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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The spooky, the mysterious...the bizarre! » » Is it me or is mentalism boring? (2 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Christopher Gould
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I just bought a book by a very famous and well respected mentalist.
It is full of really good and workable effects - so I am reading it and thinking' 'Hmmm, that's interesting - I can see that working....'
Then a second feeling started to grow..... one of boredom and ennui. I mean *really* who cares if I can (under very restricted circumstances) tell you the name of the person you are thinking of... I mean, is that interesting, I mean, is it really?

So much magic is lacking in substance it seems to me. The 'old lags' here probably graduated from card magic. We fled due to the protestations of those who once found us interesting people. We found little nourishment beyond showing our supposed skill to the few friends who still cared. After our obligatory time in the wilderness, we arrived at camp mentalism. This felt better, we could engage in psychology (or pseudo-psychology)and weird esoteric stuff like NLP. We could control peoples minds, and make them do what we want them to! Wow, this was good poop! But in the end we found we were still doing rather annoying tricks (if we could step out of the narrow confines of our own pretence and see it from the audiences point of view) - the only real difference was that now we had to deal with the tag line 'Oh, he's just like that guy off the telly who can read your mind... he's clever, he is' So confused were we by this, that some of us (the younger ones) started to try to look like 'the guy off the telly'. A new purgatory beckoned...

In magic, we seem to have forgotten the central thing.... *magic*.
By this I mean a context that can have intellectual and emotional depth.
I sense a direction in bizarre magic that may restore magic to some of it's former power as a performance art. Here there is a sweeping out of the rubber bats and plastic skulls, to make room for something more interesting.....

Hey, anyone want to buy a second hand Mentalism book? It's got this great routine that allows your audience to flatter you by pretending that you can tell them what two numbers they have just written down on that suspicious piece of paper that you have, for some reason, put in your wallet!
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Stoltz
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I think you would find much of interest to you in Derren Brown's book "Absolute Magic".
If you've already read it, then you'll understand what I mean.

That said, I agree that *most* mentalism can be very boring.
It ENTIRELY depends on being interesting by virtue of the performers ability to entertain...
But then again, if the performer is so engaging, couldn't the same be said of watching grass grow?
Couldn't said performer make almost ANYTHING entertaining?

I think mentalism is intrinsically neutral in regards to entertainment value.
It is purely subject to the individual who may or may not be interested in such matters as mind reading.
I believe the same can be said about most all forms of art or entertainment.
De gustibus non est disputandum.

However, I do also think that mentalism and the bizarre both offer a performer the depth to reach into that realm of wonder (If they're skilled) and pluck out a moment that will resonate with their audience.
This is something that most forms of entertainment cannot hope to achieve.
Max Maven said: "Magicians of the 20th Century have managed to do something pretty amazing. They have taken something inherently profound, and rendered it meaningless and trivial."

However, I personally find that I (And therefor my character)
am most at home in the realm of the Bizarre.
Which incidentally, to me includes mentalism as the basis for many a good effect...
Albeit mentalism dressed in new (Or perhaps aged) clothes.
Christopher Gould
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Of course you are right in what you say. The performance (and the performer) is everything.
The Max Maven quote is worth carving on some rock somewhere too!
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Christopher, I agree with you. The problem with most mentalism, IMO, is that it is so illogical.

If I can read your mind, why don't I just reveal it instead of going through a long revelation process?
If I can make a prediction, why do I lock it in a box instead of just tell someone?
If I can predict a lottery number, what am I doing walking around at a restaurant entertaining?

I recognize that someone like Kreskin is skilled. I just find his act totally boring. No wonder there is an entire film making fun of him!
Pointing to different pictures on a screen and jumping from one to the next several times is totally yawn inducing.

I'm sure some people think those types of performances and effects are wonderful. More power to them.

But for me, I want to do something that has people in rapt attention. I want to leave them gasping or even going home and sleeping with a light turned on.

That's why I like bizarre magic. IMO it does (or should do) just that.
Stoltz
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I reread your initial statement, and would like to add this.

