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magicalaurie
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Quote:
On 2006-01-11 23:29, JackScratch wrote:
I seem to be getting a lot of milage out of dictionary.com lately.

Magic-
4. A mysterious quality of enchantment: “For me the names of those men breathed the magic of the past” (Max Beerbohm).

I like this one best. Smile Thanks for looking it up, JackScratch. Smile


Posted: Jan 14, 2006 11:40am
---------------------------------------------
Quote:
On 2006-01-14 00:33, JackScratch wrote:
Is this the kind of thing that normaly goes on in this forum?

yah. Smile
Bill Palmer
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It only goes on when people start looking in the wrong places for definitions.

Dictionary.com is really almost a crutch for people who don't want to get up off their computer chairs and research a definition in the literature or in Webster's Second, Webster's Third or the OED. It's basically too easy a solution. There is a misapprehension among people who have been brought up a certain way that ANY dictionary:
a) is correct.
b) is the final answer.

This is why there are hardcopy dictionaries that are industry-specific. For example, if you work in German, you would be familiar with the Duden series of dictionaries. They have one that is nothing but foreign words that have been assimilated into German. There is another that is all scientific terms. The complete set of Duden dictionaries takes up about 2 square feet of shelf space.

Dictionary.com uses a number of sources for definitions. But like anything on the internet, it can have tainted information in it.

And there is the question of what does a term mean in one part of the English-speaking world as opposed to another part. You know from your own work at the Renaissance Festival that there are words that mean radically different things in England than they do over here. Look up "nunnery" on Dictionary.com. They say that it means "a convent of nuns." That's not what it means in some contexts. It also can mean a brothel.

When you get "industry specific," then you need to consult "industry literature" for definitions.

Most people who are directly involved in magic realize that the physical parts of our effects are accomplished by sleight of hand, gimmicks, psychology and other basically mechanical means. This is why for many years the English used the term "conjuring" to refer to what we do. "Magic" meant the things that people like Aleister Crowley and the various members of the OTO and the OGD did. People who are members of these and other similar organizations do not appreciate the idea that we call ourselves "magicians." As far as they are concerned, THEY are magicians, we are conjurers, jugglers or tricksters.

A dictionary doesn't have the space or latitude to devote to the etymological details involved in the evolution of a word or the way it produces meaning. So, it goes into the division of the meanings of words by giving different examples of its use. Sometimes this clarifies matters; other times it does not.

Most of our attempts to define "magic" as we use the term are attempts to define its symptoms, not its roots. And because a large percentage of us will go straight to an on-line dictionary for a "one size fits all" definition, then it creates a false impression of what the word actually means.

To some, magic is something that involves imposing one's will upon external objects or other people without using direct contact. To others it is something that is done with a double lift.

In any case, the magic that we produce does not exist as a physical thing. It exists only in the minds of the spectators. It is the product of our skills and showmanship.

If we are able to create the impression in their minds that we are using supernatural forces to cause a temporary suspension of the laws of nature, then we are probably doing something right.

What we actually take credit for, well, that's a different matter, entirely.

But when a forum topic asks "how do you define magic?" a trip to dictionary.com is not the answer. That's how dictionary.com defines magic. Now, if you agree with their definition, then I suppose it is the answer.

But I don't think you really do.
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karbonkid
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You know why it's hard to define?

Cause it doesn't exist. Magic isn't real, and all those definitions that all those folks put up, don't apply to us. Us, being, of course magicians. It's all kind of bad nomenclature, I guess. In a world full of restrictions, and informations, and definitions...you see that it just doesn't apply.

Now, maybe when that cool-bearded dude was doing the cups and balls on the doorstep of the Sphinx a ga-billion years ago, and when he put a ball under a cup and it went away, the audience believed that that **** really happened. Moreover, they didn't question it. You know why? They thought the were decended from a god who lived in the sun and he could do stuff like wind, rain, etc. So, yeah, it was magic then.

Fast forward a ga-billion years to now, and a ball vanishes from under a cup, do you honestly believe that your audience thinks you can do 'magic'? I want someone to come in this thread and tell me that even a 3rd of the people they perform for REALLY believe in magic and believe what you do is real and not contrived or trickery at all. Once you think about that, then define magic for me, cause I'd really like to know.
Patrick Differ
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Recently, I noticed that magic isn't inherently anything at all. And it isn't something to be done. It's something to be used. Sort of. Smile

And...by defining magic, we actually describe our own models. Then we compare them to each other's. Where are the similarities? Where are the differences? And what does the dictionary's definition have to do with anything?

