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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » What does it mean to be "fooled"? (10 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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lynnef
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I was thinking about a recent Glenn Morphew appearance on Penn and Teller, where he did not "fool" the guys. Or did he? Fellow magi have noted that the men have been occasionally fooled by close up card magic! But what does it mean? I'm sure Penn and Teller knew about cards to pocket, palming, false flashing and so on; that is they know the mechanics. But could they actually follow the routine all the way through (I could not)? Is there a moment when they say to themelves "I thought something else was happening, but it was not... now I'm lost!" For the record, I love to be "fooled" now and then by a magic effect. But I make a slightly nuanced distinction between that and watching an effect that is very strong where I say "How did that happen?' v. "how did he do that?" So yeah, I was watching Glenn Morphew's performance that IMHO was both astonishing and a "fooler". Lynn ...... ps, I love Penn and Teller's show
funsway
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Since you asked ...

I feel that equating "fooling people" with performance magic is not a good thing, or even implying the "being fooled" is the same as "creating astonishment,"
or that entertaining folks with the "mystical arts" requires that anyone be fooled at all. I was even mentored in my youth that at least one effect in a show
should be one that the audience knows or can easily figure out.

Even is one views the distinctions to be "just definitional" - the performance restraints of the show in no way replicate what a magician will face in the field or at home.
Thus, the show does not help any performer be a better magician, or any spectator appreciate your next show more.

As to Penn and Teller "being fooled." Their objective is to make money and to get repeat scheduling. Magic has little to do with it.
The choice of performers, the framing, the "mystery of decision" and more is artificially contrived and managed.

They do a good job of this, to be sure. The fool people into watching the show.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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lynnef
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Let's not turn this into a critique of Penn and Teller! I don't equate being "fooled" with being conned! Many of us here know cards to pocket routines... unlike the lay audience. I enjoyed being "fooled" by parts of Glenn Morphew's performance; and indeed my reaction was not the same as perhaps many in the lay audience who had never seen cards to pocket! That said, the better part of magic is by far "astonishment". I believe that being fooled can be part of a magic performance in addition to astonishment.... an example I often perform is Skinner's Monte, which fools people and then causes them to laugh. (When I originally bought the trick decades ago, I felt myself having been fooled... but not a bad thing). A lot of the original cons (ie fooling in a bad way) have been turned into great magic. Bob Sheets' begins his shell and pea routine with "we're just playin' for love here folks"! Also this is not the same as confusion... as the professor Dai Vernon has said it's NOT good to confuse the spectator! Lynn
danaruns
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Astonishment is not the same as being fooled. Astonishment is when you're at a magic show and unexpectedly your grandmother who lives in another country appears on stage. Astonishment is about the unexpected occurring. Being fooled is when laymen then watch your grandmother go on to perform a perfect 10 Cards to Pocket routine. Being fooled is about defying explanation. It's about knowing that something you see is impossible, but having no rational explanation, or having every rational explanation ruled out.

To my thinking, being fooled is a prerequisite to magic. Magic happens in the spectator's mind, and can only happen if the spectator is fooled. Fooling, by itself, isn't enough for magic, but magic cannot happen in its absence. Whereas astonishment may be a by-product of being fooled, but itself has no inherent connection to magic. Magic may astonish, but astonishment is not magic, as lots of other things can astonish. You can be astonished when your grandmother appears on stage, but it's not magic when she flashes her palmed card.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Terrible Wizard
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Interesting question, interesting posts. Tbh, I don't know the answer to this one. Just dunno. Like thinking about it, though. Smile
funsway
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Danaruns. You final paragraph makes sense if you define "to fool, v." in that way. And perhaps it should be for magicians.
But, there is no evidence that most people view it that way. "It's about knowing that something you see is impossible, but having no rational explanation, or having every rational explanation ruled out."

Our language is changing - so, I checked eleven online dictionaries and three printed ones I have around the house. None have any definition even close to that. None even discuss the thought processes of the involved parties at all.

In my experience, magic can happen in the mind of a spectator because they expect it to occur and the performer doesn't interfere too much. They may even later decide that magic occurred even though there was no astonishment or "sense of being fooled" at the time. When Al Schneider said that his job was to create astonishment, and that the label of magic was up to the observer, he made no mention of "being fooled."