Mentalism sort of has it's begginings in fraudulant psychics and mediums.
I think mentalism grew out of recognizing the marketability of this genre of conjuring and ran with it.
Did the founders believe they where creating a new "branch" of magic? I don't personally think so.
(There are many who don't think it is a branch of magic at all)
I think they saw it as a way to get in on the action if you will.
Opportunistically cashing in on what people wanted to pay to see at the time.
Art wasn't their concern. (I would be happy to be corrected if I'm wrong here)

These founders where showmen, the art was coincidence.
It wasn't until much later that the magic fraternity began to consider it as able to elevate an audience and bring a sense of awe and wonder to their experience. People began to see it as able to do more than simply "Entertain".

I think by nature bizarre magick has its roots in trying to make this "connection" with the spectator. Bizarre magick was born through the self aware process of introspection.
The founders of this branch of magic seem to have started from a different place altogether.
It seems to me, that what we have here is the presupposition that magic can have meaning beyond mere trivial light entertainment as sleight of hand and through this we have perhaps a different animal altogether.

Of course, I could be COMPLETELY wrong.

When it comes to magic as art...
I might not know exactly what constitutes Art, but I sure recognize it when I see it!
And I definitely see it here often (Your contributions come to mind Immediately Chris).
Christopher Gould
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These are all good points.

Personally, I think Bizarre magic has its roots in something very mysterious and very powerful - namely storytelling.
The bards never did go away!
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Stoltz
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Ah yes story telling, you may indeed be right.

My absolute favorite childhood pastime was indeed reading scary stories, and telling them at night by firelight to a captive audience! With the proper mood and setting, the stage was set for a good tale.

In my mind, there is still almost nothing more fun than telling a good campfire story!
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Context, premise, plausibility, personal connection, emotion, mystery, and wonder can all make mentalism very powerful indeed...think of a number and I name it? Nope...
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You've got to see Docc Hilford perform.
David Alexander called his L&L set a master class in performing entertaining mentalism.
His DVD "The Vault" is also amazing.
Actually, pretty much anything he produces is wonderful and entertaining.

When I first got back into magic I thought mentalism was petty boring, until I saw some of the audience reactions.
Now I prefer mentalism to magic, unless I'm doing a kids show or a bizarre show.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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Christopher Gould
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Whilst what you say about story telling is true Stoltz, the origins of storytelling are far deeper and far more profound. In a pre-literate society, the entire culture of a group of people had to be memorised and carried in a oral tradition from one generation to the next. We cannot know too much about this, as they did not write it down! However, the carrying of stories was integrally mixed with magic (and I am not talking sponge bunnies here!). This tradition did not die out, but it did mutate and (Max is right here) become very debased.
I do not think that we have ever lived in a society that needed wonder and magic - not to mention culture, more than now.
What we can give that the latest 3D film or computer game cannot give is immediacy and intimacy. We can allow people to experience magic first hand - but only if we become magical ourselves!
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Joshua J
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As with any area of magic there are people who are good and people who are bad. I've seen some incredibly boring mentalists and some very engaging ones. It's often been very dull book tests. I suspect the reason why many of these "mentalists" weren't very good though was that they were magicians who had only just made a change to mentalism following recent trends. I'm not a big fan of card work, but then there have been people I've loved. Roy Davenport I found very friendly and engaging that even though he was doing tricks I haven't enjoyed in the past he was at such a good level and so good with his audience that I loved it. I've seen some very long winded bizarre routines with audience losing the plot, but equally people who could engage with a story alone. At its best bizarre magic can engage and touch on subjects other areas might not.

One thing that disappoints me with a lot of mentalists is the lack of desire for something real. I'm very sceptical of most psychic or supernatural phenomena, but I would love to find something that was real. As a child I read Lord of the Rings and wanted to be a wizard, minus the beard. Reading Rhhoald Dahl-the Twits put me off beards. Later I wanted to be a Jedi. I mastered the art of telling stormtroopers, "these aren't the droids you're looking for". Sadly I can't afford a droid to put that power into use.