I'm still sure that muggles' models of magic are as important as my own, and are to be kept in mind at all times.

Just some thoughts.
Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly,
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there.

Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2006-01-20 15:51, karbonkid wrote:...I want someone to come in this thread and tell me that even a 3rd of the people they perform for REALLY believe in magic and believe what you do is real and not contrived or trickery at all. Once you think about that, then define magic for me, cause I'd really like to know.


More than a third of people believe in magic.

Many of them actively support claims of supernatural activities and artifacts. Be it crop circles or merely seeking "lucky numbers" via the lottery, they believe. They keep rabbits feet on hand, talk about lifting curses and even fear the number 13.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
bishthemagish
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Great posting Bill Palmer, Patrick Differ, Jonathan Townsend,

Could magic be part of the unexplained natures forces or perhaps a form of energy of human nature? - as Patrick said "something to be used".

Power? Thought? The power of human thought? The power of human thought through a belief system?

I do not have the answer but it is an interesting question?
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karbonkid
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Ok, here's the thing.

I know people believe in magic, but, I don't subscribe to the fact that these people are the same group that thinks a card/ball/coin, just dematerialized and reappeared somewhere else, or just completely vanished into the nothingness. Is there people that have the appearance of doing magic? Sure! It's completely contextual. I'll rattle off some examples for you to think about here:

A clown comes up and vanishes a coin (just for the sake to have an object as this could be any effect that is deemed magical), then I come up and do the exact same thing, only sans make-up and funny shoes. Is one more magical by definition of it's context? It's audience? It's perception? Some people here feel magic is an art and would be appauled at the fact that a clown would do magic and call it magic as their definition of what magic is, is pretty derned high of itself, and a clown doing what they consider 'magic' is undeserved in some peoples opinion.

A hustler on the street sets up a game of three card monte and fools you to pieces and takes you for some cash. David Blaine does the same thing but doesn't take your money and gives you uncomfortable stares. Is one more magical than the other?

I'm watching a David Copperfield special and he is flying all over the place. I switch the channel and start watching Superman. He's flying all over the place. Is one more or less magical than the other? Or are they both magic? Is David Copperfield's flight different from that of Superman's?

Paul Harris wrote one time that from the minute you are born you organize things into boxes. Something to the effect of you see something, you file it away. When someone is shown magic, suddenly people have something that doesn't fit into a box and all those boxes go away for a moment while they wonder. Then the person in this situation will immediately go, "Well, he must have some how did blahty-blah.", and in that moment all the boxes come back. So, the boxes don't go away when I see a clown do a coin trick, or a hustler throw three card monte, or when I see superman fly on television...but they might if I see David Roth do a coin trick, they might if I see Bill Malone do a three card monte routine, and they might if I see David Copperfield fly.

More importantly why is one consider magic and the other not?
JackScratch
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You aren't concidering the brief moment when, dispite knowing these things, they believe in it anyway. We feel that moment a lot more as children and as magicians, it's our job to bring it back. You also aren't concidering that magic is real. Perception is reality.
karbonkid
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That is the moment I spoke of when 'the boxes go away'...I think in the same essay Mr. Harris speaks to the 'childlike feeling' that the spectator gets and they say, "I bet my kids would love this." when really they are saying, "You just made me feel like a kid again and all my boxes are gone and everything is a wonder, etc."

Don't get me wrong, I believe and live for that moment. I love it and I can create it. Magic is contextual to it's performance, and the sense of wonder and magic is solely dictated by the performer and the spectators reaction to that performance. If a magician is bombing and the crowd dislikes them, then by definition, regardless of whether they are doing a good job or not, they are in fact performing magic, but, at the same time, they are not.

Defining magic is like trying to define art. It just can't be done, in my opinion.
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Quote:
On 2006-01-20 15:51, karbonkid wrote:

Now, maybe when that cool-bearded dude was doing the cups and balls on the doorstep of the Sphinx a ga-billion years ago, and when he put a ball under a cup and it went away, the audience believed that that **** really happened. Moreover, they didn't question it. You know why? They thought the were decended from a god who lived in the sun and he could do stuff like wind, rain, etc. So, yeah, it was magic then.

