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Topic: Our mentalist colleagues.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 01:02PM)
It strikes me that out of all the magical arts, that most closely allied to bizarre work is mentalism. Certainly, bizarrists can come from any magical background (Tom Palmer springs to mind), and we are happy to use any magical technique if it can enhance our story telling, and its impact. Yet still, I believe, mentalism and bizarre magick, share much in common.

So why is it then, that I feel that some mentalists treat us like disreputable cousins? For instance, a famous mentalist, who is generous and gracious here at the Café, on his personal website reviews 'The Book of Haunted Magick', and tells his readers not to stop reading just because they've seen the word bizarre. He continues, 'A lot of so-called 'bizarre' magic is toe-curlingly dreadful', and that 'much of it resembles an amateur production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, in which some dumb tricks are slaughtered on the altar of self-deluded ambition'. This, indeed, is sometimes the case. But, I'd argue, it is also regularly the case with magicians working in other areas of magic. So why single out bizarrists?

Another example, in a recent thread, a mentalist bemoaned the quality of material being posted by mentalists here at the Café. I genuinely invited any such jaded mentalists to give our forum a looksee. David seconded my invitation. And, in this thread, the posts were completely ignored, like poor mad Grandma at the family picnic. And a sneaky peek or three at 'currently browsing' confirmed that few, if any mentalists, took us up on this offer. You're not telling me that they have nothing to learn from such threads as David's 'Magic as real'!

Now I'm not complaining, as, in many ways, I think it's more their loss than ours. WE, at least, are prepared to buy their books without the tagline, 'It's mentalism, but don't let that put you off'. But it is sad, and to magic's detriment, when we have so much to offer each other. Any comments?

Warm regards to all students of the magical artists, whatever your persuasion,

Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Jan 25, 2003 02:11PM)
It is not only mentalists that look down upon bizarrists, it is the rest of the magic community as a whole. Walk into a magic shop and tell them that you are a bizarrist and see what kind of reaction you get.

There are several possible reasons for this. First is the nature of bizarre magic materials. Rick Maue's excellent "haunted magic" has all the details that magicians expect, along with great presentation materials. Many books of bizarre magic focus on presentation and give very little in the way of the newest slight, etc. While this is helpful to us, it is not what magicians are used to buying, and they may feel a little cheated if they were expecting the next big "trick."

Second, the bizarre magic movement is really in its infancy. As such, many who are embracing it are new to the way of the bizarre. That does lead to some poor performances. As Caleb pointed out, this is not unique to bizarre magic, but since the success of our craft relies on presentation rather than finger flinging, it is much easier for a bizarre routine to fall flat.

Lastly, I think that many other magicians reject the bizarre because it is, well, bizarre. People are slow to accept anything that is different from what they are used to.

Should we be concerned? I don't really think so. As more and more audiences come to embrace the bizarre, it will gain the legitimacy that will allow more mainstream performers to look to us for ideas. In the meantime, it is good to be one of the few who dare to be different.

Just my two cents worth,

Message: Posted by: Slide (Jan 25, 2003 04:41PM)

Since I started the thread on the mentalist forum you mention, let me just say that I don't think your post was ignored. I appreciated the offer, but that's what I thought it was: an invitation to visit and there didn't seem to be a need to respond to it. So you know, I did stop by this forum as a result of your post. I have no problem with Bizzare magic. It just doesn't suit my particular performance style.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 06:19PM)
Bill, thanks for dropping by. Good to see you here. Please feel free to have a look around, as bizarrists come in all shapes and sizes, and there might be something of interest to you in this forum.

Hope you can find a way to get enchanted with mentalism again. I got the impression that you were perhaps disillusioned more with some mentalists, than with mentalism itself? Thanks again for looking in.


