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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The April 2004 entrée: Wesley James » » Flourishes? » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Tom Cutts
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it is certainly a thankless one.


Amen, and thanks... if there is reading between the lines in there to be read.

Tom
Tony Noice
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Wesley's wise and literate answers seem to sum up the situation. I would nominate FORGERY or its offshoots as effects for which the audience's awareness of the performer's skill could not lessen the impact. How could skill account for the transfer of a signature from one object to another? The same would be true for OOTW and many other trick plots. Vernon obviously realized that skill could be responsible for a named card being reversed as in Ultra Mental so he produced Brainwave where the card must have come from another differently colored deck, thus eliminating any apparent explanation.
Wesley James
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Tony,
The problem is that skill knows no limitations in the mind of a lay person. They don't have to be able to conceive of what skill you may have only that they allow that you have skills they cannot conceive.

There is no need for the audience to develop a complete solution for them to be satisfied they understand. Most people can't explain how a television set works, it seems impossible that such images could be sent through the air to million of homes, but they know it doesn't break any of the rules of the universe, it merely applies rules they don't understand, in the form of electronics, to the task. That is sufficient grasp for them to dismiss it as magical.

When are attempting to simulate magical phenomena, which are by definition inexplicable, we cannot at the same time supply the explanation but ask them to ignore it. It is much like telling someone not to think of pink elephants. The question really turns on what it is you are asking your audience to believe. If you would have them believe something extraordinary is occurring, providing an ordinary answer like "skill" seems to me highly counter productive.

Wesley James
Stuart Hooper
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I am afraid, I am an aspiring young magician, my dangerous, and heritical words, may carry little weight.

And, those who do not believe that we are capable of performing real magic, sirs, you are not magicians. Or rather, since so many magicians do not seem to believe in magic, I suppose, I am no magician.

I think part of the problem is definitions, and tradition. When we speak of real magic, people tend to think about magic of legend...flaming balls, lighting bolts, hollywood stunts.

However, let's look at a fantasy description of Magic. How about J.R.R. Tolkein's view of magic? Much modern fantasy can identify with his works. I remind you then sirs, that the Elves, and all of the good forces in Tolkien's world, had magic, and powerful magic at that. The "devices of the enemy" were not magic, but simple trickery and deciet.

If we are to follow this legendary description, then, we must remember that the magic of the Elves was in dance, tale, song, and art! It was the language, the paintings, the fearsome statues, that gave life to their realm, and scared off enemies! Their wonderful music had the power to heal.

And Mithrandir's greatest magic, with his ring of flame, was by his own admission, to kindle a fire in the hearts of his friends, when times were ill! He revived hope, and laughter!

Why sirs, do you suppose I have chosen then, Mithrandir as my namesake?! The most famous tale, about magic of legend of this day, proves that magic lies in Art! This is the real magic!

If we cannot kindle the spirits of people in rough times, what are we for? And if we can, is this not REAL MAGIC? Even now, music is being tested in hospitals in europe for it's healing powers. Might not magic have the same sway?

How dare you, you vast majority, who do not believe, how dare you call youself magicians? I'm not a mystic, or religious. I play the piano, and I build buildings, and I am a magician. In all of this, I try and find real magic.

It's about connecting with people! I mean, what else do we have these days! And when connection happens, that's MAGIC!

And it exists. If you cannot handle this, I ask you, please, give up the Art, now.

Mr. James, your quote the other day hit right home.

"If I see far, it is because I stand on the shoulder's of giants."

You know, whom you are.
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Why sirs, do you suppose I have chosen then, Mithrandir as my namesake?!


Probably because it sounds more mysterious than Grey Wanderer?

After my exhaustive study of the works of noted semiconductor physicist Britney Spears, and the interesting treatise on Photonic Crystals in particular found, among other sources, at http://britneyspears.ac/lasers.htm, then finally finally using a modified "Spear Crystal" to find the evil green mist that destroyed my home world, I took a break from the norm-- being locked in a eternal battle between good and evil in the nitrogen storm of the Ethereal Netherworld.

Wondering why my routines are distinctly void of Gandalf material, I looked more closely to try to discover why that was the case. The answer should have been obvious to me, but still partially blinded by photonic crystal emissions-- I failed to notice it straight away.

The Gandalf stuff is just too darn "flourishey!"
Stuart Hooper
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Um, sir, it says your not accepting private messages, so here is one I just tried to write to you.

Hello sir, I'm laughing at your reply on the flourishes thread, and I read that you do indeed beleive in magic, I think.

I'm just not sure how to reply, so checking up with you.

I'm NOT really mystical, or anything. I just believe in what might be possible in Art!

Can you elaborate on your intent here? I've already made myself into an ass on this forum for pursuing such un-magician like ideals, so, again, just wanting to look, before I leap into a reply.

"If I was made for art, from childhood given
A prey for burning beauty to devour,
I blame the mistress I was born to serve."

Sorry, if I'm confused, I just don't know what to say! It's all very funny, but it's kind of sad that magicians, one group of people who have a great connection to magic, do not believe in it!
RandyWakeman
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Sorry about that; it was merely force of hobbit.
JimMaloney
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And the winner of the worst pun in the thread is....