Yet, I find myself agreeing with the sentiment you are expressing above. Astonishment alone is not enough to insure that "must be magic" is the long-term memory of the event. It takes more -- imagination? expectation? experience with inexplicable events? even "fooled me." Not sure. "Being fooled" may have a place there too. But, "Only occur if ..." an impossible position for me. This universal clim just "flashed a palmed card." Smile
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Alan Wheeler
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Penn and Teller have clear guidelines on what it means for them to be fooled on their show and even have Johnny Thompson or other officiators who know the actual method standing by to judge. It seems they have to make one assertion and can't just keep adding guesses such as "if it wasn't palming it was a duplicate signature and if not that then a top change and false count, etc. Sometimes the performers try to mislead Penn and Teller in magic-savvy technical ways, an advanced version of how I might use sleight of hand and make it seem to layman I have impossibly special items or use special items and make it seem like I might be using inconceivable sleight of hand.

Anyway, Penn and Teller always seem very happy when they are officially fooled.
[edit] Even when they lovingly curse the fooling performers.
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George Ledo
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Over the past ten or twelve years, I have seen numerous posts by Café members to the effect that a specific trick "fooled them." What this tells me, from the way I've seen the term used, is that the poster did not know how the trick was done, or couldn't figure it out. In other words, he/she knew it was a magic trick, but couldn't get behind it.

To me, this usage says "this guy did something that I couldn't figure out." But that also implies that the performer knows something that the spectator doesn't know. IOW, "he pulled one over on me."

Even back (fifty years ago) when I was a high-strung teenager wanting to be the next WGM, I saw the term as irrelevant. I didn't want to fool people: I wanted them to think I was doing something impossible. And that's as far as I went with terms and semantics.

My bigger question is whether the general public sees this term the same way as people who perform magic. Might be interesting to stand on a street corner and just ask passersby if magic tricks fool them, or what they think when they see a magic trick.
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Terrible Wizard
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That might be a good question to ask amateurs who do casual performances. I imagine some hobbyists, like myself, ask people they've showed a trick to, 'did that fool you' or say things like, 'let's see if I can fool you with this one' or something like that.
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Quote:
On Nov 29, 2017, George Ledo wrote:

My bigger question is whether the general public sees this term the same way as people who perform magic. Might be interesting to stand on a street corner and just ask passersby if magic tricks fool them, or what they think when they see a magic trick.


But would no the term "magic trick" bias the response? What if instead one asked,

"When you observe something that takes you back to your childhood sense of awe and wonder, whether natural or an illusion;
do you try and puzzle it out, consider it a trick that fooled you, pretend it never happened or bask in the joy of it all?"
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Terrible Wizard
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Most people I've ever met would try and figure it out to at least some degree Smile
danaruns
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Quote:
On Nov 29, 2017, George Ledo wrote:

My bigger question is whether the general public sees this term the same way as people who perform magic. Might be interesting to stand on a street corner and just ask passersby if magic tricks fool them, or what they think when they see a magic trick.


To be "fooled" in this instance is a term of art, not a common meaning. For magicians, being "fooled" means being unable to determine the particular method being used to create the effect. This does overlap with lay people, somewhat, since lay folks go into this knowing that the performer is appearing to do something that s/he is not really doing. Because of that knowledge, they are aware that what they are seeing is just an illusion, and so they are "fooled" when they cannot imagine how the illusion is created.

I think that, as regards lay people, taking away the "fooled" part requires taking away the consciousness that an illusion is being performed. That knowledge inherently sets up a "puzzle" for the spectator. And puzzles are something to be figured out. When a spectator is unable to figure out the puzzle, he is "fooled." But I think that's a poor term to use, as it implies a taking advantage of, a contest, a fraud perpetrated on the spectator, when the truth is that it's a partnership and the "fooling" is done with the eager consent of the spectator.

At least that's my take on it as I sit here with my coffee in the morning. Smile
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George Ledo
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Okay, here's a story that I think will show how I look at this.

A few years ago I was at an outdoor party. A friend of mine (a very active local pro; I'll call him "Al") was a guest. Also siting at our table was another guy (I'll call him "Bob"), who, by this time, had shown subtle signs and facial expressions that... well... pretty much indicated what he thought of "Al's" sexual orientation. So "Al" decides to do a couple of tricks, and starts with a very laid-back Ambitious Card.

