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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Ever so sleightly » » Cups & Balls – Does it Have A Place in Today’s Modern Magic Repertoire? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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magicalaurie
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Quote:
On 2011-05-24 01:53, jcsum wrote:
...So, the article is not really about the "Cups & Balls" Smile

Peace!

J C

Got that, J C, and advising performers to think outside the box and bring themselves authentically to interesting, memorable magic is a good thing.

Laurie
Bill Palmer
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If you want to understand why magic will never be as "mainstream" as music when it comes to the performing arts, read Bev Bergeron's material about perform for USO tours in his Willard the Wizard book.

You may think that USO tours and "mainstream entertainment" are miles apart, but they really aren't.

Here's a hint: who owns the broadcast media in the US?
"The Swatter"

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Woland
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Was magic in its heyday as mainstream as music? Who owned the vaudeville circuits?
Bill Palmer
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Magic was, indeed, quite mainstream. Before the advent of sound systems, you could troupe a magic show that consisted of only about 35 people, including the "orchestra," which was quite small, perhaps a dozen musicians, if that many. A symphonic group, on the other hand, had about 50 players.

The vaudeville circuits were owned by several chains of theatre owners Orpheum was one. The Keith circuit was another. Keith and Albee eventually absorbed the Orpheum circuit -- these people became the owners of the major motion picture theatre chains. This is essentially why movies killed vaudeville. Imagine that you could see several major movie stars on the screen. You didn't have to pay the stars. You just had to pay the film rental. The film rental would be far less than the cost of a full evening show.

When the films came in, and then the recording industry, the whole thing changed.

There are some really good articles on line about the whole thing.

The broadcast media are owned by the old recording companies. If you can put out CD's of an act, you get more $$$ out of it than if all you can do is view it on the toob.
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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Woland
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Thank you, Mr. Palmer. I suppose the fact that "our magic" is best as a live performance, and does not lend itself to mechanical reproduction, is limiting. The "illusions" or "alternate realities" that can be created in a motion picture are for audiences altogether different.
Bill Wood
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Cups and Balls as a Sacred Cow.

I'd like to thank JC and Bill for both making very interesting and contextually accurate points.

As the curator of the cups and balls museum it makes sense that Mr. Palmer would defend of his favourite effect, and I think he has every right to do so. Cups and balls is definitely a classic in magic for many reasons, it has many levels of magic and meaning to be appreciated. For me the myth of birth and the womb like nature of the cups is one reason this effect chimes deeply with an audience. Of course you don't have to talk about a womb to poetically and obliquely reference this important symbol.

I do disagree with Mr. Palmer when he rhetorically asks "how many people have seen a cups and balls routine". I think in this day and age, with the Internet and with the shear number of people who do a cups routine, that yes almost everyone has seen a cups and balls routine. Heck almost every magic kit comes with a set, so people are very familiar (almost dangerously familiar) with the basic routine.

I think the best point that JC made in his blog post has been missed by this thread, the weakest part of any cups and balls routine is the "in my pocket? Nope" section. I believe that as soon as a magician puts his hand in his pocket the audience becomes suspicious. Unless your hand can be very cleanly shown empty they don't 100% believe your being above board. I think JC is very correct in saying that the weakest part of most routines comes right before the strongest part, the large final loads.

I have the same opinion of "buskers pouches" they aren't organic, the pouch didn't come first and someone thought "oh I'll just innocently pop this ball into the pouch that I'm always wearing". Most magicians put the pouch on right before they do the cups and balls, suspicious much? Why is it such a big pouch if it only needs to hold three tiny white balls? We needed a place to keep our produce department and someone designed a nice looking leather pouch with a huge easy access top. This to me reads as suspicious.

For my money Tommy Wonder's two cup routine deals with the final load in an incredibly deceptive and organic way.

I hope no one is to offended by what I've said. These are my opinions and the only thing I know to be true is that nothing is really true. And who am I to disparage an act that isn't mine? The things I've said only really apply to me and my audiences.
kentfgunn
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Bill Wood,

As you waxed poetic about the myth of birth and wombs you nearly lost me. No . . . you lost me.

I think you're mistaken about the number of people who've seen a cups and balls routine. The profundity of routines on youtube related to the cups and balls (3970, I just checked, no I'm serious), doesn't mean anyone is watching them. I realize Penn and Teller's routine has nearly a million hits, but that's a tiny percentage of the world's population.