Randy Wakeman!

Yay!

-Jim
Books and Magazines for sale -- more than 200 items (Last updated January 17th, 2014. Link goes to public Google Doc.)
Stuart Hooper
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Don't be sorry, it was funny...I just...
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Wesley writes: "When are attempting to simulate magical phenomena, which are by definition inexplicable, we cannot at the same time supply the explanation but ask them to ignore it."

Wesley,

Why not?

In STRONG MAGIC Darwin makes a distinction between intellectual and emotional impact, and intellectual and emotional conviction.

When Steven Spielberg makes a movie about dinosaurs running around in modern times, or an alien visitor befriending a little boy, there isn't a shred of intellectual conviction on the part of the audience (we don't think it's real).

But there is tremendous emotional impact. We cry, scream, laugh, cry some more, laugh, smile, etc. But deep down inside, we know it's all completely fake.

Why then, could one not put on an entire magic performance with exactly those qualities? Aren't we really after emotional impact? I know I am. And while I admit, I enjoy it when the audience surrenders intellectually as well, I don't think it a necessary condition for entertainment, or for calling myself a magician, if I don't achieve complete intellectual conviction. I really don't care if they discuss possible methods on the drive home, as long as I had that sense of wonder, that emotional conviction, while they and I were "in the moment."

In fact, I think it's entirely possible to present a complete magic show like this: "Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are about to see is NOT real magic. What you're about to see is advanced sleight of hand. It is capable of simulating "real magic." Real magic doesn't exist. But if it did, it might look something like this...."

Now, you've just given away the store from a method point of view. But you haven't necessarily hurt the emotional impact of your magic at all. (Remember, the people going into the movies know it's not real either...but they still experience a tremendous range of emotions.)

Why can't we as magicians move people to the extremes that a movie can while still allowing people to "know" deep down inside that it isn't real?

One other point: I haven't believed in "real magic" in the sense that we're discussing here in a looooooong time. But about a year ago Michael Weber performed at the Magic Castle. In his close-up set, he did an effect where the flavor of 2 pieces of gum transposed (just the flavors, not the actual gum).

I had no clue.

For about 30 seconds.

Then my intellect kicked in and I knew instantly how it was done. But all the intellect and magic methodology knowledge in the world couldn't erase that half a minute where he nailed me.

So my question is: Isn't that 30 seconds of slack-jawed, drool-dribbling, wide-eyed wonder all we're really after? And to hell with the intellect?

Jason
Eternal damnation awaits anyone who questions God's unconditional love. --Bill Hicks
Wesley James
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Greetings Jason,
Thank you for contributing to the exchange in which we are engaged. You raise some interesting and important issues. Let me take a shot at addressing them.

Magic, as you well know, is a primarily visually oriented art form but the magic takes place in the mind. This requires that we consider both the left and right brain in our offerings. Film has much in common with magic in that regard. Just as we can respond emotionally to ET or velociraptors, audiences can respond to magic. The profundity and nature of the responses we can conjure also differ very little. Recognizing that, however, Spielberg still goes to great lengths to hide the automatronics that control the dinosaurs and the wires that suspend the bicycles. Literally millions of dollars are spent making the special effects look as realistic as possible not because they want the audience to believe in genetically re-engineered dinosaurs or puddle-eyed aliens but to prevent the methods from interfering with the audiences experience in the moments they are watching. I don't suggest that it is impossible for an audience, magical or film-viewing, to react emotionally if the threads show, only that it is easier for them to do so when they don't. It is precisely because emotional impact and intellectual impact are distinct.

Frankly, I strive to make it as easy as possible for my audiences to respond in both ways at as profound a level as the venue permits. I think it enhances their experience of my performance. Toward that end, I do all that I can to hide the wires and conceal the automatronics, which includes my skill. I believe the story I tell as a performer benefits from doing so. If, however, I were telling a story about a skillful character, I'd have no problem with demonstrating all the overt skill I could incorporate. I think the two are completely consistent.

Wesley James
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In fact, I think it's entirely possible to present a complete magic show like this: "Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are about to see is NOT real magic. What you're about to see is advanced sleight of hand. It is capable of simulating "real magic." Real magic doesn't exist. But if it did, it might look something like this...."

Now, you've just given away the store from a method point of view. But you haven't necessarily hurt the emotional impact of your magic at all.


What is "possible" is not necessarily optimal, laudable, or something to aspire to. Sleight of hand demonstrations are in no way magic. If the "bubble of amazement" is burst, that unfortunate circumstance cannot easily be recovered from.

Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion lost the ability to experience "OZ, the Great and Powerful" for all time. A temporary surprise, like a pratfall or gag, may be unexpected, amusing and fun-- but it is a far cry from delivering on the promise of the lasting experience of Magic.
Wesley James
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Randy,
You make an interesting point, my friend. Following Jason's line of reasoning puts one on a slippery slope toward accepting the notion that exposing our methods is equally innocuous, since emotional impact remains possible. I don't believe exposure nearly so harmless and I don't think Jason does either, though I would certainly allow him to dissent.

