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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The September 2003 entrée: Whit Haydn » » Magic that sucks » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Whit Haydn
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What makes a bad magic trick bad?
Kronos9326
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Presentation, poor handling, and mental blocks.

I recently came across what I thought would be a killer effect in the restaurant I work at, and after performing it twice, I quickly realized that if it's truly going to be killer, then I needed to re-think my performance of it. It's been shelved ever since.

David.
Scott F. Guinn
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I know a lot of people say, "There are no bad tricks, only bad magicians!" While this is a rule of thumb, it is not an immutable law. In fact, especially these dyas, there is plenty of junk being put out. It's easy to say that this is because it's so easy to self-publish and market in this era of electronics, so a lot of people who haven't paid their dues are putting out material before they have learned anything about construction, misdirection, audience management, showmanship and the art of deception. But it's deeper than than that. Some pretty big names have put out garbage, too--one VERY well known guy even confided to me that one item he had put out (that I called him on, because it STUNK!) was just something he had come up with and never even tried, much less performed (It showed, because IT DOESN'T EVEN WORK!); but people were buying everything with his name on it, so what the heck, right?

What makes a magic trick bad? Most often the performer, but sometimes the creator. Any trick that doesn't HAVE any magic is bad. Any trick where the method is obvious is bad. Any trick that bores people to the point where they don't care how it turns out is bad. Any trick that does physical, mental or emotional harm to the spectator is bad. Etc.
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Vilago
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Scott,

Are you going to post this trick in the review section, so none of us waste our money on something that the creator hasn't even tried?

Dan
Payne
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What makes a bad magic trick bad?
When the performer fails to connect with the audience.
When the performer focuses on the moves instead of the the meaning.
When the performer believes that the trick is more important than the presentation.
A poor trick can be saved by a great presentation and a great effect can be ruined by a poor one.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
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Don't forget poorly constructed props. even the best performer can't pull those out of the fire once the secret has been exposed.
...think not that all wisdom is in your school. You may have studied other paths,but, it is important to remember that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is always more to learn.
Pete Biro
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What makes a trick bad?

Often it is something that Magician A saw, er let me change that... Magician Z saw done by Magician A.

Magician Z then buys it and has no idea of the meaning behind the trick, how the personality he is stuck with will work with it, he practices, er I mean tries it out three times at home, then puts it into a performance for live people and it...

Er, I mean, HE DIES... the trick is "No Good" he says.

Meanwhile Magician A has just signed for another year at double the money with the same trick.

Smile Smile Smile
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Pete Biro
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And then there are those that buy Whit Haydn't Four Ring Routine and have no idea how to treat the spectator helping with respect... and... Smile Smile Smile Smile Smile
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S2000magician
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Indirectness. Irrelevance. Insouciance. Ineptitude.
Curtis Kam
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I think Michael Ammar had it right when he approached this subject through the use of those annoying pseudo-equations one generally sees in management training courses on "efficiency maximization". In particular, a trick is "bad" when the process/effect ratio is greater than 1. In normal words, when there is more setup than magic, not enough "bang" for the audience's "buck".

This is the complaint I often hear from television producers. They feel magic does not work on television because it takes too long to "set up" the payoff. Usually, they are thinking about card tricks, which of course all start with a deck being shuffled, and a card chosen, then reshuffled into the deck, and then the magic happens,but everyone has changed the channel.

The process/effect ratio is typically high in the bad Bizarre magic examples discussed on another thread.

And, the guy with one of the lowest process/effect ratios in America has got to be David Blaine.

However, this is not to suggest that the "monosyllabic drifter" approach is the only one. Good presentation (aka "process") enhances the "effect". (i.e. consider Ricky Jay)

Another useful ratio to consider when ferreting out "bad" magic is that suggested by Tommy Wonder in his discussion of the "too perfect" theory. He suggests that we consider the conviction/effect ratio, the relationship between the audience's level of conviction that nothing is suspicious, and the strength of the effect finally achieved. His theory, as I understand it, is that stronger effects demand stronger proof. Therefore, the stronger your effect is, the more careful you must be to foreclose all explanations. When the conviction/effect ratio is too low, you have a "miracle" for which every member of the audience has an explanation. (low conviction) When the ratio is high, you've got an object that everyone absolutely believes is ordinary, doing something not very special. (low effect) I think to avoid bad magic, this ratio has to be as close to 1 as possible.

So, there you go. Bad magic defined through the miracle of modern social science.