As for the pouch being too obvious, many performers do an entire show from the pouch, pulling the cups themselves from it to start. I've seen some magicians that make the entire Gibeciere motif very organic.

Not every cups and balls routine loads from a pocket or the pouch. Many guys/gals are schlepping in the produce from their laps.

I think the variations are endless. I think both you and J.C. have objections to how some people do the trick. If either of you don't like those features, why not make your own handling better or simply not perform the effect. To cast a pall over the trick because you don't like some people's choices seems narrow-minded to me.

The Cups and Balls are doing just fine. Some magicians do wonderful routines that engage and amaze their audiences. Most magicians do the routine abysmally and parrot the sequences of others. I'd pick on that side of cups and balls magic if I had to pick something about the trick I didn't like.


KG
Bill Wood
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Hi KG

Sorry my poetic waxing fell flat. In my defense I believe magic is poetry with props meant to dig deep into the subconscious.

I'm sorry if you saw my comments as 'Pall' casting, that was not my intention.

I think you're right, I ultimately disagree with poor and parroted versions of the cups and balls. Like any trick when it's done well it is a symphony but when done badly it's torture.

Here's to polite discourse and pushing our bounds as magicians.


Bill
kentfgunn
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Bill,

This is Kent Gunn. I'm not being obscure with the signature, just terse. I'm all for poetic turns of phrase. I'm just not literate enough to catch most of them slung my way.

I do so love the cups and balls. I could never use a pouch because I have a huge gut there already. Most guys loading from their lap are patently obvious.

Now this guy needs to work on his patter, but I have hope for him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t__UnSXmjvc

KG
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I guess you could call it a VARIATION of C&Bs, but last night I did a routine at a dinner party with a plain waterglass, 3(visible) Walnuts, a handkerchief (to cover the glass) and a Fab-Tomato. And it really knocked 'em dead.
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Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2011-06-02 07:50, Bill Wood wrote:
Cups and Balls as a Sacred Cow.

I'd like to thank JC and Bill for both making very interesting and contextually accurate points.

As the curator of the cups and balls museum it makes sense that Mr. Palmer would defend of his favourite effect, and I think he has every right to do so. Cups and balls is definitely a classic in magic for many reasons, it has many levels of magic and meaning to be appreciated. For me the myth of birth and the womb like nature of the cups is one reason this effect chimes deeply with an audience. Of course you don't have to talk about a womb to poetically and obliquely reference this important symbol.

I do disagree with Mr. Palmer when he rhetorically asks "how many people have seen a cups and balls routine". I think in this day and age, with the Internet and with the shear number of people who do a cups routine, that yes almost everyone has seen a cups and balls routine. Heck almost every magic kit comes with a set, so people are very familiar (almost dangerously familiar) with the basic routine.

I think the best point that JC made in his blog post has been missed by this thread, the weakest part of any cups and balls routine is the "in my pocket? Nope" section. I believe that as soon as a magician puts his hand in his pocket the audience becomes suspicious. Unless your hand can be very cleanly shown empty they don't 100% believe your being above board. I think JC is very correct in saying that the weakest part of most routines comes right before the strongest part, the large final loads.

I have the same opinion of "buskers pouches" they aren't organic, the pouch didn't come first and someone thought "oh I'll just innocently pop this ball into the pouch that I'm always wearing". Most magicians put the pouch on right before they do the cups and balls, suspicious much? Why is it such a big pouch if it only needs to hold three tiny white balls? We needed a place to keep our produce department and someone designed a nice looking leather pouch with a huge easy access top. This to me reads as suspicious.

For my money Tommy Wonder's two cup routine deals with the final load in an incredibly deceptive and organic way.

I hope no one is to offended by what I've said. These are my opinions and the only thing I know to be true is that nothing is really true. And who am I to disparage an act that isn't mine? The things I've said only really apply to me and my audiences.


1) You are assuming facts that are not really in evidence. The cups and balls is not my "favorite" effect. It's what I collect. I do like the cups and balls a lot. But there are more routines that I don't like than there are routines I like. There are cups in my collection that I have because they are fascinating pieces of apparatus. But I would NEVER perform with them.

2) What I gathered from the blog post was that the way the cups are introduced is by far the weakest part of a cup and ball routine. In fact, to my mind, the fellow who starts out with praising the cups as a classic, except when performing in a very specific kind of historical presentation, is setting up more traps than he can handle.