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Slide (Jan 25, 2003 07:49PM)
You are correct there. I love mentalism and in fact of coming off a high of performing for my first large audience (200) as a mentalist last night. My lament was on the sad state of online mentalism discussion, which seemed to me to be overly protectivey, arrogant, abusive, and non condusive for creative discussion. I'll pop in more often and check you guys out.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 08:02PM)
Bill, that's great to hear! If you're looking where to begin, may I suggest one of my favourite threads, started by David de Leon, called 'Magic as if it was real'. At its heart is a thought provoking essay that could transform the way many of us perform, and the thread continues with a wide range of ideas.

Generally, that's what you'll find here, lots of IDEAS, for presentation, stories, theatrical approaches, and even magical theory. I'm sure many of the presentations are adaptable to the more strictly mentalist approach. For instance, I know that the 'Manchurian Candidate booktest' idea eventually ended up at Inner thoughts. And please feel free, all you mentalists, to share your opinions and ideas. You really DON'T have to bite the heads off of chickens to post here. :)


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: shrink (Jan 25, 2003 08:11PM)
I like chicken........esp the heads wats wrong with that? :yikes:
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 08:25PM)
Shrink, if you have some footage of yourself doing this, either professionally, or privately, please send it along to Doug, as he's putting a video together. :goof:


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: shrink (Jan 25, 2003 08:26PM)
Bizzarre is perhaps to big a jump for many. Mentalism creates illusions or attempts to create illusions that appear real....Therefore the context is realistic

Context of bizzarre seems to from what I understand of it (and it is limited) is fantasy theatre but attempts to play as real? in some ways it may be like watching a horror film. We all know the horror isn't real..therefore the illusion created isn't real..

Magic presents tricks to be puzzled? There is room for everyone...
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 08:53PM)
My personal view of bizarre is that it is story telling, illustrated by magic. As for playing it as 'real', in my view it depends what you mean by real. Just as when you go and see a production, say, of 'King Lear', you don't think that the carnage is happening, yet the play has a reality and a truth to it, that transcends the proescenium arch. Bizarrists often work around MYTHS, and there are two ways of looking at this word. Many people believe that 'myth' means false, not true. Many bizarrists would argue the reverse. That myths and stories contain some of our most valuable truths. The reality is there, but not necessarily in the direction you'd expect.

And I suppose the other great bizarre mantra is that effect is everything. That's why, as Dave points out, most bizarre books have six pages of effect and story, and then two lines of method.

Not sure what shrink meant by 'Magic presents tricks to be puzzled' as I couldn't find it in the thread? But I wholeheartedly agree that there's room for everyone. And I would also aver that there's much to be gained by magicians collaborating with their fellows, across our respective disciplines.


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Bill Fienning (Jan 25, 2003 08:54PM)
The Psychic Entertainers Association has both mentalists and bizarrist in its membership. I joined it as, primarily, a bizarrist, although I do a seance and some mentalism as well.

Many of the long-time members are bizarrists. The late Tom Palmer (Tony Andruzzi) was a PEA member. We will have a bizarre performance program at the next Meeting of the Minds in Calgary, Canada.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 25, 2003 09:04PM)
Bill's absolutely correct. There is a fine history of collaboration between our respective disciplines. Sincerely, I'm not trying to prise open a gap. Rather, I'm encouraging us to continue this cross-fertilisation here at the Café.


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jan 25, 2003 09:27PM)
Hey folks,

I've been wondering...

What might it be like to live with the ability to know some facts about other people? Maybe hear voices? Maybe get insight flashes?

How might this affect a person? Would they be prone to headaches or perhaps psychosomatic ills like colorblindness or deafness? Perhaps such a person would keep notebooks of things that popped into their head and carry those notebooks around and check off the items as they make sense of them.

Now how about personality? How about clothing taste? Glasses or tinted lenses? -> headaches?

Are these flashes of fatal future or just possible future? Of the best outcome in an event of just AN outcome?

