By BOB SEIDENSTEIN – Columnist – Adirondack Daily Enterprise
If you ever decide to become a magician, you must learn The First Law of Magic, which is this: There’s no such thing as magic.
No such thing as magic?
Am I toying with you?
Not at all.
There’s a very good reason magicians never reveal a secret: namely, to spare people from disappointment. It’s a sad fact of life that when most people learn how a trick is done, the fun is over.
When they don’t know how it’s done, it stays an entertaining little mystery. But if they do find out, it becomes just one more ugly reality. And let’s face it — most of us have had about all the reality we can stand.
Now let me clarify something. No magician worth his wand cares about fooling people. If they did, they would’ve used their powers of deceit to gain more money and status by going into really lucrative fields like politics, advertising or religion.
The magician’s raison d’etre is to delight and entertain, not to fool. And thus the First Law of Magic. And because there is no such thing as magic, magicians have their work cut out for them, giving people the joyful sense that what they’re seeing is indeed magic.
Here’s the weird part. Even though magicians know magic doesn’t exist, they themselves fall prey to believing it does. And you can blame that on magic dealers. Or to give credit where it’s due, on the peeps who write the descriptions about the magic the dealers sell.
What you pay for in a trick is not the trick itself but its secret. And the secret will never be revealed in an ad. Instead, only the effect will be described. Actually, to be precise, the effect will be over-described. A typical description could read: READ MORE
David Ben is the artistic director of Magicana and a guest curator of Illusions: The Art of Magic, which opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Feb. 22.
“What’s old is new, and what’s new is old” is an appropriate aphorism for magic – that is, for conjuring.
It was true for the first golden age of magic – roughly 1880-1930, as depicted in the chromolithographs on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, drawn from the Allan Slaight Collection at the McCord Museum in Montreal. And it remains true for what can be described as the current golden age, ushered in by Canadian magician Doug Henning through his television specials in the early 1970s.
As every culture, every society, every country seems to have its own form of magic, magic was and is a global phenomenon. So much so that Charles Carter, for example, carted 31 tonnes of equipment over the course of seven world tours between 1907 and 1936. And the tricks – the effects – magicians perform today are essentially the same because, like notes on a musical scale, there are only eight basic effects. The first four are the ability to make things disappear and reappear; to transform a person or object into something else; to make a person or object pass through or penetrate something; and to suspend the law of gravity. The remaining four effects are based on purported psychic phenomena: divination, clairvoyance, telepathy and telekinesis.
Interestingly, these effects can be used for good or evil. Teleporting a playing card to an unexpected location can generate much mirth – but it can also determine who receives a winning hand in a game of Texas Hold’em. One can divine another’s innermost thoughts on stage in a grand feat of entertainment, or use that same skill to “advise” (more correctly, direct) a bereaved soul in deeply personal areas of love, life and financial affairs. The desire for spiritual advisers was particularly rampant in times of global conflict, such as the First World War. This same need for counsel is just as prevalent today as people seek answers to what magicians remind us in these posters are “the most enduring questions of all time.” READ MORE
McDonald’s Aces and a Bonus – Paul A Lelekis – A Review
I recently got the opportunity to review Paul’s 56th ebook, a masterwork on McDonald’s Aces. This is part of the intro from Paul:
“This is my 56th e-book of magic (including a few physical books), and I’m proud of the amount of excellent magic that I have accumulated after decades of being a very busy performer.
I am very proud to present these two fantastic effects…one is an ‘exercise’ of apparent great manipulative skill and the second one is an example of unbelievable ESP ability.
These are NOT just tricks…and should NOT be treated as such. They are masterful presentations (dependent upon the performer), that also require some finesses, patter, conviction, and story-telling ability.
People believe what they want to believe. And I, for one, am NOT going to assume that my spectators don’t believe!”
First, a little something about ‘McDonald’.. and his story, courtesy of Paul…
“This routine was attributed to Mac McDonald (John W. “Mac” McDonald), who was born in Mississippi in 1907 and died circa 1981. Mac was a magic pitchman and only had one hand…and was considered an amazing magician, much like the great René Lavand.
Mac lost his hand as a 10 year old boy while working in a saw-mill in Alabama, in 1917. He moved to California in the 1920s as a young man and became a successful diamond broker forming “McDonald’s Diamond Exchange”.
However when the Depression hit, his diamond business “went under” and Mac became a magician and was quite successful, performing for royalty, and even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, twice.”
McDonald’s Aces, in one form or another, has been popularized by a multitude of performers.. including Ricky Jay and Dai Vernon. Paul’s version, although it uses a unique collection of sleights, sticks close to the original performance.
Four Aces are shown, and then dealt to the table to create four future piles of cards. One of the Aces, generally the Ace of Spades, is dealt close to the performer and later becomes the pile in which the magic happens. Three more indifferent cards are dealt, face down, onto each of the Aces .. forming the four stacks.
After due patter, each pile is picked up, the Ace inserted into the middle of the pile, and, like magic, the piles are each shown front and back… and the Aces have vanished. To bring the effect to a climatic end.. the final pile, the Ace of Spade pile, is revealed to contain all four Aces.
Now, Paul’s is a much better effect than it reads in my quick recap. You can easily make McDonald’s Aces a centerpiece of your set with Paul’s handling. I don’t want to scare anyone off when I say he uses several sleights to achieve the magic, because Paul includes videos of each of the sleights to give you a deep dive of the techniques.
Paul teaches each of the following:
Benzais Spin-Out Move
C. Miller’s Up-the-Ladder Cut
Hollingworth Multiple Shift
LePaul’s Invisible Turnover Pass
Vernon Strip-Out Addition
-plus- Two False Shuffles
Each move is used by Paul in his performance, but not all moves are necessary in your performance. He gives you work-arounds if you don’t want to use his suggestions.
At the end of the day, this is a really good study of how a very skilled card guy would perform this classic of card magic. Paul’s writing is always complete and nothing is left out. Plus, I’m sure you can write Paul if you have a question, and he will be glad to help you over the hump.
As is customary in many versions of McDonald’s Aces, you will need three gaffed cards, which you can get from magic dealers or make yourself.. in the event you don’t already have them – You need three double-facers with Aces on one side and indifferent cards on the back. Heck.. you can even glue two cards together to make yourself a working prototype.. and practice till you get the real thing..
Included in this 20 page PDF is FREAK OUT, a mental magic effect that allows the magician to surprise the spectator by knowing the identity of their card without looking at or touching the deck. The spectator does all the hard work and the magi takes all the credit.
The spectator cuts the pack.. the spectator looks at the card cut to… the spectator shuffles the packet.. and the magician, after a bit of patter aimed at making the spectator a believer in magic, reveals the identity of her card. The patter is important, and the lack of handling is important. Paul will explain it all…
Anyone who can perform a false shuffle..(taught via another video by Paul) can perform Freak Out. I would say McDonald’s Aces is more on the advanced beginner to intermediate level. Paul also provides a treatise on JACKS and their history, since he uses Jacks instead of Aces to perform McDonald’s Aces.. Can you still call it McDonald’s Aces if you use Jacks? Ask Paul…
As I mentioned, this is a 20 page PDF, along with multiple videos (8 MP4s), for $8.00 .. Available through Lybrary.com. and Murphy’s Magic.