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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » All in the cards » » Self working tricks need lots of practice (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

brehaut
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Saw this quote in Darwin Ortiz's Designing Miracles. "The easier-is-better school often argues that easy methods allow the performer to concentrate on presenation. This claim is undercut by the fact that so many of its proponents are such lousy showmen....A lazy magician is no more likely to work on his presentation than on his technical skills." Food for thought.
panlives
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A lazy magician is also no more likely to work on his or her technical skills than on the logical construction of effects, an entertaining presentation style, great storytelling and an engaging persona...
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
the fritz
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I think this is true. The "lazy magician" probably ends up doing what Eugene Burger calls "the adventures of the props in the performer's hands" presentation, which is to say the presentation would simply describe what is going on as if the spectators were blind.

I don't think there should even be a classification between self-working or sleight-working for the presentation of magic because to a person watching, who doesn't know the difference, it's just a trick and if they like the effect they just witnessed it is of no consequence whatsoever the level of skill required to perform it. They'll likely give you credit for skill regardless of how difficult it is, technically.

The only useful purpose I can think of for classifying self-working or sleight-working is for the beginner, the disabled (who can't perform difficult maneuvers), or those who just like one or the other more to be able to choose which tricks they want to learn. Other than that, keeping in mind the real purpose of performing magic, I can see no use.
BarryFernelius
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I love the title of this post. Truer words were never spoken. I've never actually seen a self-working effect. Every one of them has required a performer!

With that said, a magician who can do different types of effects at different levels of difficulty is analogous to a pitcher in baseball. The effect that requires crazy difficult sleight of hand skills might be your fast ball. The effect that uses moderate sleights and a psychological twist could be your curve ball. Performing a self working effect is like throwing a change up or knuckle ball. They were expecting a fast ball, and you completely bamboozle them with an off speed pitch.

Once you've smoked 'em with dazzling sleight of hand, a well constructed self worker has a much stronger impact than it would all by itself.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

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panlives
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Quote:
On 2011-06-24 10:49, BarryFernelius wrote:
I love the title of this post. Truer words were never spoken. I've never actually seen a self-working effect. Every one of them has required a performer!

With that said, a magician who can do different types of effects at different levels of difficulty is analogous to a pitcher in baseball. The effect that requires crazy difficult sleight of hand skills might be your fast ball. The effect that uses moderate sleights and a psychological twist could be your curve ball. Performing a self working effect is like throwing a change up or knuckle ball. They were expecting a fast ball, and you completely bamboozle them with an off speed pitch.

Once you've smoked 'em with dazzling sleight of hand, a well constructed self worker has a much stronger impact than it would all by itself.


Great post, as always, Barry. One question re your concluding line: shouldn’t the two types be indistinguishable to the audience?
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
Rectify
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I agree with the above, when combining your more technical effects with the self-working, each effect will have a greater impact than if you just threw out some self-working tricks. This is what most beginner magicians do, and then wonder why nobody thinks they are amazing. Most of the trick is also about the presentation, so the method of the trick shouldn't have too much impact on how powerful it is when compared to the presentation of the trick.
BarryFernelius
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The answer to the question posed by panlives is simple: In theory, sleight of hand tricks should be indistinguishable from self working effects, but in practice they are not--most of the time.

Watch ordinary people when they play cards. A few experienced people handle cards efficiently, but most folks mangle cards in ways that could never be called graceful. They strain to shuffle, cut, and deal. They bend the cards. Most folks are like a bull in a china shop when it comes to handling cards.

When the novice magician tries to do a self working effect, he is handling cards like a beginner. The people watching the trick know subconsciously that the magician doesn't have any real skill. Worse yet, the novice has no confidence in his work, and probably hasn't given adequate thought to the presentation. The performance of the card trick is usually ineffective.

