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Topic: A Review of the Learned Pig CDs
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (May 30, 2005 11:19PM)
Have you ever had one of those dreams were you suddenly come into possession of a huge cache of magic books or apparatus? Nice dream, isn't it? Unfortunately, when you wake up, the goodies are gone. Well, purchasing the Learned Pig CD-ROM book collection is like living this dream--only when you wake up, you still have the stuff!

In short, the Learned Pig collection is a tremendous value for the money. Where else can you get 50 or 60 books for the price of two or three printed volumes?

CD #1 has a marvelous variety of books. Si Stebbins explains his famous card setup in his own words and Stillwell of Stillwell handkerchief ball fame explains his handkerchief manipulation act. There is a very unusual manuscript on the frozen alive stunt, similar to what David Blaine did on live television, and Marco even offers his own very commercial sightless vision act. Plus there are books by Houdini, Robert-Houdin, J B Bobo and many others.

CD # 2 is a card worker's dream! It has not one but three multivolume encyclopedias of card magic. Card Manipulations by Jean Hugard is in five volumes while More Card Manipulations runs into four volumes. Plus Ellis Stanyon has written four volumes of card effects (his complete course in magic is included on the disk).

I like CD #1 better than #2 (even though I already had the print edition of eight of the books) because of the greater variety of books, but many magicians will no doubt prefer disk #2. Some of the most outstanding books on CD #1 are the Encyclopedia of Card Tricks by Jean Hugard, Modern Coin Magic by J. B. Bobo and the Expert At The Card Table by Erdnase. Disk #2 includes Expert Card Technique and Royal Road To Card Magic by Hugard and Braue and Annemann's Practical Mental Effects. These books alone are worth the price of the CDs.

When I got the CDs, I was surprised to find that all the books were saved into a single PDF file on each disk. This makes it impossible for the user to organize or sort the books, for example by author or subject, but it probably makes searching for a specific name or phrase in the entire collection much easier, as well as jumping from one book to another.

All of the text in the books was scanned in and transformed via optical character recognition (OCR) into real computer type--text that you can select, copy, and paste into other programs. This means that you can print out just a snippet of a book if you wish, or send an excerpt to a fellow magician in e-mail to get his opinion on something. You can even have the computer, via speech synthesis, read from a book to you while you follow along with coins or a deck of cards in hand. Best of all, text format allows searching of the full text of any book, so if you want to, say, find out how to do a particular trick or sleight, you can quickly do a search of the entire collection to find an explanation. I used this feature to quickly find all the tricks using business cards in Practical Mental Magic, something that would have taken hours with the printed volume.

The quality of the conversion to PDF is generally very good. The tables of contents of each book is hyperlinked to take the reader directly to the corresponding section. Some books are even hyperlinked to each other. For example, if you click a mention of an effect in one of the Stanyon books, it will take you directly to that effect, even if the effect is on a different page or in a different book entirely. On rare occasions I have found that a hyperlink does not work--it points to a location on the creator's computer which, of course, we can't access. Generally, though, I have found few errors in the books. One quibble is that I would prefer if the illustrations had been saved at a bit higher resolution, but for the most part they are all perfectly legible. I like it when a scan of the front cover of the book is included, as this gives more of a feeling of actually owning the book.

You could get something pretty close to a complete magical education out of the two Learned Pig CDs. There are books on sleight-of-hand magic, non-sleight-of-hand magic, card magic, novel magic, escapes, history, biography, mentalism, illusions and even patter and presentation (including one of the best books on the subject, Our Magic by Neville Maskelyne). There is even a book on self promotion, Making Magic Pay. Although this book is just a tad out of date (having been written while vaudeville was still alive) I suspect that magicians could pick up a few tips from this book even today. Some of the sample promotional letters could even be used with a little updating of the language. True, some of the books, such as the ones on chemical magic and handcuff escapes, are outdated today, but almost all have at least something to offer (and the book on handcuff escapes, written in Houdini's time, is fascinating for its historical information).

Some of the books in the collection, such as The 50 Best Conjuring Tricks by Charles Crayford, were originally aimed at the general public, but most were written "for the trade”—specifically for magicians, so the emphasis is on originality—you won't find a lot of rehashing of the same old tricks here. The older books in the collection put more emphasis on stage magic than close-up, since that was more popular when they were written. All in all, however, magic changes over the years quite a bit more slowly than, say, the field of computers. (The Learned Pig site also sells an early version of the Tarbell Course on CD.)

Although this is a review, it is appropriate to add a few words on how to get the most out of this collection. One of the drawbacks of e-books is the inability to make notes in the margins or to mark one's favorite effects in the table-of-contents. What I have done is to copy and paste the table of contents of each book into a word processing document and save it in an easily accessible place on my computer. That way, I can make all the notes for the book I want in the corresponding section of the word-processing document. Since I need to have my computer running when viewing an e-book anyway, it is no trouble to open this document at the same time I open an e-book.