Okay... someone is typing with a box plate of chicken wings by the keyboard. Your phone is about to ring.
Message: Posted by: Rick Maue (Jan 25, 2003 11:11PM)

First, thanks to Dave for the nice words about my Book Of HauntedMagick.

Since it was the review of my book from Ian Rowland's site that was quoted to start this thread, I figure that I should offer some of my thoughts on the subject.

I did not know Ian when he wrote the review for my book. (I obviously knew OF him, but at that time, we did not know each other.)

But when I first read his words about a lot of bizarre magick, I must admit that I agreed with much of what he said. After all, the vast majority of bizarre magick in print has never been performed. Even Max Maven makes that point in the Foreword for Volume 2 of Invocation. Over the years, much of it has been written for readers, not for performers.

This fact alone has lowered the level of respect that most bizarre magick gets from other performers/creators.

In addition, I think that bizarre in general suffers from people dressing the part with costumes and props, but in many cases, they pay far too little attention to theatrical abilities. Eugene Burger points this out in the Foreword for Volume 1 of Invocation.

It is not about the props, the costumes, or the setting - it is about the performance. Often times, all of those things are crutches, simply helping to hold up a "performance" that cannot stand alone.

In fact, one of my most unusual seances was held in a sunny picnic grove on a Sunday afternoon with virtually no bizarre props, and I was dressed in bluejeans. The seance was a wonderful success because of the performance.

The other major criticism of bizarre magick that I have discussed with other performers/creators over the years is the idea that "Less is more." In theory, I cannot agree more, but many of the bizarrists that I have seen over the years use that as an excuse not to work hard on their technical skills, or to do as little as possible.

To give an example, a typical bizarre routine may include a twenty minute story that concludes with a double lift with tarot cards. In the hands of talented storyteller, this could be wonderful. In the hands of one that has not been trained as an actor, it will probably fall flat.

I am not trying to pick on bizarre magick. In fact, all of these points are ones that I have addressed with my own creations over the years. I used many of the crutches unknowingly before I realized their negative impact when it came to performing regularly for paying audiences.

I have found that my HauntedMagick (I believe that describes my creations much better than bizarre magick) relies on attitude more than anything else. Even though I do perform in character in my Haunted Chamber, outside of there, I always perform in everyday clothing, and with very few strange props.

For those that have read my book, have you ever noticed that the photos show me in bluejeans? That was intentional. It was my subtle way of saying that you do not need all of the spooky outfits and props to do this stuff. (Although they can certainly be a nice addition.) The effects can be performed in any living room if you have the right attitude, and if you have honed your performing skills and your technical abilities. After all, there is no such thing as a "self-working" effect. Even a sleight-free routine demands a great deal of work if it is to be performed properly.

These are just a few thoughts about why bizarre magick may not be as well respected as some other branches of theatrical deception.

Thanks for taking the time to read through all of this.

Keep the change,
Rick Maue
Message: Posted by: shrink (Jan 26, 2003 12:51AM)
On 2003-01-25 21:53, Caleb Strange wrote:

Not sure what shrink meant by 'Magic presents tricks to be puzzled' as I couldn't find it in the thread?

Caleb Strange.

What I meant was Magic isn't presented as real. In other words the audience doesn't beleive the magician make cards appear or disapear they know right from the start that it is a trick. This starts a thought process after that wonders how it was done. Mentalism when done well hooks into the beleif systems of the audience. They may think what they are seeing is real therefore a different thought process is elicited. How did he learn to read minds?

Its becoming more popular to claim psychological manipulation or highly skilled reading of body language is responsible for those demonstrations rather than directly psychic. But really its the same.