Then, the same novice decides to learn a trick that uses sleight of hand. Now, the magician can no longer try the trick on an audience immediately. Practice is required. The novice gains a basic mastery of the necessary effect, and he's ready to perform it for an audience. Not surprisingly, he gets a better reaction.

Many years later, the novice magician has become transformed into a sleight of hand expert. He has studied theater, worked with professional magicians as his mentors, and devised effective presentations for his work. He’s logged thousands of hours of flight time in front of paying audiences. Just for fun, this same magician tries out that same self working effect that didn't impress his audience many years ago. This time, performing for the same people, the magician gets that shock and awe response that so many of us admire.

What's different? It isn't just a matter of presentation. The late 19th/early 20th century term that comes to mind is 'address.’ The magician has 'address,' a confidence, skillfulness and style that comes from years of study and experience. The audience can sense his competence, even when he isn't doing any sleight of hand work at all. At this high level of expertise, the audience has no way to distinguish a self worker from a trick requiring sleight of hand.

The other factor in this discussion is the character that you play when you’re performing. If you always handle your props in a way that’s consistent with your character, the sleight of hand aspect of the magic disappears. Think of Lennart Green. He handles cards roughly, apparently with no skill at all. But crazy impossible things happen, nonetheless. He couldn’t possibly be using sleight of hand, right?

What I just described is an ideal state for a perfect card expert. Because I haven't reached this level, my audiences can still sense that I'm using sleight of hand at times. A self worker makes them look for clever sleight of hand work, and I fool them when they can't discern what was done. As a result, I sometimes get credit for sleight of hand skills that I don't have.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

-Leonard Bernstein
Leland
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Self working, I think is how all of us got started. I know I did. Do I still do them, sure do. It takes away that moment where the audience member thinks, "there it is!" Where they asume they saw something funny, not sure what but they know that it was. But as Barry states, I now know better and present an act not an effect. Big difference.

Good post.
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Vlad_77
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Barry of course is spot on as always.

But what confuses me generally is this whole methodology thing in terms of how methodology affects the effect. I need to clarify this: why is it that "self-working" effects seem to be relegated to the role of catching them off guard so to speak? I have read posts by people who jeer at card magic that is NOT knucklebusting, as if METHOD is end as opposed to EFFECT. I will not mention the person's name because I have not seen him active here for a bit but he posted that The Card Magic of Nick Trost is for lazy magicians or those afraid of sleight of hand. Utter BS!!

Annemann and Vernon were and ARE right that method is secondary. In a successful act should we not seek to maximize the cumulative effects that create the meta-effect of the act? If that is the case then method should be considered in terms of maximizing effect. Ortiz would argue - and correctly IMHO - that simpler is better and that simple does NOT mean "easy." And I DO loathe effect descriptions that state that the effect is virtually sleight free so the performer can concentrate on presentation. Should we not concentrate on presentation at all times? As Barry notes in another thread concerning the dislikes and likes of performing styles, magic is a live performing art. There is enough magic extant that if one encounters an effect where the sleights are so difficult that one cannot put full effort into presentation then that person simply should not DO the effect, or find a method that works with respect maximizing effect.

I watch some magicians display the very bad habit of almost sloughing off presentation of "self-workers" because I believe that for these "performers", sleightless card magic is somehow not worthy of the effort. Then it becomes more painful when these guys try to do Unshuffled or Ortiz's The Sting. They may have GREAT chops mechanically but the presentation is as exciting as watching a 5 hour film on the mating habits of yaks. OR.... the chops aren't there mechanically OR performance wise.

All of this verbiage really comes down to: Ortiz is right.

But one glorious day these magicians will either wake up or become yak breeders. If they wake up, they will realize that magic is a performing art. And on that glorious day, they will no longer intone, "you have thought of a card in your mind."