My earlier point about the dichotomy between emotional response and intellectual reaction being distinct not withstanding, it is far more difficult to integrate both halves of the brain when ones performance plays to one while attempting to appeal to the other. I have believed, and still believe that magic is far stronger when it temporarily short-circuits the intellectual aspect of the brain by seemingly addressing all its issues while appealing to the emotional side of the brain by touching the primordial chords of wonder and awe. Unlike other emotions, these delightful feelings cannot be evoked nearly so directly through most arts as through magic. When we play to this strength, the ability to touch these emotions, we capitalize on that which sets magic apart from other art forms. I do not advocate sacrificing that strength for the sake of ego gratification, as reflected by an audience's admiration of our skill. But that's just my opinion, could I be wrong?

Wesley James
Schaden
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I kind of skipped a lot of the long threads so I might go over something talked about.

If you handle cards spectator will instantly think your a card shark. Within a few days of starting card magic, people refused to play cards with me. Spectators know you are a skilled with cards but, the only thing that makes a spectator feel 'the magic' is the ability of a magicians presentation and spectator handling. I truely believe you could do tons of gambling routines and flourishes before and magic routine and then still amaze and astonish your spectators. The magicians social ability is what makes a good magician good. Flourishes would only hurt a magician like Ray Kosby.

Thanks,
Lee
Wesley James
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Pyro,
Without dismissing your interpretation of your experience with audiences, I'm afraid your post only adds fuel to my fire. Just as people don't want to play cards with you once they see you have skills, even without knowing how those skills might be helpful to you in a card game, they aren't as affected by your magic. They don't want to play magic with you, even though they don't know how your skills might be helpful to you. When performing for lay audiences I don't do anything with a deck of cards that a lay person would not think they could do themselves. I don't fan cards, I don't ribbon spread cards neatly and I don't cut them with one hand. It's okay if the audience recognizes that I'm not a complete klutz--heck, I've been known to walk and chew gum at the same time--but I don't want them to think of me as skillful, merely competent. Many of my posts in this thread explain why. You don't have to agree with me, I only ask that you respect my choice and recognize that there is no hypocrisy or even inconsistency in my position.

Wesley James
JordanB
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Wesley,

I completely agree with you about flourishes. I've been doing card magic for about 5 years now. I am curious though, can you do flourishes? And if you can do you feel like it was wasted time that would have been better spent learning a more natural double lift, pass, etc? When I first got into magic, I wasted probably a whole year just on flourishes. I was fortunate to attend a lecture of a great magician who convinced me that uniformity of action, and naturalness are the way to proceed with my magic. I'm just curious if learning these moves provided any satisfaction to you.

Best Wishes,

Jordan
Wesley James
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Greetings Jordan,
I'm confess I have invested uncounted hours learning to perform all types of flourishes. I can perform one-handed riffle shuffles with both hands, use various one-handed cuts as secret moves (as forms of the Pass) and can pressure fan, waterfall, ribbon spread and the like with the best of them. I've never put in enough work on the left-handed pressure fan to feel confident with it and I can't reliably perform the Anti-Faro but I trust I could dazzle a typical lay person with no difficulty.

I don't consider the time I've invested in these techniques wasted, they have served pedagogic functions if nothing else. After more than 50 years of performing magic the hours spent on flourishes represent a very small part of the time I've invested in honing my skills. I don't, however, regret the time in the slightest.

Wesley James
Schaden
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I understand your view point and I respect it. I wasn't sure how you used your gambling routine but, I get it now. Flourishes in a routine is a choice and really isn't for everyone. It is just a matter of style and the image you want to put forward. However, my orignal guestion was asking for a reason not to preform flourish. I don't do any flourishes in my routine other then fans and the odd cut because I have no room or use for them. If a magician doesn't preform flourishes because he thinks spectator will consider him skillfull, he is missing the point. When I made the example of the card game I wanted to put across the point that spectators will think your skillfull with cards. The only way to change their view on you is to handle the cards like a 'klutz' but, this looks very unprofessional.

Thats it,
Lee
Wesley James
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Pyro,
See the post above. There's a lot of room between card sharp and klutz. Failing to see that will only serve to narrow your options. To do that would be unfortunate but, as my sainted grandmother use to say, "You can lead a horse to water but only if you can make him float on his back do you have an act."

Wesley James
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Ok, so I have a degree in theatre. There was a time when working professionaly backstage that I had to learn not to make my "cool stage" stuff overshadow the performers. In other words-just because I can make the stage revolve-doesn't mean I should spin it in the middle of the scene.
On the other hand-when the show goes seamlessly from the airport to the inside of an apartment (in an eight second blackout) covered by the sound of an airplane traveling overhead into a phone ringing inside-this is a thing of beauty.

I use a ribbon spread that I roll back and forth with a random card while getting the audience to describe the "character of the card that was chosen" (Jack of hearts) depending on which deck I have I either point out that talking about him that way makes him blush-or that spending all his time looking for love makes him blue. Once again I've been probing these questions while running the spread and at the end I drop it showing on card of a different color.

My point here is that flourishing for flourish sake is egocentric-but flourishes in context can be a thing of beauty.
drink water...
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