I think where the Bizzarre tails off from mentalism is the theatrical story telling which again will elicit another thought process and have yet again a different affect on the audience.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 26, 2003 10:18AM)
Whilst I'm broadly in agreement with much of what Rick says, I still find myself wondering if bizarre magick is any more guilty of the faults he, and Ian outline, than other branches of our art? I certainly agree that bizarrists need to be talented story tellers, but that's true to a lesser extent of all forms of magic. Even if we're doing a dove act to music, we're still telling a story of sorts. As for being a good actor, I believe that this is a prerequisite for all magicians. Sure we can dress plots with props at the expense of theatrical technique. But finger flingers can lean on their manual dexterity as a crutch. And mentalists can limp along too. I'd also argue that, at the Café at least, I've seen more discussion of the theatre of magic, and analysis of its presentation, in THIS forum than in many others.

I do agree that you don't need spooky plots and props to present bizarre work. A while back, I posted an impromptu CT routine, one that I'd performed on a beach, that I'd certainly class as bizarre. And a quick trawl through many of the other posts here will show examples of non spooky bizarre work. I don't think it's accurate for other magicians to believe that bizarre is principally about the bogey man anymore. I'm not sure that it ever was.

I agree with shrink that mentalism and bizarre magic can elicit different responses in their audience. But then again, I'd have to say the line of distinction is very blurred. Luke Jermay's book '7 Deceptions' has a foot firmly planted in both camps. I think we have things to learn from each other.

Thanks for the continued interest in this topic. Let's keep the collaboration going.


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jan 26, 2003 11:12AM)
I have no clue where I fit in!?!? Anybody else mixed up? I would like to claim mentalism, but I use those aweful things called cards. LOL. I use manipulations that appear real, such as floating cards and rings and I read minds. Yet, I can talk to the deaxd and force spirits out of a seance. Now Caleb, where do I fit in?

Maybe I'm just an entertainer...
Message: Posted by: Rick Maue (Jan 26, 2003 01:44PM)
Greetings again,

I think that CS makes some very good points, but before I get back to working today, I thought I would elaborate a bit on what both he and I wrote. Please take my words as constructive criticism, for that is how they are intended. If we are not brutally honest with ourselves, we cannot grow. All of the things that follow are topics that I have addressed with my own creations, so believe me, I do not believe that I am immune to such barriers.

CS wrote:
"I certainly agree that bizarrists need to be talented story tellers, but that's true to a lesser extent of all forms of magic. Even if we're doing a dove act to music, we're still telling a story of sorts."

Once again, I could not agree more in theory, but in the real world, the VAST MAJORITY of dove acts, manipulation acts, illusionists, and probably most magicians in general, do not tell a story. (Or even if they attempt to, they are usually not able to convey the intended story to the audience.)

At best, they are trying to convey a theme, but that is about it in most cases. Most magicians that I see are simply content to have something seemingly impossible that occurs, and then they strike an applause pose. I wish that was not the case, but sadly it is. There is much more sizzle than steak. Our job is to look at ourselves honestly so that we can make sure that we are not adding to the problem of magic without meaning.

CS also wrote:
"As for being a good actor, I believe that this is a prerequisite for all magicians."

Once again, I agree that it should be, but in the real world, this simply is not so. Most magicians are not good actors, and sadly they do not take the time to seriously learn how to improve. With the days of video instruction upon us, many of the magicians that I see today have possibly taken the time to learn the technique to develop the technical tools, but they have no clue how to use those tools to create and/or present performance art.

At best, the majority simply mimic what they see on the instructional videos. For example, most of the manipulation acts that I have seen in the past few years are merely McBride clones. They may have the moves, but that is usually about it. Are they actors? Certainly not. At best they are included in a group that I like to call Karaoke Magicians.

And yes, they do use their skills as a crutch. But at least they have taken the time to learn at least that much. It is not enough to make them a magician (instead they are more like a juggler), but it is a start. But as for most bizarrists, they do not take time to truly study acting and/or storytelling, but instead they rely on costumes and props. And yet, they are the ones that talk endlessly about theatrical performances, but often they do less than others to truly develop their theatrical abilities. Many of them are very much like the prop magicians that have little or no performance skills, but they buy magic boxes that will create the illusion for them.