3) How can you disagree with a question? It's not actually rhetorical. I want an answer. A percentage would be enough. Do you think that 25% of your audience has seen the cups and balls? Thirty-five percent? Forty percent?

I performed for a living for nearly 40 years, and I can tell you from my own experience that less than 20% of the people I performed for could recall seeing the cups and balls in any form. Granted, my audiences were in many cases far more sophisticated than what you will run into in the average bar, pub or disco. But even the "great unwashed" at Renaissance Festivals had seen their first cups and balls routine at a Renaissance festival and not when their kid botched it for them.

Don't read things into my writing that are not actually there.

Note:

Historically speaking, the pouch came before people used it for cups and balls. It's a development of the workman's pouch. Carpenters, masons, stonecarvers, all used pouches to hold their tools. They were the pockets that people used before clothing had pockets. Buskers didn't invent the pouch.

However, most buskers don't know how to use a pouch effectively.

There are a number of modern performers who have tried to justify using a pouch when wearing a suit. That is so far out of context as to be laughable. It's not even necessary.

Working out of a pouch requires that the pouch or pouches be set up a certain way and that they be used a certain way with effective misdirection And they must be contextually accurate.

I've written extensively on the subject. If you do a search in Secret Sessions for the word Load, you will eventually find a thread on final load logic that has some of my work on it.

When I wear a suit or a tuxedo, I have a completely different method which eliminates the necessity of a pouch.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
Bill Wood
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Mr. Palmer, Thanks for the history on the busking pouch, interesting. I will be reading more from the secret sessions soon and plan on reading lots of what you have written.

Sorry for thinking the cups and balls was your "favorite effect", I think it's a forgivable offense since your avatar picture does show you wearing a cup as a hat.

We'll have to agree to disagree on our opinions of who known the cups and balls is in the real world.

Bill
The Burnaby Kid
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Quote:
On 2011-06-02 20:53, Bill Wood wrote:
We'll have to agree to disagree on our opinions of who known the cups and balls is in the real world.

While it may be impossible to empirically arrive at a specific number, I think calling it an "opinion" is a bit dismissive of the point. I know that every single time I go out and work a venue, the majority of people have never seen a magician perform live before, and most of the magicians who've worked a lot have said the same thing. They might have seen it on television, but it's not like the cups and balls is getting much airtime there.
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Bill Palmer
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This is precisely what I mean. The only reason I would estimate that 20% of my audiences may have seen the cups and balls before, and by that, I mean in live performance, is that I got a lot of repeat business. My chop cup routine was a regular part of my renaissance festival act. I performed it specifically because it got the responses I wanted when and where I wanted them. But when you do ANY routine for as long as I did that one, you really gain a lot of control over what happens in your audience.

The main thing with all of this in ANY case is that it is the presentation (and the presenter), not the trick that makes the difference.

BTW, I just posted a more detailed description of how I am now doing the final loads. It's the last post in this thread.

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......um=37&33

If you are having trouble doing loads, at least read the thread. It will show you several things. One of them is how I set up the pouches for use at the renaissance festivals. Another is the way that I evolved the method I have been using for the past year or so.
"The Swatter"

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Bill Wood
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Well I think my lack of experience has been showing and I'm the last person to notice. I just read the link Mr. Palmer provided in his above post and have come to realize that my previous posts probably sound like I'm a precocious 14 year old who's only magical experience comes from youtube. Sorry for sticking my opinion oar into a lake I know very little about.

I think most people reading this thread don't need me to tell them to do good loads for their cups and balls finale. The people who need to hear that message aren't here, or at least they aren't in this conversation.

So I gracefully clam up and keep learning until I've got something useful to say.

Oh life.
yin_howe
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Quote:
On 2011-06-03 05:48, Bill Wood wrote:
Well I think my lack of experience has been showing and I'm the last person to notice. I just read the link Mr. Palmer provided in his above post and have come to realize that my previous posts probably sound like I'm a precocious 14 year old who's only magical experience comes from youtube. Sorry for sticking my opinion oar into a lake I know very little about.

I think most people reading this thread don't need me to tell them to do good loads for their cups and balls finale. The people who need to hear that message aren't here, or at least they aren't in this conversation.

So I gracefully clam up and keep learning until I've got something useful to say.

Oh life.


