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Anthony
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Has anyone else read Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms? I found this book while I was cleaning my room; I didn't have a chance to read it till now. The information in the book is a bit dated, but it is still informative and provides insights that I have never thought of before. I would love to hear people's comments on this book.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
-- Albert Einstein
Payne
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I was fortunate enough to buy this when it first came out, and though I do not agree with everything the author believes In my opinion it is probably one of the best books out there and the one most responsible for shaping my philosophy on the performance of magic. The underlying theme of "you have to have a justification for everything you do" is a lesson too many magi's have yet to discover.
This should be required reading for everyone.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Uli Weigel
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Anthony,
what kind of information in this book do you consider dated? And why?

-Uli
McCritical
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Quote:
The underlying theme of "you have to have a justification for everything you do" is a lesson too many magi's have yet to discover.


Are you saying that "Look at me, I'm levitating!", "Look at me, I'm doing a packet trick!", and "Look at me, I'm making a dollar bill fold up in my hand!" aren't justification enough? Smile
RandyWakeman
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Though the Nelms book was a plagiarized version of a book on acting . . .

The "justification" of which Payne speaks is (I believe) more clearly stated as "motivated actions."
Anthony
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32 years is a long time for a book to be published. Much of the information is applicable to this day; the emphasis seems to be on stage magic, but the principles discussed on enhancing mere tricks is indispensible for both stage and close up magicians. I loved that part of the book; it made me rethink many of my routines, and I am in the process of changing many of them due to the valuable information from this book. The idea of making people believe that what magicians do is real magic is very hard, bordering on the impossible these days. There are still people out there that are convinced that we made a pact with the devil, but for the most part, people won't believe for a second that something supernatural took place. they might be amazed and astonished at the moment of magic, but their minds will inevitably lead them to ask the question of how it is done. The idea of setting the mood to suspend their disbelief is a great one, and the way recommended by the book is a good one. In retrospect, I don't think the information is dated. I'm sorry everyone; I wasn't thinking clearly when I wrote the first post. Again, I am sorry.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
-- Albert Einstein
Quentin
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Even though the author knows practically nothing about magic, I found and still find the book extremely useful.
Payne
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Quote:
On 2002-08-12 06:08, Quentin wrote:
Even though the author knows practically nothing about magic, I found and still find the book extremely useful.


This is why the book is so good. It has nothing to do with tricks but everything to do with the presentation of effects.
When I am working on new material I very rarely show it to other magicians for advice as they fail to see it as a spectator would view it. Magicians are looking for moves, gimmicks or flashes, not motivation, blocking or timing.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Megatherion
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Hi,

Magic and Showmanship is one of my favorite books.

Yours faithfully

Smile Dan Kirsch Smile
metaphyzix
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hey anthony, have you checked out his other books? magic by misdirection isn't a bad book either

Quote:
On 2002-09-30 04:49, metaphyzix wrote:
hey anthony, have you checked out his other books? magic by misdirection isn't a bad book either


oops, my bad... i just realized i got nelms and fitzkee all mixed up. with the books and their similar titles, subject matter and such, its bound to confound anyone! sorry for the mix-up, this is more embarassing than the time i mistook that guy for a bearded woman.......
Anthony
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lol. metaphyzix, we all make mistakes... it's quite alright. Smile
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
-- Albert Einstein
owen.daniel
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I think that this book is probably one of the better on my shelf. I agree about it being slightly dated, but i think its great.
I dont really think that the trick ideas are great, but the actually comtent on theory is good.
being only 13 i was warned about finding it a bit hard going, but i didn't find this the case. Its brilliant
Dennis Michael
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I've met with Henny Nelms and my 1969 1st edition book is beat but well read. He even judged me at the MAES Convention right after he wrote that book. I used some of his ideas and won origionality by pulling a rabbit out of a motorcycle helment routine.

The material is tough to read, and slow reading to absorb all that he says, but worth the effort. I felt it was like an updated verson of what Fitzkee was trying to say. I also like all of Fitzkee Books.
Dennis Michael
Horatio
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I've just started rereading this and I can see why the book seems to be so highly regarded. He obviously wasn't targeting a 21st century audience with his occasional non-PC comments (which would have been quite an achievement in 1969!), but that does not (IMHO) detract from the ideas that he was putting across so clearly. In almost every case, he supports his ideas with clear examples, so it is very easy to consider his proposals. He really does pack lots of information into this relatively small book, so it really is great value for money from my point of view.

The one term which he didn't define in the book (unless of course I missed it!) was the 'principle of conservation', which he first mentions on page 15. I know what the individual words mean, but I presume that he is referring to a specific idea, which perhaps his intended audience would be more familiar with than I am...

I am curious about which acting book RandyWakeman may be referring to in his post.
White Rodent
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I am sorry. I do not find this book useful. In fact I find it detrimental. Interestingly enough respected professional magician Geoffrey Durham has described the book as "sterile and unhelpful" so I am not alone. The book is full of arrant nonsense and it should be noted that Henning Nelms never performed a magic act in his life.