The question that I have always asked is:
Do you use your props, or do your props use you?

Sadly, I find that many people let their props use them.

As for your comments about bizarre not having to be spooky, once again, I completely agree. That is why I call my "spooky" creations HauntedMagick. But that does not mean that everything that I release has a haunted theme. My book has been called "chameleon magic" because it sold very well to bizarrists, mentalists, as well as standard magicians. (I have even had a number of gospel magicians that have written to me about how much they like - and use - my material.) That did not simply happen by accident. I wanted to have a collection of genres represented, and each person would see themselves in certain routines. And more importantly, they would be exposed to other forms of the art.

I believe that we need to break down the labels and barriers so that we can advance the art, and that was what I was trying to do with my first book. One of the major goals was to make "bizarre magick" more accessible to those that do not like or perform bizarre. But I was also trying to get bizarrists to see things outside of the world of the spirits, because such a narrow view limits the creative process. (And as I stated in my first post, most bizarre is never performed. The genre is more like a collection of Indian Rope tricks; they are mythical creations that have never been brought to life. One of my goals was to try to help change this.)

In short, one of my goals was to "blur the lines" and break down some of the barriers that I have found unappealing in most bizarre magick.

So to Dr. Zodiac, do not worry about where you fit in. It simply does not matter. Back in 1996, I was talking with Teller at the Andy Wharhol Museum here in Pittsburgh, and I asked him how he separated himself from the vast majority of bad magicians in the world. And he gave me the best answer that I have ever heard on the subject. He said:

"Just the best that you can be. Act like no one else exists because they have nothing to do with you."

He is correct. Just be the best performance artist that you can be, and forget about labels.

In closing, I would like to address what I believe was the original question that this thread raised. Why does bizarre magic receive so little respect? Well, as CS stated in his last post:

"I've seen more discussion of the theatre of magic, and analysis of its presentation, in THIS forum than in many others."

Maybe the lack of respect comes from the fact that if bizarrists discuss the theatre of magic more than others in the related fields of magic, then we should practice what we preach. Sadly, that is often not the case. We pose as the keepers of the flame for theatrical magic, but more times than not, we are just doing a card trick while wearing a funny costume. That is not theatrical, but instead it is merely role-playing.

I believe that each artist must earn their own respect. No person is entitled to it because of their affiliation with an art form. We all must look honestly at ourselves and see if we have really earned the respect that we seek.

My schedule does not permit me to spend much time on-line, but I have really enjoyed this thread. Thanks to CS for starting such an interesting discussion. Sorry for taking up so much space, and I hope my ramblings were not too boring. Now back to working on my upcoming book...

Keep the change,
Rick Maue

PS. I typed this all of this rather quickly, so I apologize for any mistakes.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 26, 2003 03:07PM)
Once again I'm broadly in agreement with Rick, and he makes many thought provoking and challenging comments in his post. I'm not sure that bizarrists are necessarily less technically proficient than other magicians. Lots of people become bizarrists after starting out 'straight'. And I think there's more to the lack of respect than the fact that we often fail to practise what we preach.

But as you remind me, what others think of us as artists, matters very little. We should focus largely on our goal to communicate, and be ruthlessly honest with ourselves in assessing whether we reach it. I too am all for blurring boundaries. Those that we find between bizarrists and other magicians. And those that we find between magic and the other theatrical arts.

Dr Zodiac's right. Maybe we're just entertainers.

Best wishes for the new book Rick. Don't let me keep you from it.

Warm regards,

Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: ptbeast (Jan 26, 2003 03:55PM)
I am certainly not as eloquent as either Caleb or Rick (to whom I owe a world of thanks for introducing me to the possibilities of bizarre magic), but I would like to make a quick comment on something that each mentioned in the last couple of posts. Rick quoted Teller as saying "Act like no one else exists because they have nothing to do with you." Caleb said "what others think of us as artists, matters very little." I understand what they are saying, but I think it needs to be clarified just a little. It matters very little what OTHER MAGICIANS think of us or our performances. If we are to be entertainers, we need to entertain, so it does matter what the AUDIENCE thinks of us.