Healthy discussion is always good. If not for your posts, I would have gotten to read Mr Palmer's insightful post..
"Talent without passion is talent wasted.."
euroillusion
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This really is a case of different views based on different fundamental beliefs and approaches to magic. All you need to do is look at the individual magicians, their background, audience and purpose of their magic and you can see that why each says what he or she says.

I do think some points that were made by JC have been missed by some especially since he established the context of his views.

I agree with someone earlier that it would be good to see JC's routine to see how he addresses the issues he raised. Judging by his ring routine, it should be interesting... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvrQMwmRjjc
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2011-06-03 05:48, Bill Wood wrote:
Well I think my lack of experience has been showing and I'm the last person to notice. I just read the link Mr. Palmer provided in his above post and have come to realize that my previous posts probably sound like I'm a precocious 14 year old who's only magical experience comes from youtube. Sorry for sticking my opinion oar into a lake I know very little about.

I think most people reading this thread don't need me to tell them to do good loads for their cups and balls finale. The people who need to hear that message aren't here, or at least they aren't in this conversation.

So I gracefully clam up and keep learning until I've got something useful to say.

Oh life.


Not to worry. If you hadn't posted your responses and opinion, I wouldn't have taken the time to update the material on the loads.

Although I retired from performing almost a decade ago, I still do a few performances, and I'm always trying to perfect the material I perform.

BTW, my setup may not work for everyone. I don't expect it to. Mine is a personal solution based upon the way I present myself in public when I go to various and sundry restaurants, parties, etc., as a guest or as the occasional performer. If I dressed differently, I'd come up with different solutions. There's a parallel here. Tommy Wonder's two cup routine and its loading sequence were based around the clothing that was popular in the 1970's and 1980's. He worked out a loading sequence based upon the restrictions of the clothing he performed in.

Vernon's method was based upon the way he worked the routine out. I was fortunate enough to see Vernon do the routine live on a number of occasions, the first being at the TAOM convention in Abilene TX in 1972. He had been doing the routine for about 3 or 4 decades by the time I saw him perform. That amount of live performance takes all the rough edges off a routine. The performer knows from a gut level exactly why, when and where everything happens, and he doesn't have to think about any of it.

This is why I believe that the Vernon routine is not the best place for a beginner to start learning the cups and balls. It's like starting to learn the piano by playing Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto before you know the scales, chords and theory that give you an inner understanding of how music works, in general. The notes may all be there, but the music won't be. Likewise, if you just parrot the Vernon routine, the moves may be there, but the magic won't.

I think Michael Ammar's approach to learning the cups and balls, as expressed on his two-disc set, is really good, because it gives the student a chance to learn how the cups and balls work together, how to pace the routine, how to get into and out of the various phases, without having to worry about the mechanics of everything at the same time.

Michael's own routine is growing. I've known Michael since he had hair. Smile He was good then. He is great now. And the best part of it is that he is still learning and growing.

============================================================

I mentioned earlier that the cups and balls isn't my favorite trick. This seems to have been surprising. Let me explain some of this.

As a working pro for almost four decades, I couldn't afford myself the luxury of having a "favorite" trick. For a working magician, tricks are like songs to a singer, tunes to an instrumentalist, tools to a carpenter. Of course, we have tools we like to use more often than others, but it's primarily because we know what the effect on the audience will be. We even develop "signature pieces."

Liberace was famous for his interpretation of the Warsaw Concerto. Elvis was famous for several of his songs, but Hound Dog had to be one of those that he performed more than just about any other. These performers did those songs for us, not for themselves.

Although I retired almost a decade ago, I still keep my signature pieces in shape. It took too long to learn them to allow them to fade into oblivion. Very few of them have ever been recorded.

This was one of my more recent performances of the Anderson Newspaper Tear. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70C65b5EUKg

I actually had two different versions of this, depending on the venue, etc. It was one of my signature pieces. I did it for more than 30 years.

The venue in this case was a wedding party, and the performances were basically somewhat informal.

One of the tricks I used for years as an opener was the Vanishing Bird Cage. I did it for about 20 years, but had to quit using it because of a torn rotator cuff. Once that goes, the cage won't. Even years of therapy didn't bring the shoulder back into condition.

I did it at a TV studio once. They put it on their instant replay disc and slowed it down to a frame by frame display. The cage was there one frame and gone the next. That's magic!