अहिंसा

Vlad
Steven Keyl
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An excellent post, Barry. Well-expressed truth is increasingly hard to come by. And this is coming from someone that disagrees with a lot of what Barry posts. Smile

And of course, Vlad, you're right about the distinction between simple and easy. In the "Ortizian" view, simple vs. complex deals with effect. And most often, simple is better. The simpler the effect, the more simply it can be followed. Easy vs. hard deals with method, and one should always choose the best method for the job, whether it be easy or hard. (Though Ortiz often champions harder methods if they happen to get the job done more directly.)
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panlives
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Quote:
On 2011-06-24 14:43, BarryFernelius wrote:
The answer to the question posed by panlives is simple: In theory, sleight of hand tricks should be indistinguishable from self working effects, but in practice they are not--most of the time.

Watch ordinary people when they play cards. A few experienced people handle cards efficiently, but most folks mangle cards in ways that could never be called graceful. They strain to shuffle, cut, and deal. They bend the cards. Most folks are like a bull in a china shop when it comes to handling cards.

When the novice magician tries to do a self working effect, he is handling cards like a beginner. The people watching the trick know subconsciously that the magician doesn't have any real skill. Worse yet, the novice has no confidence in his work, and probably hasn't given adequate thought to the presentation. The performance of the card trick is usually ineffective.

Then, the same novice decides to learn a trick that uses sleight of hand. Now, the magician can no longer try the trick on an audience immediately. Practice is required. The novice gains a basic mastery of the necessary effect, and he's ready to perform it for an audience. Not surprisingly, he gets a better reaction.

Many years later, the novice magician has become transformed into a sleight of hand expert. He has studied theater, worked with professional magicians as his mentors, and devised effective presentations for his work. He’s logged thousands of hours of flight time in front of paying audiences. Just for fun, this same magician tries out that same self working effect that didn't impress his audience many years ago. This time, performing for the same people, the magician gets that shock and awe response that so many of us admire.

What's different? It isn't just a matter of presentation. The late 19th/early 20th century term that comes to mind is 'address.’ The magician has 'address,' a confidence, skillfulness and style that comes from years of study and experience. The audience can sense his competence, even when he isn't doing any sleight of hand work at all. At this high level of expertise, the audience has no way to distinguish a self worker from a trick requiring sleight of hand.

The other factor in this discussion is the character that you play when you’re performing. If you always handle your props in a way that’s consistent with your character, the sleight of hand aspect of the magic disappears. Think of Lennart Green. He handles cards roughly, apparently with no skill at all. But crazy impossible things happen, nonetheless. He couldn’t possibly be using sleight of hand, right?

What I just described is an ideal state for a perfect card expert. Because I haven't reached this level, my audiences can still sense that I'm using sleight of hand at times. A self worker makes them look for clever sleight of hand work, and I fool them when they can't discern what was done. As a result, I sometimes get credit for sleight of hand skills that I don't have.


The distinction between card handlers who have done their 10,000 hours and those who have not (or refuse to) is nicely stated.

However, I was referring to the effects themselves.

In the hands of a performer with substantial “address”, the audience should detect no difference between a white-knuckle bruiser and a pain-free auto-trick.
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
BarryFernelius
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Quote:
On 2011-06-25 00:01, Steven Keyl wrote:
An excellent post, Barry. Well-expressed truth is increasingly hard to come by. And this is coming from someone that disagrees with a lot of what Barry posts. Smile


Thanks for the kind words. I took a look at some of my old posts on Ye Olde Magic Café. I'm not sure I agree with a lot of what I've posted either.

By the way, check out Steven's terrific book reviews online. (See his signature for the link.) He's posted some great performance videos as well.

Oh, and one of those good news/bad news things. Good news: I spent $200 on Steven's legendary Fold Vanish manuscript. Bad news: after I folded the manuscript ten times, as per the instructions, I can't seen to find the darned thing.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

-Leonard Bernstein
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For my part, I practice my self workings right alongside with the more advanced; they're good for warm up and you shouldn't underestimate the power of some of these... as stated above, the spectator doesn't know the difference.