And he is completely wrong when he says that there should be a justification for everything you do. This is a complete myth in magic and has been responsible for some of the worst performing mistakes I have ever seen. Magicians spend far too much time on this "justification" nonsense. Of course within reason it can be a good thing but all too often it is an excuse to overcomplicate things which should be left as they are. It often results in Al Baker's saying, "Many a good trick is killed by improvement"

Dai Vernon himself remarked on this justification business. He pointed out that magic itself is illogical. And Harry Lorayne also pointed out that magicians worry too much about things that laymen don't give a darn about.

The justification for what you are doing is THAT YOU ARE DOING A MAGIC TRICK! THAT is your justification. Just do the bloody thing and stop worrying too much.

Oh. I see Fitzkee is mentioned here too. Well for the most part he was talking nonsense too.
Horatio
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White Rodent - I think that you make a good point about the book not working for everybody. I believe Geoffrey Durham has done acting as well as magic, so it would be surprising if he found as much in the book to be useful as somebody who doesn't have a background in theatre and performance. I just took a look on his website at the very polished performance he gives of his Newspaper Trick - I don't think "Just do the bloody thing and stop worrying too much" was his line of thought in getting the details so finely tuned for this one, but he obviously has other sources than Nelms for his inspiration. Did he happen to mention any preferences?

Nelms says on page 15 "if we try to give any routine more importance than it can bear , we destroy the illusion and may reveal the secret", so I'm pretty sure that he would be in accord with what Al Baker was saying. He also discussed when he thought it was preferable to perform a trick rather than an illusion, so the book does raise the same questions that you do.

The general approach suggested by the book seems to me to be consistent with what I've seen of Derren Brown's performances, so for me the book has helped to highlight a few specifics of how some successful performances are given.
White Rodent
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I can't speak for Geoffrey Durham and neither can I speculate on his philosophy or his line of thought. Of course you have to get your education and inspiration from somewhere. I am merely suggesting that you don't get it from Henning Nelms who never did a magic show in his life. I haven't read the book for some time but I do agree with what he says on page 15. I think Max Maven should read that as he is a prime offender and breaker of that rule as are many other magicians who talk too much and overpresent tricks that are not important enough to warrant it.

However, one point does not a wise book make. There is so much other drivel in there that it outweighs the few occasions when he talks sense. My phrase "Just do the bloody thing and stop worrying too much" applies to this justification nonsense only. Of course you have to worry about the presentation and how you are going to routine the thing. But there comes a point when you have to stop worrying about the "WHY" and get on with the *** thing. The "WHY" is BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING A TRICK. That is justification enough.
Horatio
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I don't think that "why" is necessarily a bad question. I agree that people choose to see a magician because they want to see some tricks, so that's already enough. But which magician they choose to book next time or how much they talk about what they've seen afterwards may well come down to how the performer answered the question "why" (and/ or many other factors of course!). Here's a routine by Eugene Burger, which I think meets with Nelms' criteria:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1EnC047XyI
The routine itself ("Inevitability") starts at 2:25. In a sense, it's just a "pick a card, any card" variation which most people will have seen many variations of if they've seen any magic before, but I think it is his answer to "why" this is happening that gives the effect such an impact.

I don't think that means that every magician needs to trouble themselves with this question, just that it is a good one for opening up possibilities. For me, he asks lots of good questions in the book and he says in the introduction that his examples should serve as models to take ideas from rather than templates to be copied mindlessly, so I didn't get the impression that you have that he is trying to restrict people to a single approach.

A summary that he gives quite early in the book reads:
"Meaning provides the magic of drama. Showmanship intensifies or exaggerates the meaning. Technique keeps the meaning from being diluted by distractions."
He explores all of these ideas, using lots of examples, so by the end of the book I was certainly not left with the impression that he only wanted to write about the question "why". Just lots of relevant ideas for individuals to explore or ignore according to their personal inclinations. He even discussed how somebody could go about discovering what might work best for them personally. Nevertheless, as an actor's perspective, I can see why it wouldn't necessarily suit every magician.

Do you have a preferred reference for developing performance ability, White Rodent?

Does anybody know if there are any clips around of Henning Nelms performing? His scripts in the book don't suit me so well, so I'm curious about how he might have delivered the lines.
White Rodent
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Yes indeed. Eugene Burger is an amusing old chap with a nice voice but I find him a bit too long winded. I do find that magicians chatter too much under the delusion they are using great showmanship. I quite like his books but his methods are regrettably not for me. Besides he advocates physically touching his spectators and that turns me off a trifle. Still, if you like him far be it from me to discourage that.

You will not find a clip of Henning Nelms perform. He never did. Of course you can sense that from reading his book.

I do have a preferred reference for developing performance ability and one in particular. However, I prefer to keep that to myself for reasons I wish I could impart but I am just not able to do so at the present time. I will say however, that I learned a LOT from beginners books and other sources.
Horatio
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Genii magazine describes Nelms as a theatrical director and amateur magician here: http://www.geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Henning_Nelms
In the book, Nelms describes how to train the voice, saying " Several hundred of my actors and students have used this exercise" - unless these claims are untrue, Nelms does seem to be far better qualified to comment on performance than you keep implying, White Rodent.
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