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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Mr. Jennings Takes It Easy- a newbie's initial impressions (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

TeddyBoy
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At the beginning I want to clearly state that my impressions of Mr. Jennings Takes It Easy (MJTIE) is not offered as a professional-level review, but merely provides my newbie's perspective that may be of interest to other hobbyists or newbies that have not attained an advanced level of sleight of hand. I am not sufficiently skilled to offer insights that would be useful to the experienced card worker. I am simply providing some of my impressions of MJTIE based on reading and working through the first three chapters. Let me say up front that this is a book very well worth buying. I already feel, from the first three chapters alone, that I have progressed in the handling of some of the basic sleights taught therein; fourteen to be exact, so far. I am optimistic that the rest of the book will further add to my skill development.

MJTIE is a beautiful, well-constructed book. It is also the heaviest book I own on any subject. The pages are of excellent quality paper. The photographs by Julie Eng using Jason England's talented paws as models, are among the best I have seen among the many books I own. The photos are sharp and reproduced at the proper level of brightness, i.e., are not too dark as I have found in some other well-respected books. Mr. Kaufman's writing is usually very clear although I did run into some difficulties, which are discussed below.

The easy aspect of MJTIE is supposedly manifested in its not describing or teaching LJ's versions of palms, side steals, top changes, passes and other knuckle-busting maneuvers. However, in my view newbies should not expect MJTIE to be an easy ride as it is far more than a collection of LJ's tweaks of classic sleights. MJTIE does not merely replicate the basics one gets from Card College or The Royal Road To Card Magic, but instead provides LJ's creative modifications of various basic sleights as well as many ancillary manipulations that are designed to be used in conjunction with these basic sleights. Although some of these ancillary manipulations have the potential to be useful, they do not appear to me to be all that easy.

On the plus side the more necessary or basic sleights are presented clearly. For example, in Chapter 1 LJ (and/or Mr. Kaufman) discusses the manner of acquiring breaks, something I took for granted. In some cases acquiring a break can be a rather interesting albeit challenging process; e.g., LJ's version of the Verdnase break (Chap 1, p. 52). Other break-related topics include his take on buckling to get a break at the bottom of a deck (Chap 1, p. 35), getting a pull-down type of break (Chap 1, p. 55), and more. These sleights have obvious utility in various situations.

Also on the plus side is that things get more interesting in Chapters 2 and 3, focusing mainly on double undercuts and double lifts and turnovers, respectively. LJ's versions of these sleights are clearly presented and I have targeted a few that will be incorporated into my card work. With respect to taking it easy, are these sleights as difficult as a pass or side steal? Of course not. But the intricacies LJ introduces in making a move appear more natural are very creative and will likely require a great deal of practice from a novice or hobbyist. Of special interest in Chap 2 are the instructions on moving cards from top to bottom, center to top, and switching positions of the top and bottom card using LJ's version of the double undercut (Chap 1, pp. 85-95).

However, in the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that things became a bit murky for me toward the middle of Chapter 3. After providing excellent instruction on LJ's most frequently used double lift/turnover methods (Chap 3, pp. 139-159), there follows an extensive discussion of LJ's double turnover-related moves (Chap 3, pp. 166-186) that he apparently used less frequently. For example, there were five additional "uncommon methods" for executing the get ready phase for a double lift; four more variations for unloading one card of a double; and four variations for placing a double card on a table. With respect to taking it easy, I found that some of these techniques were quite difficult to execute. However, with perseverance I have managed to select a couple for further study and hope my doggedness will pay off. Overall, my guess is that very experienced card conjurers will appreciate these techniques much more than myself, as I have to admit that these variations largely went over my head. In fact, I had some trouble understanding why one would even use some of these moves since they invariably seemed quite complicated and unnatural in achieving what I thought were relatively simple ends. Perhaps with more experience I will appreciate these sleights, but I would imagine that many beginners will feel as I do and skim this material in order to focus more on the main concepts described. This is not actually a knock on the book's overall approach, it is just how I think most beginners would navigate the text.

MJTIE provides many tricks, some with various versions, that incorporate the sleights described in the specific chapter. These tricks are very useful exercises in providing valuable practice in using these sleights. However, in my opinion, although the tricks are very instructive, they mostly lack the kind of punch one might hope to find in an effect. Again, this may merely be my limitations in card theory and appreciation of the subtleties of card conjuring.

I also struggled with understanding some tricks' instructions. In one case after following the instructions about ten times and not achieving the indicated result, I suspected that there may have been an error somewhere in the text. However, this was by no means a frequent issue. These tricks have as their primary purpose providing experience using these sleights and this goal is effectively achieved. These exercises should receive the attention and effort they deserve, even from newbies. I bring this to the attention of less experienced practitioners so they will know what they may encounter when working through the exercises provided.