Now, understand I don't care for close-up (and I've seen the AC any number of times), so I decided to watch the people around the table instead.

At first, "Bob's" reaction was what you'd expect by this time: cynical. He was sitting 'way back in his chair with his arms crossed, and the thought bubble above his head said, yeah, right, fool me. Actually, later that night Donna and I agreed he looked like he'd rather be having a colonoscopy. Anyway, so "Al" keeps going, and the card keeps going back to the top. By now, everyone else at the table was going "no way!" and laughing and totally enjoying themselves. That's when "Bob" started sitting up a little straighter, his arms uncrossed, his facial expression changed, and he even smiled a couple of times. By the end of the trick he had totally come around.

I don't like to put words in other people's mouths (or thought bubbles), so I won't take a crack at what I thought his internal reaction was, but what I observed was a guy who went from "yeah, right, fool me" to "that's impossible."

From what I've seen and heard (and read) over the years, I believe that people who are involved in magic are far more into "being fooled" than your typical member of the general public. Back when I was doing my cards-and-doves act, I paid close attention to what people said afterwards. People involved in magic would comment on the tricks themselves, while members of the general public would comment on the act as a whole. I still see the same thing right here in the Café.
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Terrible Wizard
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That's likely true George. Though when I've carried out surveys it seems clear to me that most people often think, 'how was that done' whenever they see a trick/act of magic. A percentage actually follow that up on Google.
lynnef
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Being "fooled" certainly seems to be open to a wide variety of definitions, nuances and common usage. I sometimes contrast the 3 card monte hustler who is out to "fool" (that is, con) the spectator, with the magician 3 card monte routine who fools spectators (and an occasional magician). As a con, only the hustler gains; while in the magic performance, all should be enjoying the faux-con! As Bob Sheets once said, "we're just plain' for love here folks!" In both cases, fooling is going on, but they receive very different reactions. The reason I like Skinner's Monte so much is the very last move... ie from the fooling moves to the "impossible" one! Lynn
John C
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Quote:
On Nov 27, 2017, danaruns wrote:
Astonishment is not the same as being fooled. Astonishment is when you're at a magic show and unexpectedly your grandmother who lives in another country appears on stage. Astonishment is about the unexpected occurring. Being fooled is when laymen then watch your grandmother go on to perform a perfect 10 Cards to Pocket routine. Being fooled is about defying explanation. It's about knowing that something you see is impossible, but having no rational explanation, or having every rational explanation ruled out.

To my thinking, being fooled is a prerequisite to magic. Magic happens in the spectator's mind, and can only happen if the spectator is fooled. Fooling, by itself, isn't enough for magic, but magic cannot happen in its absence. Whereas astonishment may be a by-product of being fooled, but itself has no inherent connection to magic. Magic may astonish, but astonishment is not magic, as lots of other things can astonish. You can be astonished when your grandmother appears on stage, but it's not magic when she flashes her palmed card.


So far, THE BEST explanation in the thread!! I love it.
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Brad Burt
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Fooled: You see something amazing. You have no idea at all how it was done/accomplished. Fooled. Note that being "fooled" is not that same as being a fool or being made a fool of. That's what happens with a small number of folks who dislike magic. At some point they got the message that being "fooled" was the same as being "made a fool of". Too bad really.
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Jonathan Townsend
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To deceive is not the same as to fool or to trick.

We probably aim for deception.

If the trickery we use is deceptive we can play at magic.
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funsway
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Aye Jonathan, and "back when" people enjoyed a bit of deception and illusion -- perhaps to prompt their own imagination.
Today, so many are masters of deception in their personal lives that they need a different jolt, especially if they are chemically addicted to entertainment or wallow in delusion.

I have often asked of magicians, "What is the magic you are pretending at?" No one answers. Perhaps they are fooling themselves.

Ian Garrison (MagicIan) and I were discussing the adage,"Perform new tricks for the same audience or old tricks for a new audience."

He offered, "There are those who will hear the word magician and appreciate whatever you do since the amazement comes from within themselves."

He frequently used the terms "artifice" and "guile" -- never "fool."
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Jan 17, 2018, funsway wrote:
...I have often asked of magicians, "What is the magic you are pretending at?" ...


Our Magic, a performing art, also elicits a deeper question that could be phrased backstage as: "okay, you can present a character which lives in a world with magic - what do you want that character to share with the audience?"
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