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Steve Brooks
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I used to worry about spectators. I really did. I always felt they would "catch me" as it were.



Then I discovered something very interesting.

And it all started with a puzzle.



An old friend of mine (non-magician) was a member of Mensa. She was very smart to say the least. She was the type that could solve a rubik’s cube in under two minutes!



Anyway, my magic drove her crazy. She would actually become very upset, because she could not solve the puzzles I presented to her. You have to understand, everything in life was a puzzle to be solved, as far as she was concerned. And isn’t magic just a puzzle presented in a entertaining way?



To help cheer her up, I explained to her she couldn’t solve the puzzle, because she didn’t have all the facts! And that maybe, just maybe, the facts she did have may not really be sound.



That day it occured to me. Assumptions. People make them everyday. They look at something (a movie, an object, a puzzle) and make an assumption. They assume all the time. And you know what? People never challenge their own assumptions.



What does this mean? It means our jobs are really all that much easier. We often run away when nobody is chasing us! So Just remember the magic word "Assumptions" Smile

Just a thought.



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Andrew
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I think assumptions are a large part of what makes the magic work in the first place. Some magic will never work for children because they don’t make any assumptions regarding what they see. Some of the simplest magic is spectacular to them for reasons that we adults completely miss.

Of Course, as they mature and learn to assume, the old tricks work for them.



I’ve performed for those who can’t stand to be puzzled and they really can’t enjoy magic.

They HAVE to know how it works and some have actually been offended when I would not relay the workings of the effect to them. They miss the point of the performance, which in my case is not to fool, but to amaze and entertain.

(Whoops! Got a little off-topic there, didn’t I?)



Andrew Smile



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Scott F. Guinn
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Mike Close has an excellent essay on assumptions in Workers 5. Required reading for real-world performers.
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Big Daddy Cool
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Assumptions are only a piece of the puzzle I call "Social Conditioning." Let that phrase hang on the clothes-line of your mind for a while.



-BDC





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AndiGladwin
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As Scott mentioned, in book five of his fantastic ’Workers’ collection, Mike Close discussed how we can use some pre-assumptions that audience members may have to our advantage. If I handed out a deck of cards for examination, the audience will automatically assume that it is a normal deck, otherwise I would not let them handle it. It is assumptions like this that could be used to create great magical impact.



Since reading Close’s essay I have considered some of my own assumptions - none are particularly new, but I don’t believe many of them have been labeled under the term ’assumption,’ which allows us to look at it from a different angle.



He’s Lying

This was discussed in passing by Mike Close in Workers 5 but not highlighted as a specific assumption.

If I say, "I will shuffle the normal pack of cards so they are fully mixed," this is causing too much attention to the fact that the cards are normal it will only have the audience believe that they are, in fact gimmicked.



So if we do not lie to the audience they cannot make as many negative assumptions. The cards are a ’deck of cards,’ not a ’regular pack of playing cards’ - this small difference could help as a massive advantage. There are many other negative assumptions that we, as magicians, must battle against but I will try to leave these to a minimum.



It’s Time To Relax

Most magic effects have relaxation areas in them, by this I mean stages where the audience need not focus.

An audience member will normally assume that they can relax while you are not paying attention to them or on any magic happenings, for example: while you retrieve something from an audience member or from your pocket. This would be the ideal time to execute a move, as the audience is not expecting anything to happen.



Another relaxation area is just after or during a comedic moment. In my old manipulation act I used this assumption a lot; in fact most of my steals and switches are accomplished by the "It’s Time To Relax" principle.



The Magic Has Finished

This is very similar to the previous assumption and is used mainly in ’kicker endings.’ Effects with multiple climaxes fall under this category, just as one climax finishes the audience relaxes and they are taken ’off guard’ by the next climax. Personally I am a little dubious about kicker endings as the audience is not always aware that something is happening so they do not always see the effect and may give a response such as, "What happened there?" This is something that I will discuss in much more detail another time.



However, if you feel you can put this assumption to good use, feel free to do so. As I mentioned in "It’s Time To Relax" you can use this relaxation period to perform a move, which at this time would either be to set up for a forthcoming effect or to clean up from the previous effect.



Its All Rehearsed

Another of Mike Close’s assumptions is "Polished Prestidigitation," which basically says that the performer rehearses so that no mistakes are made. However, Close’s thoughts were that mistakes could be faked in order to distract the audience so that a secret action can be executed.



On the other hand, if a genuine mistake was made the audience automatically assumes that you will have no way back. They do not imagine that you would have thought about where mistakes could be made and that you have already thought about fixing a mistake, should one happen.



I use this assumption a lot in my close-up work, especially during a card force. What if I attempt a Classic Force and I miss? While I was constructing the act I made what I call an escape route, basically if I miss the force I have another method for the effect I am about to perform or I have another effect in which to move onto. Canasta was a master at this - as well as improvising his escape routes during a performance.



