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Topic: Don't Teach Your Grandfather How to Milk Ducks
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 24, 2006 11:39PM)
I was a brightish child when I was growing up. I was much more intelligent than my father, and sometimes indicated this to him by offering my solutions to things that weren't actually problems. I had a tendency to parrot information I had either heard or read somewhere, even when it did not apply to the problem at hand.

In spite of my "help" and coaching, he managed to become a very successful editor, writer and performer in his own field. He also got a lot smarter.

And I found out that I wasn't really as bright as I thought I was.

Sometimes when I would offer him a suggestion as to how he could make a frammistat fit next to a johnson rod in some project he was working on, he would say, "Don't tell your grandfather how to milk ducks."

What did he mean by this semi-nonsensical phrase? Well, the first time I told him "You can't milk ducks," he replied, "Maybe you just don't know how."

I still didn't get it. Finally, one day I realized that what he meant was don't tell people who have done things for many years how to do them, when you don't really know, yourself.

I've been seeing a lot of this kind of material lately. It's gotten to the point now that people who have been doing magic for a few months or a couple of years have started "sharing" their "insights" with us. I don't mind this too much, but I do mind the idea that they won't tell us where they got their ideas, especially when we can spot them as having been purloined.

You want to tell me how to organize my magic? I'll be glad to let you help me out. Come over to my place, and we will go out to the garage and wade through the tools and boxes. I'll even pay you. Heck, I'll give you some cups. I have lots of them.

You want to tell me how to routine a show? Fine. Let me see yours first.

You want to tell me how to get girls with magic? Fine. Let me see yours first. Let me talk to her for a few minutes. I'll find out what really attracted her to you.

I can tell you this. It's not your DL or the way you handle a TT.

If it is, you are in for a really miserable time.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 21, 2006 11:42AM)
There is a trend among armchair magicians to adopt a set of inner rules and strategies for themselves, then decide that it is the way professionals should operate. This is a particularly arrogant attitude.

In recent days, I have seen posts from people who never give paid shows, but they are full of information about how to deal with booking agents. WHAT! That is pure idiocy. That's like telling your friends how to work on their Mercedes when you have never been inside one, much less worked on one yourself.

Similar things happen with ideas on routining, principles, techniques and presentations. A person who pitches Svengali decks week in and week out will know things about Svengali decks that guys who have only handled one a few times know. The same is true of magic. I've done the Anderson newspaper tear for 35 years. I know I have performed it more than 5,000 times. I know things about that trick that most of you will never know. I can do it surrounded and in the wind. Even Gene Anderson was amazed at things I had figured out about that trick.

In an issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine that was published about 30 years ago, Sonny Osborne made a statement that sounded rather presumptuous at the time, but I must admit I agree with. He said that once he started playing 7 nights a week, 52 weeks a year, he was putting more time in on the banjo in a week than most people put in on it in a year. There were things he had discovered that other people did not know, because they had not had the exploration time he had on the instrument.

He also refused to participate in contests. He figured that he knew how good he was. He was a full time pro. If he won the contest, everyone would figure he was basically picking on the other players. If he lost, they would figure he was losing his touch. It was a lose-lose situation. He also said that he didn't need for the local postmaster, fire chief and constable to decide that their cousin played the banjo better than he did, when they didn't know beans about the instrument.

The same thing is true of magic and mentalism. You really don't understand the rigors of professional performance until you get on the firing line. If you are a pro, every show counts. It's what I call a "mission critical" situation. You can't make excuses to your clients.

[b]The roof over your head depends on how good you are.

The food on your table depends on your ability.[/b]

This stuff is not hypothetical for me or for any other pro. It's our bread and butter.

I used to wonder why the old-timers didn't follow my advice and change the routines they had done for years, when I had a better sleight or a better linking ring move to offer them. I figured it out one day. A friend of mine showed me a better way of doing a trick I had done for eight years -- the vanishing bird cage. I tried it. The cage didn't vanish. And for almost a year, I couldn't do the trick any more, because I was afraid of it. I finally re-learned the trick, because it was one of my signature effects.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that any and all advice the amateur magician has to offer is completely wrong. What I am saying is this: if you really don't have any first hand knowledge of how something works, don't be offended when we tell you that you are:
"Trying to teach your grandfather how to milk ducks."
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 22, 2006 12:44AM)
Now sometimes we use terms that we really don't understand. That's because certain terms mean different things to people in different walks of life. Take the word "magic." To us on this forum, we think of magic as something that we do that involves some kind of trickery. To a person who is a member of certain religious groups, magic is his/her attempt to influence nature or some higher power. Certain types of work with the Kabala are considered to be a type of magic. To some people, prayer works like a form of magic. I'm not going to say what I believe. It's not important for this post. I just want the reader here to have an open mind about what I'm writing. It may give you a different outlook on certain things.

Another term that can be interpreted differently is "theory." Most engineers and/or scientists used the word to mean "law." Most laymen use it to mean "something YOU believe, but I may not believe." There is also a connotation in some conversations that theoretical knowledge may not be as firmly grounded as practical knowledge. Let me 'splain the ramifications of "theory."

To a scientist, a [b]theory[/b] is something that has been proven. Newton's Theory of Universal Gravity is the same thing as Newton's Law of Gravity. The things that are believed but not proven are hypotheses. Singular of this is hypothesis. In music, theory is the set of rules and terms that we use to interpret music. It also goes a lot towards compositional techniques, especially those of the Baroque through Classical periods of music. So, really, a Theory is a law. It's a set of rules. And if it doesn't agree with practical applications, it's bad theory.

This goes to the correct use of words. I write a lot about that. Why? Words have meanings. Sometimes they have more than one meaning. The trick is figuring out what they mean from the context they are used in.

Sometimes language is deliberately manipulated so a phrase can have two almost diametrically opposed meanings.

Here's an example. In the Russian alphabet that was used before 1917, there were two letters that represented the sound "ee." The word for "world" and the word for "peace" both sounded the same "meer." By replacing both of these letters with a single letter, the new government introduced an intentional layer of confusion into the language. The only way you could tell which was meant was by context.

So whenever a Soviet diplomat said "Sovietsky soiuz khochet meer," it could mean either "The Soviet Union wants peace" or "The Soviet Union wants the world." Coincidence? Not on your tintype, or your AK-47.

So, here's a proposition. I studied engineering my first year at the university. I learned a lot about how engineers verbalize. I've also been involved in some of the fine arts. I know that kind of verbalization, too.

I would like to see some of the engineers cut some of the artist types some slack and vice versa. Don't expect us to suddenly understand how you think if you don't try to understand how we think. And we will try to understand how you think. Really.