kennedy, a shifty gambler who dealt his trade at card tables in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

We’ve written before about the lengths Daniel Madison went to learn the moves and skills needed to cheat against actual players. That pursuit led to Mechanic and fueled the devotion to deception behind Moves. Vernon’s path to learn many of those same moves, and apply them to magical presentations, is similar, and well documented in Johnson’s book — making it a perfect summer read.

Vernon’s hunt for Kennedy began in the ’30s, after the Great Depression had quelled America’s appetite for magic. Long known as a persistent, focused artist, he approached magic from an engineering standpoint. He was one of the first to expand the gambling lessons of S.W. Erdnase’s “Expert at the Card Table” — while other magicians relied on trick cards, gimmicks and gaffs, Vernon saw how sleight of hand could help him accomplish the same kinds of miracles, only with a more natural flow and feel. The moves of the gambler fueled him, and gave him the skill to fool Houdini.

He had to learn firsthand, however.

In order to learn more than what Erdnase could teach, Vernon sought out gambling rooms and pass himself off as a mechanic so that he could win the trust of crooked dealers and learn their techniques. Johnson does a brilliant job of telling how Vernon risked his life in order to steal the secrets of the crooked and use them for magical purposes. Bottom deals, second deals, stacks, deck replacements; he learned them all.

So when Vernon heard about Kennedy, who had allegedly mastered a deal from the center of the deck — a move that appears nowhere in Erdnase’s book — he had to hunt the secret down. Instantly understanding the value of such a move, he started a hunt to track down the creator.

And speaking of Kennedy: Johnson also details his life, and how the dealer drifted through gambling halls, learning a lot, practicing his trade and learning crucial lessons about timing. One of the most powerful lessons he learned was that there was no need to fully stack a deck, because all it took to swing a hand was one single card. That lesson stuck with Vernon, who repeated it often to anyone who would listen.

There are plenty of fantastic passages in “The Magician and the Cardsharp,” including how Houdini was affected by Vernon’s “fooling.” But the most compelling part of the book is how it demonstrates how all-encompassing the pursuit of magic can be. We can’t recommend everyone follow Vernon’s exact path, especially in these dangerous days. But Vernon’s efforts show exactly what it takes to blaze a trail.

Small videos unlock big magic: Wilber inspired by Instagram

Friday, May 1st, 2015

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? (more…)

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…)

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: Reasons why practice is just as addictive as performing

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Magicians quickly learn that when they dive into magic, they have actually picked up two activites: The art of practicing magic, and the art of performing magic. At Ellusionist, we are musicians, actors, photographers, speakers, athletes, crafters and more. Our staff members do a variety of things that require practice or rehearsal.

But none of those other arts or activities have such a clear separation between practice and performance.

We all know this. It’s why we recognize how the thrill of mastery is completely separate from the thrill of entertaining — but just as addictive. It’s why hobbyists sometimes practice just as hard as pros. It’s why magicians get together in groups and jams more than any other field of art we’ve seen. It’s why we have decks of cards specifically for shows and other decks specifically for practice sessions — and those decks are nicer than the performance ones, aren’t they? (We imagine you’ll keep a healthy stash of Black Kings for yourself, just for that reason.)

Dai Vernon was a relentless rehearser. And even S.W. Erdnase wrote about the thrill of learning:

“The enthusiast will not rest until every sleight in the calendar has been perfectly mastered, so that he may be enabled to nonplus and squelch that particularly obnoxious but ever present individual, who with his smattering of the commoner sleights always knows ‘exactly how it is done.’ Acquiring the art is in itself a most fascinating pastime, and the student will need no further incentive the moment the least progress is made.”

But the WHY behind it is fascinating, and gives us clues about how tightly magic gets tied into our way of life, in such a way that other arts can’t even touch: (more…)