I have more, but we’ll leave them for another time. Anyone else have any others?



--Andi



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BroDavid
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I really do need to get the Mike Close material on this. There is SO MUCH good thinking out there!



But here is my take on it before reading Mike Close:



(and I have shared and applied this in big business and sales training for years) And I won't make this too long - although as you will all learn - I could...



Surprise (and Disappointment) is the difference between initial Expectation and final Reality.



Now I go away from the general and right to performing.



If people start out expecting a clown and you are not very funny, even if you are wonderfully skilled, the Assumption that framed their Expectation won't fit with the Outcome. And that will be disappointing to them. So Assumptions are really important.



There are at least two sets of Assumptions which must be considered. Your Assumptions and those of your "audience".



And Assumptions are part of both the Expectation and the Reality.



So I nearly always use, both in Evangelism, and in general presentation, the three T strategy:



T1. Tell them what you are going to tell them.
This gives them the big picture of what's coming. This way, they can get up and leave now if this isn't what they came to see. And if it is what interests them, them can get themselves ready for it.




T2. Tell them.


Do your thing and make sure that you deliver on the promise above.




T3. Tell them what you told them.


Summarize, clarify, and explain where necessary, and help them frame their conclusions (The Reality) about what they just saw.






On an especially amazing effect. (I think I may have done one once that qualifies here..) Some folks will be so busy wondering WHAT just happened, that they may lose the impact of the effect.



But by sharing your Assumption about what will happen, Making it happen, and Reminding them of what has happened, you deal with both sets of Assumptions, your's and theirs. And nobody is disappointed and the surprises are all good ones. Smile



BroDavid







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Yellowjacket
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I remember something about the word assume in the movie "The Bad News Bears".

BDC, I couldn't agree with your more. It is social conditioning and that is why it is more difficult to fool a child. They have not been properly conditioned.

Creating an alternate reality for the spectator that they assume something about is what magic is all about.

YellowJacket
tommy
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People assume they know it all and everything can be explained. When a magician comes along and shows them something unexplainable, it kinda reminds them that they are only human after all. The notion that there are unknown things is pretty hard to accept even for a magician. I personally find it hard to accept that I don’t know all the card sleights there are, not do them, but just know them, when I think I know them the next day there are more, I never heard of, not new ones but old ones. I hate the thought of “never” knowing a mystery although I love a mystery like, who was Erdnase? It's hard to accept we don't know all the facts.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

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Jerrine
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I find it very easy to accept I don't know all the facts, being taught that it is the first step to learning.
Exploring assumptions common to the masses are the DNA of Magic IHMO.
tommy
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The point is with magic your showing them something that is unknowable not just something they do not know.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2001-09-15 02:52, Steve Brooks wrote:... And isn’t magic just a puzzle presented in a entertaining way?...


I disagree with that assumption.

A good meal is not a puzzle.

A sunset is not a puzzle.

Feeling small while looking up at the stars at night is not a puzzle.

Being entertained by a play or piece of performance art (yes that is where magic lives) is not a puzzle.

A desire to dissect a living piece of art (would that be vivisect?) is puzzling to me.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
evolve629
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I think most specs. do not have the need to "deconstruct" the theory and "visual text" of magic when they see a magician performs. However, it's sometimes an innate characteristic of being human that something that can't be understood with common logic / assumptions will be prsented as a puzzle to be assemble from the group up. Effects that use no gaff and/or gimmick really befuddle the specs that use a certain assumptions /expectations that how tricks are done. That bewilderment, as I have witnessed, can turn into frustration vs something to be enjoyed and bedazzled. Some people as I have encountered have a hard time accepting a "visual text" that is incongruent to his/her assumptions or what's previously accepted as how things work.

Just my 2 cents. Have a great Monday, folks!
One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
My favorite part is putting the gaffs in the spectators hands...it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside! - Bob Kohler
karbonkid
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Another 2 cents...

John Carney has an excellent essay in Carneycopiea, which I find just as valuable as Michael Closes.

One quote, that not only applies to magic, but, everyday life, is, "People do not question their own assumptions."
Alex Linian
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Quote:
On 2001-09-15 02:52, Steve Brooks wrote:

And isn’t magic just a puzzle presented in a entertaining way?




Not at all, for me at least. Magic, can be anything you want it to be... and much more than just an entertaining puzzle.

As for the assumptions theory (I refer to them as stereotypes), yes, they are the reason why most trickery used for magic is effective. I always believed that why something works should be the first thing everyone learns, but that is not the case with magic at all and it's sad.

The reason why most trickery is effective is because of perception. From the moment you are born stereotypes (assumptions) are created in a person's perception of the world. We know that if a person goes into a room, he is in there until we walks out. We know that, if I unplug the TV set while it's on it will turn off. And we know that if a person tells me something it is not a lie. We don't have to think about any of these assumptions because we don't feel we need to, since we are not given any reason to question them (we only questions a persons statement if we have a reason, even if subcountious, to believe he/she is not telling the truth). We as humans beings need these type of shortcuts or else we would have to analyze every little detail of every little thing that goes on around us.