Oh, and of course, the other hard-and-fast rule for finding bad magic is the "box test". If you actually can "perform it within five minutes of opening the package" or if it's really true that "anyone can do it" and "no practice or skill" is required, it's probably bad magic.
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montz
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Quote:
On 2003-09-05 08:15, Scott F. Guinn wrote:
It's easy to say that this is because it's so easy to self-publish and market in this era of electronics, so a lot of people who haven't paid their dues are putting out material before they have learned anything about construction, misdirection, audience management, showmanship and the art of deception


Sorry to digress from the topic... I just thought it was funny that Scott hadn't included creativity on the list!

And I can't agree more about everyone publishing stuff... It's kind of depressing.
stevenamills
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No surprise.

Here's my annoying pseudo-equation:

no surprise = no magic

A good performer might make it entertaining, but it won't be magic.

Later.....
Steve
Curtis Kam
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Interesting, Steve, but what about effects based upon suspense, rather than surprise? (and Hitchcock's advice that it's always one or the other) Is there no magic in, say, the Slow motion ace assembly, or Matrix, where after the second transposition, there is no surprise?
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Bill Palmer
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Poor presentation produces putrid prestidigitation.
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stevenamills
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Quote:
On 2003-09-05 23:05, Curtis Kam wrote:
Interesting, Steve, but what about effects based upon suspense, rather than surprise? (and Hitchcock's advice that it's always one or the other) Is there no magic in, say, the Slow motion ace assembly, or Matrix, where after the second transposition, there is no surprise?




Curtis, I'm not sure I understand Hitchcock's statement - actually I am sure - I don't.

I think we're in semantics here - I don't look on a "surprise" as a final BOOM moment but an unexpected or invisible result. Using your example of the Slow Motion Ace Assembly, to me it is a surprise that each ace arrives, without explanation, in the leader pile - assuming it is well constructed and artfully executed.

John Bannon says my thoughts so much better than I ever could in the introduction to Smoke and Mirrors:

"That is why I consider myself a magician first, an entertainer second. That is why I do not believe a magician is an actor playing the part of a magician. Magic should be entertaining and should contain elements of theater, spectacle, and/or humor. But I think if magic has anything it can call its own, it is its appeal to the bundle of human reactions I call surprise. By choosing magic as the medium, by being a magician rather than a comedian, actor, or storyteller, my aim is to provide that otherworldly sense of surprise."

Thanks for responding. An interesting conversation.

Later.....
Steve
Jeff Dial
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If I understand Curtis and Alfred, suspense is when the audience knows what is coming next and come to the edge of their seats waiting for it to happen. It is the ticking time bomb motif. The Water Torture Cell would be a good example in magic as is Max Maven's presentation of Key-R-Rect.

Even card tricks can be suspenseful. I saw Martin Nash do a great three-card revelation. He flipped over the first card, flipped over the second card, picked up the edge of the third card, turned to the spectator and asked, “Would you care to bet?”, and then turned over the third card. It elevated the 1-2-3 revelation to 1-2…. 3. Those two extra seconds made all the difference. I know it made me catch my breath.

Surprise is an unexpected turn of events. A magician that finds the wrong card and than "instantly" changes it to the selection is a surprise. The final loads in the cups and balls are a surprise.

Coins through the table can be surprising, but if every coin vanishes in exactly the same way (from the audience’s perception) we are only repeating the same surprise four times. The challenge is to make EACH vanish a surprise.

Penn and Teller's illusion with Teller in a tank of water waiting for Penn to find the missing card has both elements. Suspense waiting for Teller to get out. Surprise that Teller does not get out and "dies". Surprise that Teller has the card. Unresolved suspense as the show ends with a "dead" Teller still in the tank.

Suspense can be a powerful tool. Ask any escape artist.
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Whit Haydn
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Maskelyne and Devant consider surprise to be just one of the theatrical effects of magic. They also list effects of repetition, transformation, transposition, etc. Surprise is always a fun thing, but some of the strongest magic comes from anticipation of something impossible, something that happens in spite of every safeguard and preparation that the spectator can construct.
Reesman
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I ask this question, in or times of everything is possible are we loosing the element of suspence. Is this why that quality drama on Tv is being replaced by reality TV? Yet as Magicians are we not the ones who continually prove that everything is possible? Have we lost sight of true magic. To change ones emotions when they are not expecting it. In other words to make someone smile, think, to take ther minds off of there daily lives, if for an instant. When a customer comes to see a performer is there no suspense that is pre built in there expeations. As performers do we meet or dismiss the existing suspense?
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Dlusional
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suspense is a hard item to cultivate because it has to be built up while surprise is always just around then next coner so to speak. you must balance everything (i will use the catching bullet as the example) the suspense comes at the begining waiting for the gun to be fired it is then continued (in a good performance) when the magician falls down the surprise is when he gets back up with the bullet in his teeth even though the outcome was fully expected it still surprises people. this is the true essence of performance in my opinion. Smile
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