All of the books in the collection have a colored or patterned frame around each page. These frames are not gaudy or distracting, and they help to differentiate each book from one another. Strictly speaking, you should not need to print any of the books, as some of them are very large and you will lose the benefits of the electronic format, such as space saving and searchability. However, should you want to print one or two books in the collection, the colored frames around the pages can use up more ink or toner than necessary. One way to get around this is to go to the page setup dialog box in Adobe Acrobat and choose an enlargement percentage of something like 130%. This will increase the size of the page area on each sheet that comes out of the printer and decrease the size of the colored frame, saving ink. Also, needless to say, you should pay very close attention to which pages you want to print, as shown in the page status bar at the bottom of the Acrobat window, and, in the print dialogue, enter that range of pages. You do not want to send to the printer all 5000+ pages of books on the CD!

Although it is a nice feeling to get totally free books on the Learned Pig website, it is definitely worth shelling out the money to buy these CDs. One gets so many books for the price, it is almost like getting them for free. The prices for comparable books at another magic e-book seller are much higher. In short, getting these Learned Pig CDs was like finding out a long-lost magician uncle had just died and left me two trunks full of magic books!

You can buy the CDs for about $50 each at http://thelearnedpig.com.pa/

Review by Timothy Arends
Message: Posted by: GEMINI (Jun 1, 2005 02:36PM)
If you order both Magic CDs (108 books in total) together you pay only $60.00 + $3.50 shipping and handling.

Very good value for money.

- Sam
Message: Posted by: Brian Turntime (Jul 24, 2005 10:22AM)
They are advertising a [url=http://thelearnedpig.com.pa/products/cd03.html]new CD.[/url]

It looks like a powerful deal, all 898 pages of The Jinx included.

Would I be wrong in thinking that the best of the best from The Learned Pig archives have been gleaned from the mass of information, and are now part of contemporary magic? That is, perhaps almost everything in these public domain books is good, but all the GREAT stuff has been kept alive through other magicians bringing it from the past into their current acts. This would mean, if true, that sifting through 800 pages of a magazine would only introduce you to the second-tier stuff, magic that has been picked over.
Message: Posted by: mormonyoyoman (Jul 24, 2005 01:17PM)
Yes, you would be wrong.

Message: Posted by: David Bilan (Jul 24, 2005 10:06PM)

You won't find the CD full of second-rate/second tier stuff. The Jinx was paccked with good stuff. Is some of it still being performed today? Of course. Will you find a few gems if you look? I believe so. It's much cheaper than trying to buy paper copies of the old issues.

Message: Posted by: David Bilan (Jul 24, 2005 10:21PM)

I would point you to the web site if it had this info, but I received this as part of a larger e-mail. Here's what Marko's CD has to offer:

[quote]Even though it contains less books than our previous efforts the total page count is impressive: 3,288 pages full of magic tricks and ideas. This is because many of the books contained in this new Magic CD are really thick books including the complete run of Annemann's famed magazine The Jinx which alone takes 868 pages.

If you have never read Annemann's Jinx you don't know what you are missing. Here is a magazine devoted to magic and mentalism that set the style for other magazines to follow. The amount of usable material in The Jinx is simply staggering and Annemann's own column and commentary are great and engrossing reading.

Other valuable magic books included are:

* Magical Masterpieces (Louis Nikola)
* The Modern Conjurer (C. Lang Neil)
* Secrets of my Magic (David Devant)
* Original Magical Creations (Stanley Collins)

As all our Magic CDs the books in this one are set as PDF
files readable and printable in all operating systems.


Magic CD No.3 contains an innovation: Recordings in MP3
format of two great magical showmen of the past performing
on radio.

First we have 38 great radio shows featuring famous
Blackstone the magician as The Magic Detective. Hear
Blackstone solve mystery cases using his magical knowledged. Most of these shows have magic woven into the plot and at the end of each Blackstone teaches his radio audience a simple magic trick.

Then we have something I'm sure you will really like: 9
radio shows featuring Master Mentalist Dunninger.

As you probably know Dunninger was a top star of Radio and Television during the first half of the 20th Century and lately there has been a lot of interest in his career and the feats he performed. This is your opportunity to hear him perform on live radio. You'll see why he was a top celebrity of prime time. There is a lot of showmanship you can learn by just hearing the guy.[/quote]

I left out pricing and sale info, but if you know the Learned Pig web site, you can find it there.

Message: Posted by: Josho (Jul 26, 2005 01:02PM)

Do you, by any chance, get GENII? David Regal's column "Speaking Volumes" is a testament to the fact that people readily overlook effects in books that one person can focus on and turn into something truly memorable. Look at the way people took a simple little effect in Jinx called Miraskill and have done spectacular things with it. The original write-up gave very little hint of its potential. So it is with many published effects in magazines.

Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (Sep 4, 2005 07:00PM)
A lot of the mental stuff in the JINX eventually came to be reprinted in Practical Mental Effects, but that still leaves a lot of mental stuff that wasn't included, plus the card stuff, miscellaneous effects, interesting tidbits, columns, newspaper article reproductions, and other good stuff. Plus don't overlook The Modern Conjurer (C. Lang Neil) also on CD #3, which was like the Mark Wilson course of it's age, and still has one of the best Troublewit routines.