Stereotypes make life easier. However, they can be used against us. Politicians, salemen, hustlers amongst others use this human characteristic of automatic assumption and response to manipulate others in ways to benefit themselves and even hurt others. Luckily, we just do it for expression and entertainment, hopefully.

So in magic, if I place a coin into my right hand, in a person's mind the coin will still be there (not in left hand edge grip). If I cassually suffle cards they should be out of order (not in Tamariz stack), and If I grab the only ball that is under a cup on the table there should now be empty space under the cup (instead of a lemon).

Like I said, there is no reason why these assumptions should or would be questioned, unless we gave them a reason to (body language, stating the obvious etc), even if subconcious.

All that may seem very obvious, and hopefully it does, it means you know why trickery in magic works. It's something every magician should know.

Just a few quick thoughts on the subject,

Alex Linian
tommy
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The assumption that “Seeing is Believing” is a most useful notion for our art. Without it I don’t know where we would be!
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Jonathan Townsend
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Assumption, presumption, filter

What does not fit may be distorted, deleted or sometimes generalized to make a new presumption, assumption or filter.

Those we weave, knit or link together become our comfort zone, invisible from the inside.

They allow our boards to look like splinters in the mirror.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
tommy
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Do not worry yourself about worrying the spectators, worry instead about, not worrying them.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Big Daddy Cool
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Quote:
On 2006-10-09 08:31, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2001-09-15 02:52, Steve Brooks wrote:... And isn’t magic just a puzzle presented in a entertaining way?...


I disagree with that assumption.

A good meal is not a puzzle.

A sunset is not a puzzle.

Feeling small while looking up at the stars at night is not a puzzle.

Being entertained by a play or piece of performance art (yes that is where magic lives) is not a puzzle.

A desire to dissect a living piece of art (would that be vivisect?) is puzzling to me.


Wow. Brilliant Johnathon! Bravo!
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Jaz
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Quote:
On 2006-10-09 08:31, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2001-09-15 02:52, Steve Brooks wrote:... And isn’t magic just a puzzle presented in a entertaining way?...


I disagree with that assumption.

A good meal is not a puzzle.

A sunset is not a puzzle.

Feeling small while looking up at the stars at night is not a puzzle.

Being entertained by a play or piece of performance art (yes that is where magic lives) is not a puzzle.

A desire to dissect a living piece of art (would that be vivisect?) is puzzling to me.


Once upon a time the Earth, sun, moon and stars were great and mysterious places where it was assumed gods dwelled. Some felt that the mystery of the universe needed to be unraveled and proceeded.

People have ruined toys, engines, computers and other objects because they wanted to know how they works. They weren't meant to be puzzles or mysteries.

There are those people who are somewhat obsessed with knowing the whys and hows of things rather than just enjoying them.

Magic is something that involves mystery more that other performance arts and it's human nature to question it's workings.
Bill Hallahan
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Enjoying and wanting to understand are not mutually exclusive.

To be astonished, one has to perform analysis, either subconsciously or consciously. We do pattern recognition, and usually that is a subconscious function. For example, we recognize people's faces and their voices without effort. This is due to analysis.

I have a coin in my palm. I close that hand. I open it. The coin is gone! Even monkeys will be astonished in that case, i.e. by an object that doesn't persist. If, after closing my hand, I put my hand with the coin in my pocket and then take it out and open it, and the coin is gone, there will be no astonishment. The lack of astonishment in that case is due to analysis.

A person must try to understand, or they cannot be amazed. It's only in failing to understand that they will be amazed. That analysis, which is often a search, is not sufficient to create magical feelings, but it is a requirement.

But, it is not the effect alone we present. That might be totally uninteresting, even if impossible.

We present a story, and that story is only rarely about the effect itself. Much better is a story that leads a person to a place of comfort, or even familiar discomfort, before they are made to be astonished by the effect.

Derren Brown writes about a moving presentation he performed where he floated a woman's ring. The presentation was about her relationship with her husband, not about the ring floating. He gave the effect a meaning beyond a senseless impossible act. That is magical.

Whit Haydn's story is about himself and his role as a teacher. It allows him to present the effect more directly. It's a brilliant concept. There are many stories and many roles. We should not present puzzles. However, there is a puzzle in our presentations. Hopefully, it's not thought of as a puzzle during our shows.

Beyond moving people emotionally, there are other techniques. Another form of misdirection is to be so interesting that people don't have time to think of what they have just seen. They are lead on past it by the next idea that engages their attention.

After the show is over, many, perhaps most, people will speculate to themselves. At least, I assume they will! Smile
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
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