On the subject of storytelling I was brought up with Greek Myths and old fairy tales, a lot of the Andrew Lang colour books (shame on you if you don't know them). One of my favourite series was Jim Henson's the storyteller, with John Hurt as the storyteller. These little episodes created more magic in my young mind than any birthday party magician ever did. I would love to create a routine which had that impact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nV02QKO0uc&feature=related
necroloid
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For me(and probably for more than a few here), My fascination with story telling started at the very geeky age of 12 when I first started play Dungeons and Dragons. I rarely played a character as I preferred to be the DM, the one setting the stage, describing the scene and creating the plot lines that my friends would follow.
And like many of us I started in magic with childrens magic shows and card magic and then dabbled in mental ism before finding my way to this end of the woods. Although I still mainly do childrens shows my true interest lies with bizarre magic.
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Quote:
On 2011-08-18 14:17, Christopher Gould wrote:
Whilst what you say about story telling is true Stoltz, the origins of storytelling are far deeper and far more profound. In a pre-literate society, the entire culture of a group of people had to be memorised and carried in a oral tradition from one generation to the next. We cannot know too much about this, as they did not write it down! However, the carrying of stories was integrally mixed with magic (and I am not talking sponge bunnies here!). This tradition did not die out, but it did mutate and (Max is right here) become very debased.
I do not think that we have ever lived in a society that needed wonder and magic - not to mention culture, more than now.
What we can give that the latest 3D film or computer game cannot give is immediacy and intimacy. We can allow people to experience magic first hand - but only if we become magical ourselves!


Sounding more like the intro to Carnivale

http://youtu.be/6cAWT3CsATc
Christopher Gould
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Joshuha

On the subject of wanting something real - I agree entirely.
But, how about this for a premise?
Everything we experience as reality is subjective. As such, to the mind there is no hierarchy of truth.
I am not sure I am making myself clear with this (without rambling on forever)but it is an important idea regarding what you have said.
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weepinwil
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I personally think whether mentalism is boring or not depends upon the subject not the performer. If the subject has no imagination or is boring what can you to get when you read their mind. Some of the most imaginative minds to read are dead persons, they really have a different perspective on both life and death. Audience always seems interested in what the dead think.
"Til Death us do part!" - Weepin Willie
Christopher Gould
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I know some really boring dead people!
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David Thiel
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I don't think mentalism is boring...nor do I think magic is boring.

But I will completely agree that there are many MANY boring mentalists and magicians. It is all in the presentation -- which is what turned me onto bizarre stuff to start with.

I could not -- still cannot -- for the life of me figure out why people were so enamored with book tests, for example. I give you a book. You pick a word...I know the word.

......so?

Not interesting. While I am sure I am missing something, the whole idea comes off as sterile and uninteresting.

But that changes when presentation is incorporated into the effect. How about LUNA as a book test? I am not only allowing you to choose a room at random...but also telling you about the occupant and their neighbour...when they were admitted and what's afflicting them.

Both book tests...both mentalism based. One is a performance...one is a trick.

To say that mentalism itself is boring is a ridiculous statement.

David
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Quote:
On 2011-08-18 14:16, DrTodd wrote:
Context, premise, plausibility, personal connection, emotion, mystery, and wonder can all make mentalism very powerful indeed...think of a number and I name it? Nope...


Think of a number and name it... and then say "that is how many minutes you have to live..."
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weepinwil
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Quote:
On 2011-08-18 15:27, Dr Spektor wrote:
Quote:
On 2011-08-18 14:16, DrTodd wrote:
Context, premise, plausibility, personal connection, emotion, mystery, and wonder can all make mentalism very powerful indeed...think of a number and I name it? Nope...


Think of a number and name it... and then say "that is how many minutes you have to live..."


And then call me for the final arrangements....
"Til Death us do part!" - Weepin Willie
Christopher Gould
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Quote:

Think of a number and name it... and then say "that is how many minutes you have to live..."



Excellent answer! I am going to use this!

Actual funny AND true - it WOULD be both unnecessarily cruel, and totally engaging!
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