Actually, I have heard this type of statement so many times, and it simply isn't a good description of the way people in ancient times looked at street magicians. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans--especially those from the cities--were every bit as intelligent, sophisticated and jaded as they are today:

In the Deipnosophistæ, Athenæus writes of a cups and balls performer in the aisle of a theater:

"A certain man stepped into the midst, and placed on a three-legged table three small cups, under which he concealed some little white round pebbles such as are found on the banks of rivers; these he placed one by one under the cups, and then, I don’t know how, made them appear under another cup and finally showed them in his mouth."

In the first century, the philosopher Seneca enjoyed these sleight-of-hand performers and expressed pleasure in the mystery of the tricks, “If I get to know how a trick is done, I lose my interest in it.” It is even said that the emperor Nero wrote a treatise on the performance of the Cups and Balls.

Using the definitions of magic to understand magic is tricky and tautological. You should develop a definition of what we as magicians do by describing the activity instead of by reference to the cultural ideas and concepts that are utilized in the process--since these change. Derren Brown is doing magic but changing the cultural concepts that underlie it--changing what sort of "lie" is told. The activity and the methodology are the same, the way it is framed and presented to the audience is changed. It is still what we know as "magic." If I show a "Teleportation Device" and demonstrate its operability by showing that it can vanish a 5 dollar bill and "send" it into a lemon, I am still doing what any of us would call magic, but not using the name "magic" or the concept of "magick" in the framing. It is "science." What makes it entertaining is that the audience knows it is not science and that I am lying, and still can not seem to catch me in my trickery. What we do has very little to do with any of the various pretenses we set up to frame it for the audience. We are professional deceivers and audiences have enjoyed the process of being safely scammed by a professional from before history began. It doesn't matter if we present our effects as ESP, science, magic, psychological control, NLP or whatever.

What a magical entertainer does is not simply a mimicking of a supernatural process.

"Magicians" have often used other explanations for their effects than "magic"--advanced scientific technology, psychology, ESP, time travel, improbable coincidence, improbable chance and many other explanations than "magic" have been offered as explanations for what the audience is witnessing.

What all of these have in common is that they are all improbable to impossible explanations for remarkable happenings that the audience is expected to resist accepting, but are somehow "proved" to the audience experimentally. Magic is a game of deceit and sophistry based on foisting a false or invalid syllogism (argument) on the audience in such a way that they can not find the error in the argument. They "know" the magician is lying, but they can't seem to prove it. In fact, it is important that they know the magician is lying, otherwise they escape the dilemma by accepting "magic" as real and turning entertainment into charlatanry.

Every magic trick involves this type of false argument. Without it, we have only a theatrical depiction of magic, not a magic effect.
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Quote:
On 2006-04-26 12:46, karbonkid wrote:
I'm watching a David Copperfield special and he is flying all over the place. I switch the channel and start watching Superman. He's flying all over the place. Is one more or less magical than the other? Or are they both magic? Is David Copperfield's flight different from that of Superman's?

Sure it is. Smile

We learned as kids that Superman came from another planet and so forth; most of us who were kids back in the 60's knew the "science" behind Superman cold and right down to the details. His flying wasn't presented as magic, and he didn't push himself as a magician. He didn't need to prove there were no strings attached.

DC, on the other hand, wasn't born on another planet (as far as most of us know), and he doesn't push himself as a superhero. He's a magician. His flying is presented as magic, and that's why he needs to do something to prove there are no strings attached.
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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Whit and Geroge, thanks for putting the spin that I needed to hear on that. It's really got me thinking now, especially with the 'proving' aspects of both of your posts.
bishthemagish
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Quote:
On 2006-04-26 14:52, Whit Haydn wrote:
Every magic trick involves this type of false argument. Without it, we have only a threatrical depiction of magic, not a magic effect.

I just love this above post and this last line. Thanks Whit - Well written and a great read. Posts like this are the best part of the Café!
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Whit Haydn
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I agree with you to some extent, George. But the difference isn't that Superman's poweres come from being from another planet and David's limitations are more known. David doesn't have more to "prove" than Superman because people accept aliens from other worlds more easily than "magic." Superman hasn't told a lie, and David has. Superman asks you to pretend. David claims that he can prove to you he can fly. That is the difference.

Doesn't really matter what the lie is, if people accept it unquestioningly it is suspension of disbelief, if they are forced to accept the lie against their better knowledge and true beliefs by virtue of an unassailable "proof," then it is magic.

Let's put Superman and David on the same stage.