Of course, one does not expect to use everything taught in a magic book, and MJTIE is no different. But whatever you do latch onto will very likely be high quality material. Perhaps some of the advanced variations of the sleights described may become useful to me in the future when I attain more experience. In this context MJTIE is not only a valuable instructional source, but also will have value as a reference down the road. In concluding, if you have already been exposed to the basics via beginner books and/or DVDs, I heartily recommend buying this book to get deeper into the nitty gritty of card handling. But it will not very likely be as easy as one might expect based on the book's title.
So many sleights...so little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

Cheers,
Teddy
copperct
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TeddyBoy - Thanks so much for this review. With the price tag associated with the book, I have been waiting to hear what other people (who are closer to my level of skill: newbie) say about the book before laying down the hard earned cash. I don't doubt the cost is reflected by the quantity/quality of instruction, but I am wondering if you feel that it provides enough additional insight into handlings to warrant the price tag for someone who already has Card College, RRTCM, ECT, Revolutionary Card Technique, LePaul, Card Control, AoA, etc...

I pause because as my collection has grown, I've become more and more worried about investing in books like these that seem to be reviewing material that I can find more notes/handlings of in my current library that I could ever practically use. That being said, if Kaufman's notes are worth it, that's all I need to know!

Once again, thanks so much for this meaty write-up! It is much appreciated!
TeddyBoy
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Hi Copperct. This is not an easy question to answer if the cost of the book is really a major factor. For me the issue was whether or not the likelihood that a well-respected artist like LJ would provide some additional, useful beginner stuff of value to my knowledge-base. I feel relatively certain that the basics from Card College and Royal Road will put you on the path to obtaining a high skill level. In that sense MJTIE is not needed. It is more an issue of how intense is your CURIOSITY to have a more focused, albeit not-advanced, approach to conjuring provided by one of the greats. For me, this curiosity was worth the cost and I have not regretted my choice.

I also have several of the books you mentioned above. Honestly, I have not really used Revolutionary Card Technique as I feel that much of it is a bit too specialized, i.e., geared toward things for which I have not yet felt I needed or wanted instruction. The Magic of LePaul is OK, but I found the level of instruction geared toward a more advanced level, but unfortunately where the instruction was much less detailed than I would have liked; basically captions to photos that were too dark. I found that MJTIE remedies some of these issues to a great extent -- not perfectly --by filling a void between Card College and RRTCM on one hand, and Revolutionary Card Technique and LePaul on the other.

Last, I would note that if you intend to use MJTIE merely as a reference it may not be worth the cost. However, if your goal is similar to mine, which is to incorporate MJTIE into the basic content of your card practice I would think it is worth the price.

I hope these comments help address your questions.
So many sleights...so little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

Cheers,
Teddy
copperct
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That really helps. I appreciate you positioning it in comparison to those books. That greatly helps me understand where MJTIE's content is positioned.
TeddyBoy
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I forgot to mention that it will be a big help if you learn to use a pinky count for getting a break under two or more cards. Unfortunately, MJTIE does not teach this.
So many sleights...so little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

Cheers,
Teddy
Richard Kaufman
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Mr. Jennings Takes it Easy does not teach the Pinky Count because Jennings did not use it, nor did he like it.
TeddyBoy
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Thanks for your input. I only mentioned the pinky count because I could not get the Autobreak to work consistently. I personally know of no other means to obtain a break under multiple cards.

Thanks for this excellent resource.
So many sleights...so little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

Cheers,
Teddy
Richard Kaufman
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Thumb Count if you must. Many do!
Fromentum
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Thank you for this detailed review. Nicely written and very helpful.
dustrod
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TeddyBoy,
I'm glad you are reading this book, it's so good and I remember we spoke about it in a previous conversation but didn't think you'd get around to it any time soon.
I almost 100% agree with everything you say in your post, great review of your journey through the book so far.
Personally I felt the effects packed the punch I was looking for with the exception of a few that weren't for me but there's already a few I've been using pretty regularly while performing.
Learning the sleights has been the most fun for me though. Just a whole arsenal of some very creative moves in this book.
TeddyBoy
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I have just worked through Chapter 4 of Mr. Jennings Takes It Easy (MJTIE) which takes an in depth look at packet effects and their associated moves. Chap 4 is 87 pages, the first ten pages of which describe the primary display counts of interest: Elmsley, The Flushstration Count, Bro. Hamman's Two As Four Count, and the Hamman Count. However, these are not the only display techniques presented. Embedded within the following 77 pages are some additional display counts, e.g., a few different rhythm counts. I think it is fair to say that the large majority of the exercises presented rely on the Elmsley count.

IMHO, the LJ versions of the exercises presented reveal an artist willing, if not eager, to get into creating some of the most intricate card manipulations I have encountered during my hobbyist level of exposure to card conjuring. To me, the exercises presented constitute an advanced course or bootcamp in handling packets that is not quite what I would expect from someone "taking it easy." It will require a good deal of careful reading of the instructions, let alone following them to get the benefit of this chapter. However, I felt it was worth it and many of the tricks were interesting. My only gripe is that at least half of the tricks required some preparation of the packets or deck. This may not be an issue to many but for me it is just not my style. This is due, in part, because I admittedly am not competent enough to obscure the fact from a spectator that I am manipulating the deck or packet for my specific purpose.

In sum, I found this chapter to be quite challenging and edifying at the same time. I think that if given the appropriate attention, other cardicians would agree.
So many sleights...so little time.
"Slow...deliberate...natural." Bill Tarr

Cheers,
Teddy
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