All they know is you've worked a really cool trick.

So really, the difference is purely in our minds- the challenge is to ourselves, not the audience.

Plus, the K.I.S.S. axiom applies here as elsewhere. Which is more liable to go wrong- the well practiced self working or the complicated trick relying on forces and fancy shufflings?

Even the basics have their place.
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723sabre
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My first attempt at a card trick was a self worker..."Tree of Hearts", which goes by other names as well. Anyway, only after doing the trick a few times I was asked by someone if they could see the cards I realized I had no comeback... Later at home I realized I had no story, no plot, no clue at all why I should even do the trick.
Self working suddenly wasn't anymore...
I am still no great magician and don't claim to be. But I realized that I needed to practice and at least TRY to present things well, if nothing else out of respect for the many talented folks out there who are real entertainers!!
Now magic is so much more interesting and enjoyable as it presents ME with a challenge to do better, vs just knowing a secret and trying to fool somebody else with it.
Great topic!
Vlad_77
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While on this subject, I would like to offer the argument that unfortunately, card magic tends to FAVOR sleight of hand innovations as superior. Case in point: when there are discussions about great card magicians, the names Marlo and Vernon ALWAYS are on the list, yet, rarely do we see the names James and Trost. Why are these men NOT considered great card men? I would argue that yes their APPROACHES were different (and BOTH DID use sleights though not as much or as many) but that Stewart James and Nick Trost deserve to be listed as great card men. EFFECT is EVERYTHING so could we get away from the crazy focus on method? We want methods that maximize impact, but, MAN it drives me CRAZY that effects are judged by some based upon the AMOUNT of sleights used. The audience doesn't KNOW and and doesn't CARE and the AUDIENCE is most important.

Ahimsa,
Vlad
BarryFernelius
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Consider a couple of concrete examples.

First, the Darwin Ortiz effect "Time Piece" from his book Cardshark. There are no technically demanding card sleights required. There is one switch that is required, but Darwin teaches it so well that nearly anyone can learn it. This is a powerful effect for real audiences, and Darwin has great solutions to all of the problems involved. I know that the effect requires a prop that might be a little bit hard to find, but why else haven't I seen anyone else perform it?

Second, consider the Juan Tamariz effect "Total Coincidence" from Sonata. In Juan's description of the effect, he states that it's easy enough to learn in one afternoon. (Maybe it really requires two afternoons.) Juan has devastated audiences with this effect for years. No one (with the notable exception of Steve Cohen, who does it beautifully) seems to perform this effect. Why is this the case?

I'll suggest that one of the reasons that you rarely see these effect performed is that both of them are difficult from a presentational point of view. The harsh reality is this: these effects aren't often seen because most magicians don't script their work and most don't rehearse.
"To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time."

-Leonard Bernstein
brehaut
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Quote:
On 2011-08-24 14:00, BarryFernelius wrote:
Consider a couple of concrete examples.

First, the Darwin Ortiz effect "Time Piece" from his book Cardshark. There are no technically demanding card sleights required. There is one switch that is required, but Darwin teaches it so well that nearly anyone can learn it. This is a powerful effect for real audiences, and Darwin has great solutions to all of the problems involved. I know that the effect requires a prop that might be a little bit hard to find, but why else haven't I seen anyone else perform it?

Second, consider the Juan Tamariz effect "Total Coincidence" from Sonata. In Juan's description of the effect, he states that it's easy enough to learn in one afternoon. (Maybe it really requires two afternoons.) Juan has devastated audiences with this effect for years. No one (with the notable exception of Steve Cohen, who does it beautifully) seems to perform this effect. Why is this the case?

I'll suggest that one of the reasons that you rarely see these effect performed is that both of them are difficult from a presentational point of view. The harsh reality is this: these effects aren't often seen because most magicians don't script their work and most don't rehearse.


It would be interesting to have an ACCURATE poll of how many people on the Café actually script their effects
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