Steve Reeves says, "I really am Superman, I really can fly because I am from Krypton." The audience will go, "Yeah, right. Prove it." They accept him in the context of the television show because they suspend disbelief for the sake of the story.

In the same manner, Peter Pan flies on stage and you can see all the wires. No one cares because they don't believe it he is really flying, everyone is just pretending he is for the sake of the story.

But let the actor who plays Pan come up to a group of children and claim to have magic powers and claim to be able to fly, they will be all over him demanding a demonstration and proof.

The difference between a demonstration of magic and a theatrical depiction of magic, is that the audience has a comfortable box to put the Superman and Peter Pan flying, but David Copperfield was trying to "prove" that he could fly--thus the need for hoops, glass boxes, and so on. David threatens the audiences world view--"There is no such thing as magic" with the proof "There is no other explanation."

This, as someone above said beautifully, blows over all the boxes. There is an insoluable dilemma posed "There is no such thing as magic/There is no other explanation." This creates cognitive dissonance in the spectator's mind, and forces the spectator to think inductively in order to solve the dilemma and return to "equilibrium."

This experience of dissonance and the the consequent necessity to indulge in both creative problem solving and creative fantasy in trying to subdue each of the two sides of the dilemma, is the experience of "wonder."

The greater the conviction of both sides of the dilemma, the more difficult a time the spectator has in reconstructing his "boxes."

Performance magic is an event that is happening in real time. "Disbelieve all you want, I will prove to you that I can fly."

A theatrical depiction of magic, whether on stage, screen or close-up simply creates a believable presentation that looks like magic enough to keep from taking people out of the story. No one believes Dracula turns into a wolf on stage, and no one tries to make anyone believe that.

We accept that it is a special effect to aid the story. No one wants to go up and check out the sofa he leaped over in the process, because we know it is just a special effect. In theater, magic always turns into a special effect or transitional device unless there is a movement to get people to question what is happening. A claim that what is happening is somehow real.

Superman and Peter Pan fly in the dream world of fantasy. David Copperfield is picking you up and taking you with him right now. Can you imagine David advertising "See how much I can make it look like I am flying by the use of invisible wires. Of course it is fake, but sure looks good doesn't it?"

Peter Pan and Superman only have to look good. David has to look real, and prove there are no wires.

There is a huge difference.

No one thinks badly of someone who "plays" Santa Claus for Macy's, but if he tries to present himself year round as the one and only Santa Claus he is liable to end up in a mental institution or jail--unless of course, he can "prove it."
Bill Palmer
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I believe that was George Reeves, not Steve Reeves. Steve Reeves was the muscleman with the squeaky voice who played Hercules in some of the films Ray Harryhausen did the special effects for.
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Whit Haydn
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You are right, Bill. It was George, Steve's brother.
Patrick Differ
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Quote:
More than a third of people believe in magic.


I'd wager more, but I have absolutely no proof whatsoever. It's more of a gut feeling.
Will you walk into my parlour? said the Spider to the Fly,
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to show when you are there.

Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne'er come down again.
Bill Palmer
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I'm amazed to see this old thread resurrected; however, I feel that I need to make a comment. I'm sure I have mentioned this elsewhere on the Café, before, but it bears repeating.

Once in a while I attend a magic lecture that changes my life. The Vernon lecture was one. Another was the Dick Oslund lecture.

Dick started his lecture with a question he addressed to the audience. "How much magic do you own?"

The answers varied -- "$3000.00 worth," said one. "A couple of desk drawers full" said another. "Do you count books? If you do, I have about $1500 worth," said yet another. Several people gave answers like this.

Then Dick said, "You are all wrong. You don't own ANY magic. You own props, books, tricks and you can do sleights. But you CAN'T own magic. You see magic exists only in the mind of the spectator when he experiences it. As a magician, you are supposed to create that feeling of the impossible that we call magic."

At that point, my whole perspective changed.

Maybe that's why it is so difficult for us to settle on a single definition of magic. I think we know it when we experience it, but we are like blind men trying to describe an elephant.

Is it like a fan? A tree? A wall? A rope or a snake?
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JackScratch
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Bill, I realy hate it when someone else says what I want to say better than I could say it.
Jonathan Townsend
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Some time with a fast MRI scanner would likely isolate the brain activity.
And from there we have a physical definition.

For now, the hypnotic (state elicitation) definition suffices.

How is this for now: The craft of eliciting the experience of wonder and awe as regards how will can affect the world.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
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