=============================================================

Regarding my personal cups and balls routine -- I usually do the chop cup, but I do have a three cup routine that is nearly ready for the real world. It goes back to the French style, and is apparently impromptu.

I'll show it when it's ready.
"The Swatter"

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Tom Fenton
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I bet that I am not the only one who is looking forward to seeing that routine of Bill's.
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Quote:
On 2011-06-03 11:00, euroillusion wrote:
I do think some points that were made by JC have been missed by some especially since he established the context of his views.

Is there any chance you could make a list of the points that we've missed? I thought the important bits had already been commented on, but perhaps I was mistaken, and it'd be helpful to know what needs to be talked about.

Posted: Jun 11, 2011 5:50am
JC's got a video up on youtube showing a performance with Magic Babe Ning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvrQMwmRjjc

The magic does seem to be pretty good here, but I'm not entirely sure that the performance really fits the arguments made in JC Sum's post. Setting aside the linking finger rings (as I'm not a connoisseur), the first ring effect doesn't really distinguish itself from anybody else's performance of Garrett Thomas's Branded that I've seen, and the hand-through-table effect is going to look familiar to anybody who saw Lu Chen's coins-through-table video when it went viral last year, or when Cyril did it with the salt-shaker before than that. The major obvious difference would be the fact that there's a duo here, but I think that ultimately works against the latter effect because it could be seen that one partner is helping the other somehow.

The other major difference here is the linking of four effects into one longer routine, but again, I don't know that the long-term memory of the experience is going to factor that in. Usually you're really lucky to get a spectator leaving a magic set with one strong, vivid memory of what happened, and in order to avoid that problem, it's usually a good idea to make sure that the memory of the effects can't blend together, that one effect doesn't overpower the others, and that the effects offer different things (eg: a routine with a strong visual element, a routine with a deeper mystery, a routine which has more audience participation, a routine where everything is driven by the spectator, etc.).

That said, even though it feels to me inconsistent with the thesis in the blog post, I think that this isn't a bad way to approach the effects. It's a nice set all themed around a specific item, and when the effects are really strong, sometimes the best idea is to just get out of the way of the effect and let it happen. The major risk, of course, is that all you need is more than one magician taking this approach to the effect and you'll get cookie-cutter-magician syndrome. However, I think that's still a minor risk -- chances are pretty good that in JC's market not many others (if any) can do the hand-through-table effect, that Branded won't be everywhere yet as it's a recent item, and that the linking finger rings might be an uncommon piece (as opposed to various card tricks).
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Posted: Jun 11, 2011 5:50am
JC's got a video up on youtube showing a performance with Magic Babe Ning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvrQMwmRjjc

The magic does seem to be pretty good here, but I'm not entirely sure that the performance really fits the arguments made in JC Sum's post. Setting aside the linking finger rings (as I'm not a connoisseur), the first ring effect doesn't really distinguish itself from anybody else's performance of Garrett Thomas's Branded that I've seen, and the hand-through-table effect is going to look familiar to anybody who saw Lu Chen's coins-through-table video when it went viral last year, or when Cyril did it with the salt-shaker before than that. The major obvious difference would be the fact that there's a duo here, but I think that ultimately works against the latter effect because it could be seen that one partner is helping the other somehow.

The other major difference here is the linking of four effects into one longer routine, but again, I don't know that the long-term memory of the experience is going to factor that in. Usually you're really lucky to get a spectator leaving a magic set with one strong, vivid memory of what happened, and in order to avoid that problem, it's usually a good idea to make sure that the memory of the effects can't blend together, that one effect doesn't overpower the others, and that the effects offer different things (eg: a routine with a strong visual element, a routine with a deeper mystery, a routine which has more audience participation, a routine where everything is driven by the spectator, etc.).

That said, even though it feels to me inconsistent with the thesis in the blog post, I think that this isn't a bad way to approach the effects. It's a nice set all themed around a specific item, and when the effects are really strong, sometimes the best idea is to just get out of the way of the effect and let it happen. The major risk, of course, is that all you need is more than one magician taking this approach to the effect and you'll get cookie-cutter-magician syndrome. However, I think that's still a minor risk -- chances are pretty good that in JC's market not many others (if any) can do the hand-through-table effect, that Branded won't be everywhere yet as it's a recent item, and that the linking finger rings might be an uncommon piece (as opposed to various card tricks).
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