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"One should always be a little improbable." - Oscar Wilde
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Interesting article...a friend and I were discussing it via email. Here's an edited version of my response to it:

Hey Steve,

The article seems to make some good points, although I feel that the title is a bit alarmist.

Based on our experiences performing every week at California Magic Dinner Theater, I don't think magic is suffering too badly as a performance art. What I think **is** shifting is the specific balance point of the "delicate equilibrium between magician’s knowledge and spectator’s ignorance” (Graham Jones, from his book "Trade of the Tricks").

I'd liken it to ecological change over the eons. For example, we see the sad effects of shrinking polar ice caps on polar bears, as members of their population drown because of reduced ice coverage, and other members of the population move inland. Polar bears and grizzlies have started interbreeding. But the species will probably survive, though it may be diluted by interbreeding, and its lifestyle will be drastically altered, at least in the short to medium term.

In a similar way, I think that this explosion of information access can be toughest on less experienced performers. It's now easier to become a "magician" (someone who knows the secrets to a few tricks), but it'll be a little harder to be a **performing** magician (someone who can enthrall and entertain a live audience). Things have been kind of like this for awhile, at least for the whole of my lifetime.

Back in the ‘70’s, there were TV Magic Cards and Magic Sets. TIME magazine published an expose of the floating lady and sawing a lady in half. Reiss magic sets hit stores (I loved those!). In 1990, we got "The Klutz Book of Magic", and it seemed that every kid on the block had a thumb tip. More recently, we’ve seen the rise of instructional DVD's and downloads, not to mention the Masked Magician. Now there's YouTube.

(And, years before, there’d been the Camel cigarette “It’s more fun to know” exposure ads, and the Mysto Magic sets)

The ease with which a spectator can simply use a smartphone to google a magic secret on the spot makes things toughest on the hobbyist, because s/he is almost always performing for friends and family. As we know, friends and family can actually be **more** likely to give performers a hard time; the sense of familiarity makes them comfortable with challenging the magician. When we perform for a paying crowd of complete strangers, normal social rules make people more hesitant to challenge us so directly.

But does this mean that the internet will “make magic disappear”? To go back to the ecology metaphor: about 250 million years ago, when the Permian Mass Extinction event occurred, 70- 90 percent of all then living species were wiped out. But life obviously went on.

The good news is we're not talking life and death here. No magicians will suffer literal death (though many will wish for death at children’s birthday parties and be threatened with it on internet magic forums). The hobby of magic will get new devotees, many of whom will not stick with it long. Some will become long-term hobbyists and performers, and they will have to run a different, perhaps harder, gauntlet than the one we've had to run up to now. It will be harder to find good mentors, which makes it that much harder to excel. But there will be those who find a way.

AND a flip side of this is that it’s so much easier and faster to get at good information that we can use to excel as performers. I can use online forums to get reviews of new products. We can study the works of the masters on video from our desktops (Just today I watched clips of Dai Vernon, Slydini, Fred Kaps and Neil Foster on YouTube).

So I suppose I'm taking the view of the farmer in the old Taoist tale who asks, "Who can say what is good or bad?" Or, to quote myself from a Magic Café discussion from a ways back, “[in this day of instructional DVD's and YouTube videos], for those magic junkies who just want to learn lots of tricks, without taking the time to practice and polish them, life is very good right now... I’d also have to say that for those who are willing to take the time to practice, rehearse, and polish their magic, life is very good right now."

See you,
David Hirata

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
--Federico Fellini
Michael Baker
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Your thoughts mirror an article I wrote for The Linking Ring many years ago, when magic videotapes first hit the scene, and caused an uproar among some who feared the demise of magic due to exposure.

A very good point you made is that this issue is more problematic to the less experienced magician. All too often their working repertoires are based upon readily available "packaged" effects. It should be no mystery that such easily pin-pointed tricks can be unearthed by way of smartphone, etc. Many of these effects are sold by the hundreds, and even thousands (with pirated versions and other overt forms of exposure merely adding to the pile).

Conversely, the experienced magician relies less upon marketed magic, that which is available to anyone with the same amount of money. Instead, they build their acts based upon principles of magic, and shroud these secrets within wonderful presentations and charming personalities. As a result, the bullets fired at magic in general, are more likely to glance off them, if not miss the target entirely.

Even basic methods such as Linking Rings can avoid the quagmire of this assault through the use of subtleties that make even the most obnoxious heckler doubt the validity of his claims.

Fortunately, this is usually the result of years of study, which cannot be so easily Googled. Smile

~michael baker
The Magic Company
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