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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » From The Wizards Cave - by Bill Palmer » » Lies, D**ned Lies, and magic tricks. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Bill Palmer
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There has been a recent thread in the Food for Thought area that had a section about whether or not we are liars when we do magic. It's a thought-provoking question, particularly for someone who has been raised in a family in which the idea of lying was anathema. But we lie all the time -- not just as magicians, but as people.

Did a priest, a minister and a rabbi actually walk into a bar?

Did a traveling salesman actually knock on a farmhouse door and...?

Did two (insert ethnic group here) really get off a bus?

Did Snow White actually live with seven dwarves?

Well, maybe, maybe not. These are stories. And so is our magic. It may not start off with "A priest, a minister and a rabbi" or something of that ilk, but as long as we are not hurting anyone or lifting their spondulicks, as long as we are entertaining them, then we aren't doing anything wrong.

Jesus Christ told stories. They were called "parables." Did they really happen? Could be. The plots were general enough that we can assume that a sower cast his seed upon the ground, and the seed that fell on the ground that was fertile grew. And we can assume that the servant that invested his money was rewarded by his employer. These were not stretching the truth at all.

So, what is lying?

Two of the meanings, once we get past the positional ones are:
1) To present false information with the intention of deceiving.
2) To convey a false image or impression.

The thesaurus has:
be untruthful, beguile, break promise, bull, con, concoct, deceive, delude, dissemble, dissimulate, distort, dupe, equivocate, exaggerate, fabricate, fake, falsify, fib, forswear, frame, fudge, invent, jazz, jive, make believe, malign, misguide, misinform, misinstruct, mislead, misrepresent, misspeak, misstate, overdraw, palter, perjure, pervert, phony up, plant, prevaricate, promote, put on, queer, snow, soft-soap, string along, victimize

and the noun -- "lie" has these meanings:
aspersion, backbiting, calumniation, calumny, complete distortion of the facts, corker, deceit, deception, defamation, detraction, dishonesty, disinformation, distortion, evasion, fable, fabrication, falsehood, falseness, falsification, falsity, fib, fiction , fish story, forgery, fraudulence, guile, hyperbole, inaccuracy, invention, libel, mendacity, misrepresentation, misstatement, myth, obloquy, perjury, prevarication, revilement, reviling, slander, subterfuge, tale, tall story, terminological inexactitude, vilification, white lie, whopper

Some of these synonyms obviously have nothing to do with a magic show -- aspersion, backbiting, calumnation, calumny, defamation, libel, revilement, reviling, slander, vilification are all non-issues here.

But look at the ones that do apply:
complete distortion of the facts, corker, deceit, deception, dishonesty, disinformation, distortion, evasion, fable, fabrication, falsehood, falseness, falsification, falsity, fib, fiction , fish story, forgery, fraudulence, guile, hyperbole, inaccuracy, invention, mendacity, misrepresentation, misstatement, myth, obloquy, prevarication, subterfuge, tale, tall story, terminological inexactitude, vilification, white lie, whopper -- these are all things that magicians do when performing.

Jerry Andrus has been cited as the most honest magician in the world. He never tells a lie. If he is doing the ACR, he never says, "I place your card into the middle of the deck," unless he really is. But is he lying? According to the thesaurus, he is misrepresenting and using subterfuge. So, he really is lying.

When we say that we are making a coin disappear completely, we aren't. So what?

Well, if you want to be effective, you really must get past all of that. If you are busy thinking about where that coin really is, you will be sending out subtle signals to the audience that you aren't doing things that are on the up and up. And then you will start sending out "tells." If you are lucky, they won't be as obvious as Mike Close's "poker tell" demo.

So this gets down to the crux of the matter. If you can't tell a story without feeling guilty, if you can't do a DL without flinching, if you can't do a retention vanish without making it apparent that you aren't doing what you are claiming to do, then maybe, just maybe, you are in the wrong place.