Too obvious to merit attention? I would hope so, but that is why I left magic for many years. Too much attention to the trick and too little caring what the audience thinks. When we stop caring about the audience, in my humble opinion, it is time to walk away.

Just another ramble...

Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 26, 2003 05:01PM)
Dave I absolutely agree. Sorry I wasn't more clear. If you read the next sentence along from that quotation, you'll see I share the view. Whatever I do artistically, performing, writing, or making, and in whatever field, I do it solely to COMMUNICATE with other people. These 'other people', usually an audience, are absolutely central to that goal. Certainly it can be a compromise at times, between my personal vision, and what the audience wants and understands. Art was ever so. But yes, if our trees are falling in empty forests, then they'll make no sounds.

Dave you visit some interesting places on your 'rambles'. :)


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Scott Xavier (Jan 26, 2003 11:57PM)
Rick, Caleb, don't we have enough barriers? I have done this a million times before. Where does magic end and mentalism begin. Is mentalism, magic? I tell scarey stories and excorcise demons (Watch out richard simons). After a hew years of serious trying to figure out what I am in magic, I have come to this: Who cares! I'm a sort of magician to quote Derren Brown.

I have to say those who claim to be for real, are complete and utter wastes to our trade. We should appear to be for real, but the mystery and "Magic" is knowing that you are being amazed through natural means.

Thanks Guys!
Message: Posted by: Andrewdavidson12 (Jan 27, 2003 07:25AM)
The standard of discussion in this thread (and this forum generally) has been amazing - thanks particularly to Rick and Caleb.

Increasingly I find that I'm getting inspiration from music. My view is that the most interesting and refreshing music is that which evolves from many sources and is hardly ever easy to categorise. The best magic is, in my opinion, the same. My personal inspirations in magic are those performers who are able to take from many sources and create something new.

Once you start thinking of your performances in terms of a "bizarre" performance or a "mentalism" performance perhaps you are moving away from your essence as a performer which is to express yourself through your art.

There are always those who like to put us into boxes and sometimes, to market ourselves, we have to help with the process but I'm trying hard to remember that the boxes aren't really what I am about.

Not sure if anyone understands what I'm banging on about...

Message: Posted by: Necromancer (Jan 27, 2003 10:50AM)
To chime in with Rick and Caleb, here's a related analogy that popped into my head inbidden this morning:

In the world of film, there are people who specialize in making the impossible real. They are magicians of a very special kind who are members of an army called the Special Effects Department.

Magicians have had a love affair with this discipline since the beginning of motion pictures. It was a French magician who made the landmark film "The First Men In The Moon," George Melies, and his creations were notable for the illusions he could produce with this new technology.

Miniatures, matte paintings, stop-action animation -- these were the stuff of dreams made real. But the Special Effects men knew: no audience just wanted to see a giant ape swipe at bi-planes, as interesting to other technicians as that may be; to truly entertain an audience, that effect needed to be couched in a story that entertained.

Think of the number of films you have seen that have had excellent special effects, but have fallen flat for lack of an emotional hook or story.

All too often, magicians forget that much of what we produce falls into the realm of the Special Effects Department. Without emotional hooks and good stories to tell, even our most showy illusions fail to entertain.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Jan 27, 2003 12:32PM)
Neil and Andrew draw two different, but equally powerful and apposite analogies. I think their ideas are both robust enough tol bear some pretty heavy analysis.

As for the name 'Bizarre', I think that it serves primarily as a sort of shorthand for our ATTITUDE as performers. It should not define or confine us. Dr Zodiac, I hope and believe that we're in general agreement. Bottom line is we are performance artists. Entertainers.


Caleb Strange.