If you can't tell your wife that the white dress with the tutu doesn't make her butt look big with a straight face, you really need to reconsider your decision to be a magician.

Because in the end, the lies we tell, imply and promulgate are not lies that are used to harm people. They are the backdrops and scenery to our stories.

And we must be completely convinced of their validiy at the moment we are using them or we will not fool anyone at all.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Bill Palmer
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Taking this premise a bit further -- many magicians are extremely put off by mentalists who don't give a very specific disclaimer that says they are using trickery or who go on talk shows and do not tell the hosts that they are using tricks.

Most of these magicians are not mentalists, and the overwhelming majority of them are not professionals, semi professionals or part time pro's.

First of all, let me 'splain to my fellow magicians that magicians who toss a mental effect into the middle of their close-up routines are not mentalists. They are magicians doing a mental trick. The spectators will never believe it is anything other than a trick. Period. I don't care how good your CT is or how great you are with an NW, If you just got through doing ACR, or Matrix, they will believe it's a trick.

And this hurts the hardcore mentalist.

Now I know that some of you who read this believe that the hardcore mentalists need to be brought down a notch or two, because what they are doing is somehow "weerd" or "too much like the real thing."

Fellows, I have news for you. It's all supposed to be like the real thing. We are supposed to believe at the moment of performance and any other time we are making a public appearance that we are doing the real thing. If we don't, then we will be just as bad as the magician who cannot believe that the coin really vanishes or that the sponge ball disappears somehow. That's part of the acting business.

That's part of your silent script.

If you can craft a disclaimer that shades the reality a bit, that's fine. Kreskin never claims to be psychic. He claims to be a "sensitive." Sometimes he says, "I'm going to read your mind." Some people take issue with that. However, a skilled cold reader or a skilled reader of body language is doing exactly that. He reads the mind by reading the manifestations that are produced by the body. And the method that Kreskin uses to find his check at the end of his show is called ... contact mind reading.

One of my biggest disappointments is modern book tests. Most of them are word guessing tests. These have little or nothing to do with mindreading.

Try this. Read the following sentence aloud.

The boy kicked the ball.

Now look at that sentence again, close your eyes for a few seconds, and think about that sentence. Now that your eyes are open again, what did you see when you closed your eyes. Did you see a sentence that said "The boy kicked the ball" or did you see a boy kicking a ball? Did your imagination create an image of a boy kicking a ball? The odds are pretty good that you did.

Now think about your latest book test. How are you going to present it now? Are you going to fish for letters or are you going to read their thoughts?

Do you want your performances to look real or not?

Is there anything wrong with a mentalist doing a convincing job?
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Bill Palmer
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Now, let's take this into a different field -- readings.

I've known a number of readers. Most of these are what we call "shut eyes." These are people who really believe they are getting their information from the cards, the palm, the numbers or "the vibes." They do not consciously deceive. Is what they are doing wrong?

That depends on where they go with it. The founder of the TAOM was a fellow named Herman Yerger. He performed as a magician, travelling all around the country. When he finally had to settle down, he opened a corner store and did readings. He took chickens, eggs, vegetables, all sorts of stuff in payment. His clientele was largely African-American and poor. There is evidence that Herman was also African-American. He claimed to be from India, though. This was of no importance to the community, because he fit right in.

A friend of mine watched him give readings. The fellow I refer to is a very strong "anti-reading" kind of guy and a full-time pro magician. You would recognize his name.

He did not disapprove of what Herman did. Why? Because Herman was the guy who served as a general counselor to these folks in his neighborhood. He would remind them to take their medicine when they forgot. He would tell them to "watch out for that no-good son-in-law (who had been talking tough in Herman's store, when he thought nobody was listening), and he provided the much-needed support they needed to continue in the life they had been born into.

Good readers do that.

If you really don't understand where I'm coming from with this, read Brad Henderson's book The Dance. It covers the ethics and sensibilities that readers must have to be "clean."

The ones who are bums are the ones who find cursed money and pull the big switch. That's criminal.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
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